8 applications of IoT technologies in agriculture and 5 benefits of precision farming
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicted the world will need to produce 50% more food, feed and biofuel in 2050 than it did in 2012. The farming industry will become more important over the next few decades due to the growing population of the Earth, estimated to be more than 9 billion.
Farming has seen a number of technological transformations over the years, and has become increasingly more industrialized and technology driven. Smart agriculture and high-tech farming is quickly becoming the standard as the business turns to the Internet of Things (IoT) for analytics and greater production capabilities.
The adoption of various agricultural smart-tools, such as weather stations and soil monitors, has allowed farmers to gain control over the process of growing crops and raising livestock, making their business more predictable, efficient, and profitable.
The Internet of Things has given the agricultural industry an unprecedented level of control and ability to automate decision making via connected smart devices and a smart web of sensors, actuators, robots, cameras, and drones.
Sensors, Big Data and Analytics Increase Efficiencies
The benefits of big data collected from weather stations, soil moisture, pH sensors, crop monitors (pest management and overall crop health), livestock monitoring sensors, and equipment monitoring allows for real-time analytics to help address challenges such as: efficient use of pesticides, fertilizers, water, and energy. The compounding benefit of this data lowers production risks and increases efficiencies across the business.
The EU has budgeted €30 million to the Internet of Things agriculture research to explore the potential of IoT-technologies for the European food and farming industry, taking the necessary steps towards a more sustainable food value chain with precision crop management.
Key stakeholders along the food value chain have been engaged in the research. These stakeholders include technology service providers, software companies, and academic research institutions in the areas of arable, dairy, fruits, meat, and vegetable agriculture.
One study targets the precision management of nitrogen and water in wheat production. Utilizing sensor data in low power-long-range network infrastructure and computer modelling, farmers can use site-specific farming to monitor within-field variability to greatly improve efficiency of nitrogen and water use, reducing the environmental footprint, maintaining the optimal crop environment, and saving costs.
8 Applications for the Internet of Things and Smart Devices in Agriculture:
- Predictive Maintenance: Equipment is maintained based on analytics sent from sensors to smart-devices, providing data on how well the equipment is functioning and whether maintenance will be required soon. This allows the farmer to ensure there is no equipment failure or downtime during critical periods and reduces long-term maintenance costs.
- Drones: Labor-intensive practices are reduced with the use of drones for field monitoring and planting, allowing smart farms to be more efficient and cost-effective.
- Livestock Monitoring: smart-device collar tags deliver health, activity, and nutrition insights of each cow and are capable of the analyzing data to monitor the collective health and location of the herd. Farmers can isolate livestock that is ill, mitigating risk of spreading the illness to the entire herd.
- Crop Management: Overall crop health can be monitored utilizing sensors to monitor temperature, precipitation, soil pH, leaf water potential and nutrient levels. Further, anomalies that can harm crop yield, such as disease and pest infestation can be monitored and managed.
- Pest Control: sensors alert the farmer when pest invasion has reached a critical mass, or populations are reduced without the use of toxic pesticides, as actuators activate pheromone dispersion onto crops automatically.
- Water Management: water-waste is reduced through soil sensors that monitor moisture levels. The sensors trigger site-specific irrigation when soil reaches target dryness levels; water only flows long enough to restore the optimal moisture level.
- Smart Greenhouses can utilize sensors to monitor temperature and moisture levels, allowing the farmer to control the atmosphere remotely, or through the automation of irrigation and fans.
- Equipment and livestock security can be monitored through the use of cloud security cameras preventing loss or damages of equipment, livestock or property, in real-time.
Using the analytics provided from incoming data, farmers can see anomalies in the growth of their crops or in the health of their livestock, mitigating risk of loss. Further, through efficient use of pesticides, fertilizer and irrigation, less product is wasted, translating into additional cost benefits. With predictive equipment maintenance, equipment can run longer, or be maintained when necessary, increasing efficiencies across the board that will lead to higher revenue.
5 Benefits of Precision Farming:
- More sustainable food value chain as the Internet of Things connects supply, to product subsector, to distribution.
- Traceability and transparency will increase food safety along the food chain.
- Optimized growing environment producing a stronger, healthier yield and better quality, while reducing pesticide, fertilizer and water use through process automation and optimized efficiency.
- Farmers will experience lower production risk with the ability to foresee yield and output of production allowing them to predict how much of their crop they will be able to harvest and plan ahead for product distribution.
- Compounding financial benefit gained from optimized product efficiencies, increased yields and lower production risk will ultimately lead to higher revenue.
IoT Improves Competitive Advantage
The Internet of Things is changing the way farmers and agri-business reduce costs, increase business & farming efficiencies, and enhance transparency of food safety along the food chain.
Eventually IoT will become a requirement for any agri-business that wishes to remain competitive. Farmers that don’t embrace this technology will fall behind.
Have you embraced IoT solutions in your agri-business?