IoT Farming

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By: Julia Nasy
20 Feb. 2023
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The United Nations estimates that over the next 15 years, the global population will increase to 9 billion, making the need for agriculture more significant than ever. Growing consumer demand for farm products contributes to the increasing rate of technology adoption in this sector. And logically, the Internet of things (IoT) is the next step toward a more industrialized and technology-driven agriculture industry.

Smart farming involves using connected devices, multiple sensors, GPS, predictive data analytics, and other tools for process automation and increased production at lower costs. IoT in agriculture fights different challenges like extreme weather conditions, climatic changes, and environmental impact. The technology successfully helps to address existing problems. And the best evidence of it is growing demand. Recent reports tell that the number of agriculture IoT devices will grow to 225 million by 2024.

The Internet of things will definitely revolutionize every aspect of agribusiness, like other sectors where the technology has already penetrated. And a new generation of farmers and agronomists, opened to innovations, invests in IoT applications to successfully compete in the market. If you think about incorporating digital agriculture into your business, you will find this article helpful. Next, we look at the benefits of smart farming, IoT use cases, and some challenges you need to be aware of before investing in software development.

What is Smart Agriculture?

Smart farming is all about using technologies like the Internet of things (IoT), sensors, robots, machine learning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). Its ultimate goal is to increase the quality and quantity of crops or livestock while optimizing the human labor used. IoT in agriculture focuses on meeting growing needs and reducing production losses.

Smart technology helps farmers to enhance different aspects of their business. The automated process provides high precision of agricultural operations and 24/7 control. Ultimately IoT adoption leads to considerable savings in all key aspects – natural resources, time spent, and operational costs.

Benefits of IoT in Agriculture

IoT in agriculture transforms a variety of processes. With the technology implementation, the management of field works and natural resources became more effective. Now farmers can monitor crop conditions remotely. Additionally, the Internet of things helps entrepreneurs make the right decisions. Let’s take a closer look at five ways IoT improves agriculture today.

Agricultural Data

IoT farming is tons of data, e.g., weather conditions, crop growth progress, soil quality, livestock health, etc. Data from smart devices are analyzed and transformed into meaningful information using analytics tools. The data collected is further leveraged for making thoughtful decisions.

Smart sensors collect data, which can also be used to track the state of business in general, staff performance, equipment efficiency, and control over internal processes. Due to this, farmers gain lower production risks, the opportunity to plan for better product distribution, and the ability to foresee production output.

Process Automation

Using smart solutions, farmers can automate multiple processes across the production cycle, including irrigation, fertilizing, and harvest. As a result, they keep procedures efficient and help to allocate resources in the right way. In addition, process automation improves every year. Today, it handles more sophisticated tasks, maintains higher production quality standards, and increases operational efficiency.

An automatic guidance system is just one example of smart farming. Tractors and heavy plowing equipment are run automatically from any point via GPS. Farmers can track their movement and work progress on smartphones. These machines are highly accurate and have automatic obstacle detection in terrain.

Reduced Wastage and Cost Management

Plenty of smart solutions are focused on optimizing the use of resources, such as water, electricity, and land. Precision farming uses live data from various sensors in the field, which help farmers accurately allocate resources for plants. IoT-based smart agriculture can also quickly detect any crop anomalies. Thus, farmers can effectively prevent any infestation that will harm yields.

Additionally, with precision agriculture, it is easier to save on irrigation and fertilization. Thanks to IoT sensors embedded in field equipment, the system can generate information about real-time soil moisture levels and command irrigation only when it needs. They are also used to avoid crop waste. Crop management devices can notify about the ideal harvest time.

Real-Time Livestock and Crop Monitoring

Crop farming operations are complex, and environmental factors control is highly important. Smart agriculture system plays a significant role in providing accurate results. It includes a network of wireless sensors, which collect data from several IoT devices placed on the field. Then this data is analyzed by farmers and used for various conclusions such as weather patterns, soil moisture, crop quality, etc. As a result, agriculturists can easily monitor the field conditions from anywhere, increase agricultural productivity and reduce unforeseen and avoidable losses.

Moreover, smart farming systems can help in raising livestock. With IoT technology, ranchers can remotely check the health of farm animals. For example, smart collars enable farmers to monitor cattle pregnancy, their activity, temperature, and behavior. And if the IoT solution detects sick animals, the system sends a notification to contact a veterinarian. It also can be used to search for herd cows and sheep in the pasture, saving time and reducing labor costs.

Improved Product Quality

And finally, IoT-based smart agriculture helps both grow more and better products. Technological innovations make it possible to create the best conditions and improve the final product quality as all the issues are detected and mitigated beforehand.

A simple example of quality control is image comparison. IoT technology, with the help of machine learning, uses photos from databases to compare with pictures of crops. Thus, the system makes conclusions about crop health – its size, shape, color, growth, and overall condition. Due to this, farmers can create the best conditions and control the quality of future harvests.

Smart Farming Solutions

Agricultural Drones

These efficient and smart agricultural solutions have given makeovers to the industry. They are easy to manage and equipped with sensors and cameras. Farmers use two types of IoT products – ground-based bots on wheels and known to all of us aerial drones. Vehicles can perform a vast number of tasks that previously required manual intervention:

  • crops planting;
  • pest control;
  • mapping;
  • crop spraying;
  • spot weed treatment;
  • farms surveying;
  • crop monitoring, and germination rate estimation.

Agricultural drones can be controlled remotely or fly automatically via software-controlled flight plans in their systems. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) take photos of fields to send them to the cloud or other IoT-based agriculture devices for analysis. Drones with thermal or multispectral sensors, for example, identify the areas that require changes in irrigation. And as the crops start growing, smart agriculture sensors indicate their state.

Greenhouse Automation

Smart farming provides an opportunity to minimize or completely eliminate manual control in greenhouse environment systems, making all processes cost-effective and increasing accuracy simultaneously. IoT sensors help farmers get real-time data. They provide information about soil conditions, pressure, humidity, temperature, and light levels. And smart greenhouse can make its own decision in case of sharp fluctuations in one of the parameters.

IoT technologies allow the building of modern and inexpensive glasshouses. The embedded system automatically adjusts the climate conditions according to a particular set of instructions. For example, if it detects a lack of moisture in the soil, it will turn on a smart irrigation system.

Real-Time Monitoring of Climate Conditions

Climate plays a critical role in farming. The quality and quantity of crop production directly depend on upcoming weather conditions. That’s why IoT-based solutions placed inside and outside fields have become essential to modern agriculture. They involve weather stations and a smart farming sensors network. Data collected from the environment, e.g., humidity, rainfall, and temperature, is sent to the cloud for analysis. It is further used to map the explored area’s climate conditions or proper crop selection.

Moreover, farmers using IoT no longer need a physical presence in fields during adverse weather conditions. Weather stations that constantly monitor crop health and meteorological indicators send an alert in case of heavy rainfall or heat wave. Thus, agriculturists can increase productivity and reap more benefits.

Precision Farming

IoT solutions transform agriculture and make processes more accurate and controlled. All this was made possible by implementing smart agriculture technologies discussed in previous blocks – livestock monitoring, vehicle tracking, and farm surveying with drones. The main goal of precision farming is to analyze data generated via sensors and help agriculturists make quick and better decisions.

Using IoT smart devices, farmers can collect a vast amount of essential metrics, like air temperature, lighting level, soil moisture, and infections. This real-time data enables farmers to estimate optimal resources to maintain a high harvest level. Accurate use of water, electricity, fertilizers, pesticides, and human labor reduces costs and waste. As a result, precision agriculture leads to better and healthier crops, increasing farm sustainability.

Challenges Faced by Farmers in IoT Adoption

Smart farming provides numerous benefits and plenty of efficient IoT solutions. There are many ways connected devices can help increase a farm’s performance and agriculture production volumes. However, technology implementation is no easy task. And farmers need to consider a couple of aspects before developing their smart farming solution.

High Costs

Agriculture IoT adoption and purchase of required agricultural facilities are expensive. Despite on relatively low price of sensors, equipping fields with them would cost more than a thousand dollars. And the quality of sensors is crucial to the success of agricultural production. It will depend on the accuracy and reliability of the collected data. Moreover, automated vehicles cost more than manually operated agricultural machinery, as they include the cost of software and cloud access to record data.

Security

IoT in agriculture must ensure collected data transfer, processing, and safety. Malfunctioning hardware or attacks can put security at risk. Once systems collect enormous amounts of information, farmers should take care to protect sensitive data. Otherwise, someone can get unauthorized access to a database and steal drone mapping data or sensor readouts. There are some recommendations to ensure data security in the agriculture industry:

  • using encryption methods and AI-based security tools;
  • storing data in the blockchain for its integrity;
  • data traffic monitoring, etc.

Mobility and Communication Infrastructure of IoT Devices

Developing and implementing the Internet of Things in the agricultural production process doesn’t guarantee success in the end. The fact is that smart farming applications should be tailored for use in the field. And farmers won’t benefit if technology has poor communication infrastructure and can’t handle the data load.

Many agricultural facilities, as usual, are located in remote areas. And farmers need access to yield data at any time and from any location via smartphone or computer. Thus, each connected device must be autonomous and have enough wireless range to communicate with other network parts. Because without connection, smart farming will be just useless.

Conclusion

Today, farmers face shrinking agricultural lands and depletion of finite natural resources. That’s why improving production efficiency is the only way to increase volume. Mass implementation of IoT in agriculture is intended to close the supply-demand gap with the growing world population. And there is no doubt that precision farming will help to solve this problem.

Smart farming is far more efficient than the conventional approach. It successfully copes with several tasks, such as operational cost reduction, high crop yields, and optimal use of resources. In addition to ensuring profitability, IoT smart solutions help farmers to protect the environment, which is equally important for global agricultural production.

Technology adoption seems as a logical step forward for businesses. But this process is not a simple task. Any interested farmer should consider all related challenges before investing. Ultimately, the right approach and work with trusted partners will bear fruit soon.

By: Julia Nasy
20 Feb. 2023
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