Researchers are predicting that by 2050, the global population will reach 9.6 billion. The impact of this and the growing urbanization trend pose significant challenges to the agriculture industry to sustain the worldwide food demand. Technology is transforming many industries and in agriculture it could have its most significant impact. Major farming businesses are now embracing agriculture technology and incorporating the Internet of Things (IOT), into their smart farming practices.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things, better known as IoT, refers to the interconnectivity of various smart devices through a wireless network. These devices remotely execute specific tasks and have other capabilities. Previously Internet of Things devices were used so people could open doors and windows, lights, monitor alarms, regulate electricity in their homes. However, now there are more applications for Internet of Things beyond the comfort of our homes, and across acres and acres of land.
Agriculture technology is the use of the Internet of Things in farming. Devices that automate to control an environment, provide accurate and timely reporting, and monitor livestock and crops contribute to creating a smart ecosystem. Farmers use sensor-based or satellite-based technology to measure temperature, humidity, water quality, chemical changes, proximity, smoke, and even movement. These can be in the form of drones, probes, gauges, acoustic sensors to identify animals and pests, and autonomous vehicles. Because of this, precision farming becomes more capital intensive, but has countless benefits in ensuring production is at its optimum.
With the Internet of Things, farmers can master more sustainable, accurate, efficient methods of farming, harvesting, and even selling livestock and produce.
Solutions Using Agriculture Technology for Smart Farming
Farms have to keep pace with the imminent increase in food demand. They now have more production pressures and concerns to expertly address so they can maximize the applications of Internet of Things in their industry.
1. More food production on fewer acres of land
Farmers relied only on instinct and previous experiences to judge the quality of their soil. But now there are products that have a better understanding of soil for crop production. Products such as CropX Deep Sensor and CropMetrics Soil Moisture Probe regularly measure and analyze levels of moisture, temperature, and electrical conductivity. They then send reports to a connected mobile device. This ensures consistent growth across all crops and abundant harvests year round.
2. Secure their harvests
These storage spaces for grains are susceptible to spoilage, fires, and theft. Farmers can secure their quality harvest by installing a grain monitoring system in silos. Intragrain’s Bin-Sense can be installed to measure how much grains are still in a silo. Its sensors also monitor and control temperature, historical temperature changes, and moisture content. A smartphone or a computer will receive alerts for any information that may be a cause for concern.
3. Minimize emissions
Water-logging decreases oxygen concentration in soil, and without oxygen, plants cannot perform its life-sustaining functions. It also leads to accumulating compounds like CO2, which can be toxic to plants in high concentrations.
To reduce emissions, Precision King and AT&T developed RiceKing to monitor water levels in rice fields. It allows for a fully automated rice field capable of also regulating irrigation levels and frequent reporting.
4. Protect crops from pests
Fixed spray systems are not optimal eliminators of field pests. Sprays could be unevenly dispersing pesticides and treatments, ultimately creating patchy areas in their production. Drone spraying devices like the Kray Sprayer from ROGA Drone use Ultra Low Volume spraying technology. As the drone surveys the terrain, it learns where to distribute pesticide through a specialized nozzle and atomizer. These drones can spray hundreds and hundreds of acres per day, which is an impossibility for a human being.
5. Monitor weather changes
Online weather forecasts are not always accurate, which do not warn farmers of any critical changes in temperature, wind conditions, even rainfall, and humidity. The Agro IoT Weather Sensor measures these including dew-point, frost-point, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation and sun duration. Information is sent online and helps farmers have a broader understanding of their land. It also galvanizes them to form an action plan based on any weather changes.
6. Oversee land and crop spread
Farmers work with acres of land, and it can be difficult physically traversing the property themselves to check and scout for crops. Employing drones with precision mapping like PrecisionHawk survey land and provide 3D mapping and crop analysis in any particular area. It also offers numerous on-demand analysis tools that give farmers critical insights, like crop yield, plant stress, and drought assessment, at any given time.
7. Livestock monitoring
For farms raising tagged livestock, precise sensors can detect specific animals at different points in their life cycles. A cow, for example, with its water breaking, will trigger sensors and notify farmers to give it proper care. Cows who are also sick will trigger an alert to farmers identifying which ones must be separated to stop the spread of disease. JMB North America specializes in livestock monitoring, which also secures gates and deters thieves by differentiating animal movement from human movement.
It is not a question of whether farmers would adopt agriculture technology to manage their crops and livestock or not. The question is when smart farming will be implemented. There are boundless benefits to introducing agriculture technology to farms worldwide in terms of optimizing resources like never before. Farms may take a while to employ all these new smart farming methods, but the return on investment will be huge. There will be healthier lands, crops, and reduced stress on human labor and billions of people will be fed.