The Emerging Internet of Agriculture

February 1, 2018 - 7 minutes read

The Internet of Things is opening up the door for innovation in a variety of industries. Industrial manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and entertainment are all industries that are getting the IoT treatment. But IoT development is disrupting one industry in particular that could be more important than all the others: agriculture.

The Rise of Smart Farming

The earth’s population is projected to reach approximately 10 billion people by 2050. As if this wasn’t enough for the farming industry to worry about, environmental challenges and drastic weather pattern changes will also add to the difficulty. A plethora of land has been expended from previous farming practices, with not much luck in revitalizing it. And the far-reaching implications of global warming set up an uncertain future for how well we’ll be able to produce crops.

Enter the era of smart farming.

Smart farming is what you get when you combine IoT and agriculture. It is the concept of growing food sustainably with the help of IoT applications. It will essentially let farmers optimize their processes to be leaner, and it could potentially affect everything in the industry from tracking farm vehicle usage to ensuring the right amount of fertilizer or water is being used.

This would allow farmers to monitor their crops in a more holistic manner and optimize arduous and costly processes. As you can imagine, this would make for a much more efficient operation than conventional farming.

All About Precision and Accuracy

The most apparent advantage that IoT offers farmers right now is the ability to be far more precise than ever before. Through a combination of sensors, automation, robotics, and control systems, farmers have the ability to be more accurate and maximize crop yield.

An array of IoT sensors can capture the information of various parameters, like soil moisture, temperature, and light. From this raw data, the software can analyze the overall “performance” and distill insight into how the farmer could improve the current batch of crops. If this is all connected to an automated process like irrigation, the software could refine this task so that farmers aren’t using unnecessary amounts of resources and crops aren’t being overwatered.

Of course, some areas of the world require far more precision to grow food because of the extreme conditions they harbor. For farmers in these locations, greenhouses enable them to fine-tune environmental factors so they can still produce a bountiful harvest. These farmers are also benefiting immensely from the connectivity of IoT.

Often resembling a lab more so than a farm, these greenhouses also employ a plethora of sensors interconnected with a cloud server to streamline and automate as much of the work as possible. Everything from lights, heaters, and even opening windows can be controlled by farmers from afar. And if anything out of the ordinary occurs, the system can alert farmers via SMS that their attention may be needed.

The Advantages of Another Perspective

Through a combination of mobile phones and satellites or drones, many farmers are also leveraging the advantages of a sky-high perspective. With advanced imaging and mapping, satellites and drones offer a much easier way to overlook the entire field and pinpoint areas in need of improvement.

Drones, in particular, have many benefits because of the fine balance they strike between air and ground. With thermal and multispectral imaging in tow, drone observations enable farmers to deduce factors like plant height, soil health, and plant health indices. But where drones really shine is in their ability to interact — many farmers utilize drones to spray crops and even plant them!

The Internet of Animals

Crops aren’t the only farming staple experiencing an IoT renaissance. All of the above-mentioned technologies have also been adapted to improve how farmers care for livestock. Large farm owners are all too familiar with the problem of accounting for all of their animals.

With IoT connectivity, farmers can instantly know the location of their livestock. The task of rounding up livestock can consume a substantial number of hours every day. But with IoT sensors, it takes farmers a fraction of the time. IoT can also help farmers know how healthy their livestock is. Animal sickness can have a devastating impact on a farm. But IoT allows farmers to identify these problems and separate the sick from the healthy before the illness becomes an epidemic.

A New Era of Agriculture

The Internet of Things is enabling farmers to leverage the previously untapped potential of the data around them in ways that not only improve their lives but ours as well. While having a connected smart home or digital personal assistant available to answer all of your questions is cool, agriculture is integral to our survival. Unfortunately, farming isn’t usually the first area that San Francisco developers set out to disrupt when brainstorming new ideas.

It may not be on the minds of the tech hubs of the world, but the problems that the agriculture industry is facing could come to define our future if they’re not addressed now. IoT lets farmers accomplish exponentially more than they ever could alone and may finally be the solution to both longstanding issues in the industry as well as the future ones resulting from global warming. It’s exciting to see how this trend evolves going forward, and this is surely only the start. The Internet of Things is a powerful platform, and it may provide the help we need to properly plant the seeds for the future.

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