Smart Agriculture: Bringing IoT to the Farming Industry
In 2018, the global smart agriculture market was approximately $6.45 million and is projected to grow by $19.6 million by 2027. Technology plays an important role in its growth, especially the Internet of Things that gets more and more recognition these days.
IoT agriculture has a huge potential and can significantly change the way farmers manage their fields. But in order to get the expected results, one has to consider the possible challenges and bottlenecks.
What is AgTech?
AgTech is the application of technology in agriculture with an aim to increase the efficiency of processes and to improve them. A special emphasis is placed on the use of IoT in farming since this technology brings the most benefit.
The main idea behind AgTech is, obviously, the improvement of current agricultural processes with the help of technological innovations. However, the use of technology in farming has a significant impact on the environment as well as provides a more stable and “wise” farming system. If you need more specific examples, think of the following: soil health monitoring or detection of animals hiding in the crops during the harvesting process.
While smart agriculture sounds immensely beneficial, there are several bottlenecks that impact its development. First, farmers are not quite aware of the possible options and simply do not know about them. In a study by Alfa Brown from 2018, 68% of the farmers were hearing the term IoT for the first time. Of course, the situation has changed over the years, but still, many farmers simply lack knowledge about the available technologies and solutions. Second, farmers do not want another tool just to collect data - they want actionable and valuable insights. Hence, it is important not only to deliver the information to them but also correctly explain the value of a possible solution and how it can solve certain challenges and problems.
What is Precision Farming?
If we drill deeper, we’ll come across the Precision Farming term. The main idea behind the Precision Farming concept is to optimize the returns while preserving the used resources and minimizing waste. This can be achieved through constant monitoring and measurement which is exactly what IoT does. In other words, precision farming is aimed at improving crop performance and preserving the environment by reducing waste and managing resources more wisely and efficiently.
Think of the following as an example of IoT agriculture. By using smart sensors, farmers are always aware of how much electricity and water crops need. This can significantly increase their financial savings since they won’t over-spend the resources while receiving profit from the crops at the same time.
The benefits of IoT for the farming industry
There are several significant benefits that IoT brings to smart agriculture:
Better cost management and cost reduction due to more accurate resource management;
Increased efficiency due to automation (i.e. the use of robots for certain tasks);
Better allocation of resources due to insights about the processes (such as what areas need more control and more resources);
Accurate insights due to smart sensors (temperature monitoring, humidity monitoring, etc.)
Competitive edge, especially important for small farms.
IoT agriculture approach helps overcome the most common challenges that farmers face: lack of manpower and tools, lack of knowledge, tight competition. And since IoT is quite a vast term, there is a whole variety of possible solutions that farmers can use.
Types of IoT solutions for farming
Below we list down the most common IoT solutions used in smart agriculture. Note that this is a very general listing and every farm will require a uniquely individual solution based on its needs.
Every farmer knows how much time and effort it takes to control a greenhouse environment manually. Hence, the automation of greenhouse management can make their lives much easier and deliver more efficient care.
Smart IoT sensors do not only inform farmers about the condition of their greenhouse but they can also automatically adjust the temperature, humidity, and light if needed. As well, an IoT system can immediately notify a person in case anything goes wrong, allowing to take the needed preventative measures.
Farming drones are one of the most interesting tech innovations of IoT agriculture. Considering the vast size of farming land areas, it will take too much time to manually inspect them. Hence, automatic drones that do not require manpower to operate them, become priceless assistants in collecting the data, monitoring the area, and even performing simple tasks like spraying or planting crops.
There are two types of drones used in agriculture: ground-based and aerial UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Drones can also be either controlled remotely or act completely autonomously. And if you still have any doubts left about the use of drones in farming, note that experts predict the agriculture drone market to reach $32.4 billion in the future. These numbers clearly indicate that drones will most probably become one of the cornerstones of Precision Farming, allowing farmers to always be aware of the state of their farm and to act accordingly.
Crop and cattle management
Another great way to incorporate IoT in smart agriculture is using crop and cattle management devices, based on smart sensors. These devices can:
Monitor and measure temperature and humidity;
Monitor the state of soil and any iterations in indicators;
Monitor the movement of the cattle;
Monitor the state of the cattle (i.e. health, temperature);
Monitor the state of crops and their health.
As the Alfa Brown study states, farmers do not want just the data - they need valuable insights that will help them optimize their work. The data collected with the sensors can help farmers to always be aware of the state of their crops/cattle and to take the necessary precautions before any problem occurs. Such an approach falls into the precise farming concept and helps farmers better understand what areas need improvement.
Last but not least - the use of GPS in farming that comes to mind immediately when talking about AgTech. Just a few years ago the use of GPS in the agriculture industry was not very common but today, it’s gaining more and more traction.
GPS helps farmers accurately navigate to specific areas and perform all processes in a highly precise manner. With the help of GPS, farmers can water the soil in the exact location where seeds are, they can avoid over-fertilization, and collect soil samples from specific spots. All that leads to increased yield and profitability and eliminates the guesswork that many farmers have to do when it comes to crop management.
Main considerations before IoT implementation
IoT agriculture brings immense benefits to farmers and that’s a fact. However, due to the complexity of this technology, there are several considerations that need to be resolved before implementing IoT in your processes. They are:
Hardware: you will need to choose necessary sensors and corresponding devices to collect and process the data.
Qualified staff: collected data will require experienced data scientists and engineers to work on it.
Hardware maintenance: it is obligatory to come up with a solid maintenance plan to ensure your hardware is properly functioning.
Connectivity: you need to have good Internet connectivity so data can be transmitted seamlessly.
Security: it is a must to have a secure system within which the data circulates in order to prevent its leakage or theft.
Internal infrastructure: for efficient performing of IoT devices, you first need to have a stable, secure, and solid internal infrastructure.
As you see, there is quite a lot of work to do before putting your IoT solution into action. But it is absolutely necessary in order to set the foundation for the future success of the whole system.
A case from SoftTeco: IoT wildlife protection system
SoftTeco’s client requested us to develop a mobile application for an IoT system that would detect animals hiding in the grass or crops. The main idea behind this request was the fact that during the mowing process, some animals get trapped because the mower operator is unable to detect them. Hence, the client needed a solution that would timely detect an animal with sensors placed on the mower and immediately notify the operator.
SoftTeco created an iOS application that connects with the sensors via Bluetooth. With the help of the app, users can receive timely notifications, configure the sensors’ sensitivity, place and save GPS marks to tag the detected animals, and create notes. The application serves as a valuable asset for the farmers and helps preserve the wildlife by ensuring wild animals do not get in the danger zone.
Irina is a professional copywriter with over 7 years of experience in this domain. She loves creating compelling and informative copy that provides readers with all the needed information. Irina is also a frequent contributor to different blogs and websites across different domains.View all articles by this author.
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