It is no secret that the Internet of Things (IoT) is conquering every sector in its path. In fact, it has already changed the face of various industries by introducing innovation, increasing efficiency, and cutting costs of several expensive business operations.
While the global population is projected to touch 9.6 billion by 2050, one does not need to be genius to figure out that farming needs to be upgraded with IoT to feed this much population.
What’s more, farmers need something exactly like IoT to boost productivity while maintaining operational cost at a minimum.
Agriculture has always been prone to risks and is dependent on extreme weather, rising climate change, and environment changes. However, IoT has blessed the agriculture industry in a number of ways.
Earlier, Farming was solely dependent on human labor and heavy machinery, but now it is incorporating various technological applications and modernizing the core operations. Moreover, smart farming based on IoT technologies has empowered farmers with novel technologies and hi-tech systems.
From smart sensors to agriculture drones, IoT has offered a brand-new way to monitor crop growth and livestock, the temperature of stored products, and overlook the status of farming equipment.
What is smart farming? How can it help boost productivity?
Smart farming refers to the use of modern technologies and incorporation of industrial IoT in agriculture leading to the Third Green Revolution. After plant breeding and genetics revolution, smart farming is taking over the agricultural world with the integration of ICT solutions such as smart sensors, IoT, geo-positioning equipment, big data, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and robotics.
Although IoT in agriculture is not as popular as consumer connected devices, the market is extremely dynamic. According to Allied Market Research, the global IoT in agriculture market is set to touch $48.71 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 14.7% from 2018 to 2025.
IoT has the potential to transform agriculture in several aspects. Some of the major use cases of IoT in agriculture include a decrease in production risks and big data for larger production output. With the incorporation of IoT, one can maintain control of the internal processes and reduce production risks.
IoT offers the ability to foresee the output of the production and enables to plan better for maximum product distribution. For instance, if you know how much your harvest will be, you can take suitable steps to sell it and the produce would not remain unsold. On the other hand, IoT and big data enable to improve productivity.
IoT brings loads of data collected by smart sensors that could track several factors such as weather conditions, crop’s growth progress, soil quality, or even health of livestock. Such data could be used to keep track of other operations such as staff performance and equipment efficiency.
The most admired use of IoT in agriculture can be regarded as precision farming or precision agriculture. From raising livestock to monitoring crop growth, anything that makes the farming more accurate and controlled can be regarded as precision farming. Precision farming is largely dependent on computers.
For instance, John Deere was one of the first manufacturers to integrate GPS technology in tractors. GPS technology combined with sensor data could develop a precise map of varying factors. For instance, farmers could gain information regarding how soil quality differs across the plot and this could help farmers choose the type of fertilizer to boost productivity.
With the help of sophisticated systems, farmers can plan their farm and apply required elements of farming such as pesticides and herbicides, which reduce costs remarkably. This, precision farming–powered by IoT–helps farmers reap maximum benefits from the available environment and livestock.
IoT For Agriculture for remote monitoring
A crop monitoring device is another element of precision farming. Similar to weather forecasting stations, these devices are placed in the farm to collect data required for farming, including a temperature of the soil, precipitation to leaf water potential, as well as overall crop growth.
This way, farmers could monitor crop growth and several animalities to prevent any diseases or infestations that harm the yield. Recently, Oizon, an Indian provider of environmental IoT solutions, offered novel infrastructure for new its Agribot smart agriculture solution that could offer real-time insights of crop health by monitoring soil conditions such as pH level and humidity.
The sensors in the Agribot aid farmers to make informed and smarter decisions regarding irrigation to improve crop yield. According to the company’s CTO, Sohil Patel, the system is easy to install and can also help those farmers in the areas without cellular coverage.
Livestock management and monitoring
Similar to crop monitoring, there are IoT devices that can be used to monitor the health of livestock and track their performance. Large farm owners could use wireless sensors to gather data regarding the location and health of their livestock, which could reduce labor costs such as ranchers to locate cattle.
In addition, IoT devices could inform farmers regarding those animals that are suffering from diseases and separate them from the herd, preventing the spread of the disease.
Recently, an Irish startup used sensors and machine learning to beekeeping. As insects such as bees help pollinate around one-third of the fruits and vegetables that we eat, they play a vital role in feeding the global population.
The startup developed ApisProtect, an IoT device that captures environmental data such as temperature, presence of CO2, humidity, and movement data. This data offers an idea regarding the condition of each hive across hundreds of colonies.
As ApisProtect supports satellite-based networking to send data to its servers, it uses a machine-learning algorithm to gain insights from the data.
Climate monitoring and greenhouse farming
The IoT device for climate monitoring is probably the most popular among farmer. As the devices are combined with smart farming sensors, they collect various data from the environment and sent it to the cloud to map the climate condition and provide a forecast to farmers regarding a change in weather conditions. With the help of this data, farmers can choose appropriate crops and take necessary measurements to improve the crop yield.
Apart from climate monitoring, IoT devices in agriculture offer several innovative solutions for greenhouse farming as the climate monitoring sensors send precise alerts regarding water and air problems.
IoT in agriculture applications such as Farmapp and Growlink has been helping farmers in greenhouse farming. Farmapp offers an Integrated Pest Management software along with monitoring and fumigation operations.
Moreover, it includes scouting app for quick recording and implementation of required measure with the help of satellite maps, charts, reports. Farmapp offers real-time data on weather and soil condition and it captures better irrigation for optimum crop yield.
India leads the way in smart farming
Although IoT is still nascent in India, the country is witnessing IoT revolution and the technology is being deployed across various verticals, including agriculture. With the rapid technological advancements in hand, the opportunities in for IoT are bound to grow over the next few years.
During recent Smart India Hackathon 2019, six engineer students from the Lovely Professional University unveiled a device that can test soil and help farmers decide which crop to sow when it is fixed on a tractor.
As soil depletion is the pressing issue in agriculture, the students decided to tackle it using IoT device that measures soil productivity. The aim was to develop a soil-testing solution for farmers. Thus, they used IoT to push data to cloud and machine learning to forecast profitable crops for a particular soil.
The device when attached to a tractor collects samples of soil and the soil sensing probes measures several parameters such as pH value, temperature, moisture content, and micro-nutrient contents including sodium, potassium, and nitrogen.
The process is repeated several times across the field and the measured data is stored on a digital card, which is pushed onto the cloud. With the help of machine learning, farmers would get valuable insights such as which crops would have a better chance of productivity for that particular soil.
Apart from this, recently, the tech giant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), signed an agreement with Agastya International Foundation in India to set up a Centre of Excellence in Andhra Pradesh with the mission to increase the use of IoT in agriculture.
The facility would be set up in Gudipalli in Andhra Pradesh to provide students access to advanced IT solutions that are helpful in the agriculture sector such as achieving higher food production. According to Som Satsangi, the HPE India Managing Director, stated, “Technology plays an important role in addressing ever-changing global need related to agriculture and food industry.
Moreover, we are a purpose-driven organization and thus, we want to leverage some untapped resources to come up with novel solutions for farmers.” The Centre of Excellence would train the youth regarding some novel technologies such as IoT to boost productivity and improve sustainability across the ecosystem. Moreover, students will get the opportunity to collaborate with soil fertility experts on agriculture-related projects.
In the month of July, SnowM Inc, a Canadian tech startup decided to expand its ventures in India to launch new IoT products. The company’s product involves 5G-enabled smart devices that could provide various applications in agriculture, healthcare, transport, asset tracking, security & safety, and logistics.
It enables communication between cloud connectable sensors and cloud-based analytics to extract the data to offer valuable insights. With the decades-worth experience in hand, SnowM is working on a core product using IoT technology and its expansion would increase the skilled workforce in Hyderabad within a year and it would propel its growth.
To boost the agriculture back to its glory and feed its ever-growing population, India is in dire need to create a blueprint of IoT in agriculture. With sophisticated IoT application, proper ecosystem, and supporting government schemes to adopt smart farming, the country would bring back agriculture as the major contributor to the Indian GDP. Thus, IoT and smart farming would remain the main focus for India for the next couple of years.