Over the years, we have witnessed significant change within the agricultural sector. Many technological advances allow farmers to become more efficient, whilst their processes simultaneously become more sustainable. One such technological advancement is IoT in agriculture (Internet of Things). But what is the Internet of Things, we hear you ask?
Oracle defines the Internet of Things as follows: "The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects—"things"—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet. These devices range from ordinary household objects to sophisticated industrial tools.".
In farming, sensors can monitor soil, moisture, light, temperature etc. GPS hones in on precise locations (which is highly necessary - as farms are usually massive!), while robotics and AI can be implemented, and data analytics provide solutions and optimisation tactics for subsequent harvests.
The Internet of Things can be incorporated into the systems and processes within the agricultural industry, creating the term Smart Farming which intends to allow farmers to use smartphones and tablets to access real-time information across all their operations, whilst being in complete control. Farmers are already incredibly busy, and this helpfully allows for more efficient systems and processes to be put in place.
Here are five areas where IoT and Smart Farming can be used to benefit and feed the future (significantly increased!) global population.
- Precision Farming - Precision farming is the implementation of systems and processes, with the assistance of IoT, to allow optimisation within the production chain. In a nutshell, this results in farmers being more accurate and efficient with their day-to-day work. You may have heard of Agriculture 4.0: the umbrella term for Precision Farming, IoT, Smart Farming etc. The optimisation of the farmland increases efficiency whilst reducing waste, meaning more is produced while consumption is reduced significantly - importantly, without hindering the quality of the final product. The hope is that, while the technology gets more advanced and integrated into the industry as ‘mainstream’, we are more likely to reach net-zero goals by 2050, and feed the ever-growing global population.
- Robotics - Robotics are seemingly becoming less like science fiction, and more so, our reality. IoT in farming allows room for implementing robotics and AI in agriculture. This will help farmers meet growing demands in food production. IoT further encourages this through drones to scan land and curate images, enabling farmers to monitor their crops. What’s more, IoT allows robots and drones to be autonomous. Imagine ploughing a field while a robot drone does the weeding for you - all the while, controlling it on your smartphone! Are you now in two places at once? That's efficiency.
- Smart Greenhouse - A Smart Greenhouse in agriculture is a fantastic technological advancement. This creates an optimised, automated environment to ensure crops and plants can grow the very best they can using sensors, monitoring, and control systems (IoT). The controlled environment gives the plants the ‘Goldilocks’ equivalent of not too hot and not too cold: just right, without manual intervention. Other key benefits of a Smart Greenhouse include the enhancement of irrigation (watering crops) and fertilisation, as well as control of the spread of infections and diseases.
- Data Analytics - Data analytics within IoT mean farmers can learn vital information for each harvest. But what kind of data? Well, firstly, farmers can easily monitor plant health using sensors, drones, GPS and other IoT technologies. Without this, monitoring crops is usually an enormous task, considering the size of most farms. The soil in some areas might be of better quality; the data analytics will show the farmer where most attention is required. As the farmer is out of the house from the early hours of the day to late at night, the information is easily accessible on a mobile phone. As the years pass, such insights will become increasingly valuable; they allow the farmer to optimise further based on their learnings, integrally assisting in decision-making.
- Livestock monitoring - Farmers of extensive lands can use wireless technologies to monitor their livestock. It is hard to be everywhere at once, meaning if you have a lot of animals on the farm, it may be hard to spot issues efficiently as and when they arrive. IoT in agriculture allows the farmer to track the location of livestock. You may have seen the occasional sheep hop the fence or move fields when they're not supposed to. IoT has the potential to notify the farmer's smartphone when this happens. In addition, it allows more efficient tracking of the health and well-being of livestock. If an animal falls ill, the farmer can be notified and allow quick medical support to further the animal's well-being and happiness.
What does the future of IoT in agriculture look like? Well, it can only get better, more efficient and more affordable. With the expected population to rise to 9 billion and the current climate crisis, will IoT use within agriculture give us a brighter future to grow together?
Our top 5 uses of IoT are only a fraction of the endless possibilities that IoT in farming could bring. Follow our Facebook for more exciting developments across all agriculture sectors.