IoT In Agriculture: The Second Green Revolution’s Agtech Innovation

“Smart farming” is a great way to term agriculture in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. What makes agricultural technologies SO interesting right now is that the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution converge and coincide with what is also termed the “Second Green Revolution.” Agribusiness, agriculture, and producers around the world face disruption on a scale that baffles imagination.

Smart farming, or Agricultural IoT, is an often overlooked business-case for the Internet of Things because it doesn’t fit into the well-known categories such as health, mobility, or industrial IoT. The Internet of Things WILL revolutionize every aspect of agribusiness, from the way farmers work to yields per acre, and will soon become the most important application of IoT, IMHO.

Get to the good stuff, please!

  • IoT in agriculture is designed to help farmers monitor vital information like humidity, air temperature and soil quality using remote sensors, and to improve yields, plan more efficient irrigation, and make harvest forecasts.
  • IoT helps biologists study the effects of genomes and micro-climates on crop production to optimize quality and yield.
  • Implementing smart, connected IIoT projects enables farmers to make use of the massive amounts of data generated on their farms.
  • The large size of many farms makes manual surveys ineffective and difficult, leading farmers to turn to IIoT solutions.
  • Using satellite imaging and IIoT track-and-trace technology to monitor farming operations all the way from harvest to delivery is one way to maximize productivity and ensure the quality of food in the supply chain.
  • Agriculture presents perhaps the perfect business case for IoT implementation, so we are likely to see a much greater extension of its applications over the next five years.
  • In areas like precision agriculture, real-time data about soil, weather, air quality and hydration levels can help farmers make better decisions about the planting and harvesting of crops.
  • Product quality, higher crop productivity, resource conservation and cost control – these are just a few of the ways the Agricultural Internet of Things promises to transform farming and food production in the future.
  • The Agricultural IoT, integrated with Web Map Service (WMS) and Sensor Observation Service (SOS) provides a solution to managing water requirements or supply for crop irrigation. It also smartly analyzes crop water requirements and uses water supply resources available to reduce waste.
  • In areas of drought, the crop water management function of Agricultural IoT can be of great value, as it intelligently manages the limited water supply by calculating the valve operation timing and building optimum irrigation strategy, resulting in better practices to preserve water resources.
  • IoT ensures accurate and efficient communication to farmers of real time data related to dynamic agricultural processes (like weather forecasts, planting, harvesting, etc.), weather forecasts, soil quality, and availability and cost of labor. Farmers who have access to such important real-time information available to them can better plan their course of activities beforehand and take corrective or preventive measures in advance for the future.
  • A farmers’ hard work is often destroyed by pests, causing significant monetary losses. To prevent such situations, the Agricultural IoT (Internet of Things) has a system to monitor and scan the environmental parameters and plant growth. There is also data available from pest control sensors which are capable of predicting pest behavior. This information can be used by farmers to reduce damage done by pests on a large scale. Pest Management and Control works on the following fundamental bases: Observation, Inspection, Identification, Record Tracking.
  • Along with attaining optimum, quality food production, the Agricultural IoT aims to ensure food safety at different levels, such as storage and transportation. To do so, it has a monitoring system over various factors like shipping time, storage temperature, and cloud-based record keeping.
  • “Smart Cows”: IoT is useful in livestock management, supporting livestock health with monitoring tools such as ear tags for cattle, capable of detecting respiratory diseases. If a disease is detected, it sends an alert so the animal can be separated from the herd, preventing the disease from spreading.
  • Precision agriculture, also called Precision farming: Weather forecasting accuracy and other dynamic data inputs can affects crop productivity to a great extent. The higher the level of accuracy, the lower the chances of crops being damaged; thus, more accurate weather forecasts can lead to higher profitability and productivity levels.
  • Today’s farmers face a set of difficult challenges—an increasing worldwide demand for food, a changing climate, and a limited supply of water, fossil fuels and arable land. To surmount these hurdles, the agriculture industry is adopting an array of digital solutions including: Robotics, GPS Technology, Computer Imaging
  • IoT sensors report weather conditions and monitor soil moisture and acidity while animal farmers track the movement and behavior of livestock remotely via embedded devices.
  • Industrial IoT applications are useful for monitoring indoor agricultural facilities such as silos, dairies and stables. For example, an agricultural storage system can  establish baseline performance norms and then set alert and alarm conditions related to temperature, vibration, humidity, and other conditions.
  • In determining optimal times to plant, spray fertilizer, harvest, or take other actions that inform crop outcomes, soil sensing has emerged as a prime agricultural IoT use case.
  • NB-IoT is a good fit for soil sensors in that the modules are low-cost and, based on a power-savings mode, can work in the field for up to a decade off of just one battery. “NB-IoT is superior when it comes to precision-farming,” Chris Byrne, Vodafone’s director of IoT Solutions.
  • Using IoT, the farmer knows when to spray and where.
  • The IoT can bring efficiency to the agricultural space, and create a virtuous cycle that makes food products more readily available to consumers, saves farmers time and money, and lessens the environmental impact of farming by driving sustainability into the process.
  • Given the sweeping impact of precision agriculture, research firm Markets and Markets expects spending on associated solutions to grow at a 13.47% compound annual growth rate, equating to a $7.87 billion annual market opportunity by 2022 with researchers noting, “The increasing focus on farm-efficiency and productivity is expected to propel the growth of the precision farming market.”
  • When consumers think of IoT applications, connected cows or digitally monitored fields rarely come to mind—but they should with the rise of IoT in agriculture.
  • According to a Machina Research report, the number of connected agricultural devices is expected to grow from 13 million at the end of 2014 to 225 million by 2024.
  • According to Statista, the number of low-power wide area (LPWA) connections used in land agriculture worldwide will rise to more than 117 million by 2024—up from just 160,000 connections in 2015. In part, the exponential growth coincides with a sharp reduction in cost for individual sensors and network operating costs. Because they are not dependent on third-party WiFi or cellular connections, LPWA options such as Symphony Link enjoy greater network reliability and scalability even across a vast farming enterprise.
  • The goal of precision farming is not simply to gather data via sensors, but to take it a step farther—analyzing the data to evaluate needed interventions or changes.
  • Smart farming application areas include farm vehicle tracking, livestock monitoring, large and small field farming, and storage monitoring.
  • The next several years will bring increasing use of smart farming technologies.
  • The Internet of Things is transforming the agriculture industry like never before by empowering farmers and growers to deal with the enormous challenges they face. Till now, agriculture has been a high-risk, labor-intensive, low-reward industry. Farmers are very likely to be impacted by unexpected environmental changes, economic downturns, and many other risk factors.
  • According to BI Intelligence, IoT device installations in the agriculture world will experience a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent. U.S. farmers are already proving the efficiency of smart farming techniques by producing an average 7,340 kilograms of cereal per hectare (2.5 acres) of farmland versus the worldwide average of 3,851 kilograms per hectare.
  • A snowballing world population means the agricultural industry will need to produce approximately 70 percent more food in 2050 than it did in 2006, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. To maximize crop yields and use of resources, farmers are utilizing smart agriculture technology to track progress, predict outcomes and drive decision-making.
  • As IoT applications in agriculture continue to develop, farms will become more connected, more streamlined, more efficient and—ultimately—more productive.
  • IoT in agriculture has become one of the fastest growing fields in the M2M space.
  • Today, more than ever before, farmers, ranchers, and conservationists need a method to more effectively utilize and conserve resources. The most effective way to do this is through actionable data, and utilizing M2M communication makes the ongoing collection of that data simple and affordable.
  • If you asked someone in agriculture 100 years ago how the industry would change in the century to come, they’d probably focus more on climate conditions or water usage than on machines and sensors gathering and transmitting actionable data.
  • Monitoring plant and soil conditions is a simple use case—but it can lead to a fantastic return on investment for farmers utilizing sensing technology. We’ve seen three great general uses for agriculture IoT in this space: Sensing for soil moisture and nutrients. Controlling water usage for optimal plant growth. Determining custom fertilizer profiles based on soil chemistry.
  • IoT can help farmers in a number of ways. At its most basic level, sensors can be deployed across farm and farming machineries in order to enable farmers to gain an abundance of insightful data, such as the temperature of stored produce, the amount of fertilizer used, the amount of water in the soil, the number of seeds planted, storage conditions, the status of farming equipment and machinery in use, etc.
  • Once an IoT-enabled smart system is in place, farmers can easily track a variety of environmental variables and make informed decisions.
  • Rather than just an enhancement, smart farming is a necessary innovation, which if correctly implemented could help farmers to deal with all the challenges they face in farming. Moreover, the rich insights derived from smart sensors could help farmers be more precise in their use of pesticides and fertilizers, thus mitigating some environmental impacts.
  • IoT deployment in agriculture can address many challenges and increase the quality, quantity, and cost-effectiveness of agricultural production.
  • OPEN IOT’S PHENONET PROJECT: With the Phenonet Project, plant breeders can evaluate the performance of different wheat varieties using measurements taken from remote sensors. These sensors monitor things like soil temperature, humidity, and air temperature and are often used for crop variety trials. This allows farmers to forecast harvest time, improve plant health, plan irrigation time, and determine frost and heat events.
  • TEMPUTECH’S WIRELESS SENSOR MONITORING: TempuTech wanted to bring better safety to their systems for agricultural storage. Silos and grain elevators can be dangerous places with conveyor belts that can catch fire and dust buildup that can be explosive, so using sensors to track hazards is of massive value. By using GE’s Equipment Insight, TempuTech created a way to connect all of these wireless sensors and help farmers make sense of the data. Using Equipment Insight’s platform, manufacturers can establish baseline performance norms and then set alert and alarm conditions related to temperature, vibration, humidity, and other conditions.
  • CLAAS’S EQUIPMENT: CLAAS is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural engineering equipment. Farmers can operate CLAAS equipment on autopilot, receive advice on how to improve crop flow and minimize grain losses, or automatically optimize equipment performance. The company is partnering with 365FarmNet, a program that enables farmers to manage their entire agricultural holding on a computer or mobile device. It collects data and makes meaningful use of it through field mapping, fertilization planning, nutrient balance, and calendar and planning programs.
  • CLEANGROW’S CARBON NANOTUBE PROBE: CleanGrow, based in Ireland, has developed a carbon, nanotube-based sensor for monitoring the level of nutrients in crops, which can allow farmers to alter the color or maturity rate of produce. Conventional nutrient probes are analog devices that capture a composite picture of the current environmental conditions. In CleanGrow’s device, a nanotube sensor tuned to a specific ion—nitrate, sodium, etc.—sits on one side of a membrane. As water passes through the membrane, the sensor detects the presence and quantity of the target ion. Up to 18 different sensors tuned to different ions can be placed on a probe head.
  • PRECISIONHAWK’S UAV SENSOR PLATFORM: PrecisionHawk has created an autonomous UAV that collects high-quality data through a series of sensors that perform civil applications such as surveying, mapping, and imaging of agricultural land. It’s basically a small airplane that performs in-flight observations and monitoring. Before tossing the plane into the air, farmers tell it what field to survey and choose a ground resolution or altitude. Each plane can detect weather conditions in the air using artificial intelligence, so it chooses the best flight path to take based on things like wind speed or air pressure. During the flight, the plane will collect visual, thermal, and multi-spectral imagery at resolutions up to one centimeter per pixel. When it’s finished, the plane will land in the same place it took off and will have useable data.
  • PRECISION PLANTING’S CORN MAZE: Radar Family Farms began as a pumpkin farm in the ‘90s, and today offers a 10-acre corn maze to fall visitors. It draws about 50,000 visitors in the midwest each year. The family had previously created the maze by planting all 10 acres of corn and then hiring a company to mow out the shape of the maze. This was a waste in seed—a cost that added up quickly. By using Precision Planting technology, they were able to plant in the shape of the map—a feat they believe is theirs alone in the U.S. today.
  • TEAMDEV’S LIBELIUM NETWORK FOR TOBACCO CROP QUALITY: Tobacco is a critical industry in Italy and requires certain environmental and climatic requirements for optimal growth and increased crops. In response to this issue, an Italian software company—TeamDev—deployed Libelium’s Waspmote Plug & Sense platform to collect data on weather conditions that may affect tobacco crops. This technique can be used by tobacco farmers to optimize their crops in conditions not typically suitable for tobacco growth.

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