Smart farming or precision farming is an approach to integrate the latest technology advancements with the world’s oldest industry. It’s the perfect amalgamation of two different worlds, and IoT devices are at the core of this revolution.
What is the big question in the agriculture sector? You must have heard it; let me jog your memory.
How will we feed 10 billion mouths in 2050 with the same amount of land (or practically lesser)?
That’s where the smart farming approach comes into play. Smart farming is focused on using data and automation in managing farm activities to save resources and time while boosting farm yield.
What is Smart Farming?
What makes any device smart? The ability to collect, understand and apply data to achieve a certain set of goals. Based on this definition, smart farming is done by various farming equipment that work according to the data acquired through various sources (historical, geographical and instrumental).
For instance, a water sprinkler system analyzes the temperature, humidity, weather predictions, past rain, and cloud cycles to decide the quantity and time of watering the crops. This is just a simple example of what a very basic IoT-powered smart farming device can do.
With proper research and execution, smart agriculture systems using IoT technology will surpass all the expectations that people have today. Based on a study done by McKinsey, if smart farming IoT in agriculture is implemented successfully, an additional value of $500 billion could be achieved in the global gross domestic product by 2030. This amount translates into a 7 to 9% improvement in the global agriculture ecosystem.
The fundamentals of traditional farming and smart farming are the same, only the method of application is different. So, the challenges that the agriculture industry has to overcome are twofold:
(a) The farms that still use traditional ways need to be informed and helped in enabling the use of connectivity in farming.
(b) For farms that already have connectivity and data insights helping them, a promising use case must be executed to showcase the results of agricultural technology advancements.
The good news is that this isn’t a long-term generational change. We will be witnessing a record number of smart farming adoption (about 70%) in the next couple of years.
Understanding The Technology Behind Smart Farming
IoT in agriculture, Smart farm technologies, connected farming all of these terms represent the same thing. A technology that evolves on data and works collectively with all the devices. Sounds a bit vague; let’s resolve that.
The smart farming environ is divided into 3 phases:
Sensing is the primary hardware phase where different types of sensor-based technologies come into play. Typically, a sensor node will have a processing module, low-power MCU (microcontroller unit), and several sensors.
These hardware devices sense their surroundings and collect data related to farming like temperature and humidity. What happens with this collected data? Keep reading.
The next step comes with passing the data between devices. There are two ways to transfer sensor collected data. Either the data is transferred to the neighbouring node or the closest gateway. From here, the data is periodically sent to remote infrastructure like cloud servers for storage, analysis, and dissemination of valuable information.
The final step is to take action based on the data analysis done by the system. This action can be programmed or manual as per the user’s preference. If the process is automated, then the smart farming devices will perform a certain action based on the preset readings of the data.
The advancements achieved in smart farming until now have made it possible to completely automate running the entire farm on a daily basis. The system will update on the user app or dashboard, and the farmer can choose to take any decision they see fit.
Smart Farming Technologies
You’ve learned what smart farming is and how it works. Now it’s time to check out the most promising smart farming technology offerings. Here are the budding agriculture IoT products transforming this industry.
Agricultural Bots or Agribots are robots designed specifically for farming activities. The toiling manual activities like ploughing, sowing seeds, watering, spraying fertilizers can all be done with these special-purpose Agribots.
These bots are built to minimize the labor work for farmers while increasing speed and accuracy in such tedious tasks. These robots seem to be the perfect solution with increasing demands and shortage of labor across the globe.
Several sensors are placed in the farm at precise distances to scan the soil, light, water, temperature, humidity, etc., factors that affect the farm products. Based on these data, the system will inform you of the right time and amount of water to irrigate the crops.
This approach saves a lot of water and also helps you make informed decisions for better yield. With just a tap on your smartphone app for irrigation, you can water your entire farm from anywhere in the world without even being on the farm.
Inspecting your farm is a time-consuming task, but with an eye in the sky, it can be done in mere minutes. With access to drones, surveillance can be done manually as well as automated.
Once the flight path and routine schedule are set, the drones will automatically take off from their docking stations, fly across the farm inspecting and recording footage, and land safely back to the dock, like clockwork. There also have been experiments in developing heavy-duty drones that spray fertilizers across the farm.
Livestock Monitoring Collars
Livestock farming is an integral part of the agriculture industry that many farms have stakes in. Cattle and livestock farming is as difficult as land farming, if not more. To help cattle farmers, here is a smart IoT product, a livestock monitoring collar.
These livestock monitoring collars have various sensors fitted in them that periodically checks the cattle’s vital signs, body temperature, surroundings, etc. and provide that information to the dairy farmer through a mobile app or digital dashboard.
Benefits of Smart Farming
With precision agriculture techniques, you can get a far better farm yield than what you used to get with traditional methods. Activities like ploughing, planting, watering, fertilizing, pesticide application, harvesting, everything affects the overall production rates.
You save water, fertilizers, pesticides, and a lot of manual labor by relying on accurate sensor data and automation. Weather predictions and soil moisture sensors will help you take the best care of your farm with the least resources used. This way, the entire farming process also reduces the environmental and carbon footprint.
Farmers can monitor their entire field from a mobile app or digital dashboard. The stats and data collected from regular monitoring are stored to learn crop patterns, and informed decisions can be made based on legacy and real-time data.
Reduces Operating Costs
The major cost of running a farm comes from the labor you need to hire across the crop lifecycle. Automating the entire or partial processes in planting, crop treatment and harvesting will reduce the cost of resource consumption and avoid general human errors.
Better Livestock Farming
Sensors and machines placed in the livestock collar can detect diseases, reproduction cycles, and health events earlier in animals. Additionally, the geofencing location tracking feature will keep you updated on the cattle’s location at all times, improving livestock monitoring and management.
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Is Smart Farming The Future of Agriculture?
The answer is a clear and confident yes. Smart farming is not just a phase or a trick to boost your yields for a season or two. It is a proven farming approach that will help the agriculture business and the environment become sustainable and profitable for all times to come.
Majority solutions on the market are still limited to only farm monitoring and predictive analytics to take corrective actions. Our product engineering company is working on changing this scenario and developing true autonomous solutions that are proactive rather than reactive.
If you own a vast amount of farms or indulge in manufacturing and selling agricultural equipment, making your farming equipment IoT-enabled will be a hugely profitable step to take. Our embedded and IoT experts can help you create the next big smart farming device that changes the agricultural sector.