With the increasing adoption of IoT (internet of things), the connected devices have been able to penetrate all aspects of our lives. These include our home automation, health and fitness,logistics, automotive, industrial IoT, and smart cities.
Therefore, it is logical to imagine that IoT, automation, and connected devices would be applicable to agriculture. We also hope that it improves almost every aspect of it tremendously.
In the past decades, farming has experienced some technological transformations, thereby becoming more technology-driven and industrialized. By making use of different smart agriculture gadgets, our farmers have been able to gain better control of the entire process involved in the raising of livestock as well as growing crops. This makes it much more predictable. It also improves its efficiency.
All these, coupled with the rising consumer demand for all agriculture products, has led to an increase in proliferation of the smart farming technologies globally.
Here, we will explain the use cases of IoT in agriculture, as well as consider their benefits. Therefore, if you wish to invest in smart planning, or you wish to build an agricultural IOT solution, please read on.
What Does Smart Agriculture Mean?
We can talk about modern agriculture in many different ways. For instance, AgriTech deals with applying technology to agriculture generally.
On the other hand, smart agriculture is majorly used in denoting the agricultural application of the IoT solutions. Now, what does smart agriculture making use of IoT mean? When you use IoT sensors and IoT solutions for the collection of machine and environmental metrics, the farmers will be able to make the right and informed decisions. Also, they will be able to improve all areas of their work, including crop farming and livestock.
For example, when you use smart agriculture sensors in monitoring the crop’s state, farmers will be able to define the amount of fertilizers and pesticides they must use in reaching optimal efficiency. This also applies to the definition of smart farming.
Though smart agriculture IoT and industrial IoT generally are not as famous as the consumer connected devices, the market still remains very dynamic. Also, there is a constantly growing adoption of the IoT solutions in agriculture.
COVID-19 has impacted IOT positively in the market share of agriculture. Few qualified workers and supply chain disruption has caused the CAGR to about 9.9%. By 2025, the global market size of this agriculture should triple to reach $15.3 billion, in contrast to its slightly more than $5 billion in 2016.
What are the Advantages of Smart Farming?
IoT and Technologies have the ability to transform our agriculture in different aspects. There are five main ways by which IoT will be able to improve agriculture.
Tons of data which is collected by the smart agriculture sensors. These include soil quality, weather conditions, cattle’s health, crop health, and progress of crop’s growth. This data is useful in tracking how your business is performing, equipment efficiency, staff performance, etc.
More control over internal processes leading to lower risks in global agricultural production
Having the capability to foresee your production’s output lets you plan to have a much better product distribution.
Waste reduction and cost management due to better control over production
When you are able to see anomalies in your livestock health, crop health, or crop growth, then it becomes possible to mitigate any risks involved in losing any yield.
Better business efficiency via process automation
When you use smart devices, then it becomes possible to automate many processes all through the production cycle. For example, pest control, fertilizing, or irrigation.
Enhanced volumes and product quality
Achieving much better control on the process of crop production, as well as maintain much higher standards of the crop quality as well as growth capacity via automation. Due to this, these factors will eventually result in higher revenue.
Now, we have learnt about how IoT can be beneficial to agriculture. Now, let’s consider ways in which these benefits will be applicable in real life.
What are the Use Cases or Applications of IoT in Agriculture?
IoT sensors meant for agriculture come in different types. This also includes IoT applications in all agriculture generally.
Monitor Climate Conditions
The most famous gadgets for smart agriculture system include weather stations, which combine different smart farming sensors. Their location is usually across the fields where they collect different data from our environment and then send it into the cloud.
Furthermore, the measurements provided are useful in mapping these climate conditions, choosing appropriate crops, as well as taking the necessary measures in improving their capacity, for example in precision farming.
Farmers usually make use of manual intervention for controlling any greenhouse environment. Using IoT sensors makes it possible to be able to get the best real-time information regarding greenhouse conditions like humidity, soil conditions, temperature, and lighting.
Also, adding to the sourcing of environmental data, the weather stations have the ability to adjust conditions automatically to help in matching the necessary parameters. Greenhouse automation systems usually make use of similar principles.
Growlink and Farmapp are IoT agriculture products which offer some capabilities. Also, GreenIQ is an interesting product which makes use of smart agriculture sensors. Also, it is a well-known smart sprinklers controller, which allows the management of lighting and irrigation systems remotely.
Another type of the IoT product in agriculture, as well as a different precision farming element are the crop management devices. Like the weather stations, you have to place them in a specific field to help in collecting data that is crop framing specific. These include precipitation, temperature, general crop health, and potential of leaf water.
Therefore, you will be able to monitor the crop growth, as well as anomalies that prevent infestations or diseases effectively,which could bring harm to your yield.
Cattle management and monitoring
Similar to crop monitoring, some IoT agriculture sensors exist, which could be attached onto animals present on a specific farm in monitoring their log and health performance. With livestock monitoring and livestock tracking, you will be able to get reliable data on physical location, well-being, and stock health.
For instance, these sensors will be able to locate the sick animals, which will help farmers to separate them from the others to prevent contamination. Making use of drones from the real-time tracking will also assist farmers i9n reducing staffing expenses. Its function is similar to the IoT devices for petcare.
This is also called precision agriculture. It refers to efficiency as well as producing data-driven decisions that are accurate. Furthermore, it is included among the most effective and widely used applications or use case of the IoT in agriculture.
When you make use of IoT sensors, farmers will be able to collect different metrics on every aspect of the field’s ecosystem and microclimate. These include humidity, soil condition, temperature, lighting, pest infections, Co2 levels, and humidity. Also, the data allows farmers to get an estimate of the right amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and water, which is useful for their crops, raise healthier and better crops, as well as reduce the necessary expenses.
For example, CropX helps in building IoT soil sensors, which measures the soil temperature, moisture, as well as electric conductivity. This allows the farmers to consider each of the unique needs of crops.
One very promising and well-known AgriTech advancements is the utilization of agricultural drones in our smart farming. This is also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These drones are more equipped than the satellites and airplanes in collecting agricultural data.
Asides from their surveillance capabilities, these drones have the ability to carry out different tasks that required the use of human labor previously. These include fighting infections and pests, crop monitoring, agricultural spraying, planting crops, locating shrinking agricultural lands, etc.
Predictive data analytics and precision agriculture work together. While the smart sensor and IoT technology can serve as a goldmine for the real time data, using data analytics assists farmers in making some sense from it, as well as having some important predictions. These include time for crop harvesting, risks of infestations and diseases, yield volume, and more. Also, the tools for data analytics help to ensure farming. This depends inherently on the weather conditions, which are more predictable and manageable.
You can represent a very complex approach to the IoT products used in agriculture by the management systems of farm productivity. Usually, they include some agriculture IoT devices and IoT sensors, which are installed on these premises, coupled with a strong dashboard having analytical capabilities, as well as in-built reporting and accounting features.
Furthermore, this provides capabilities of farm monitoring that allows users to be able to streamline the majority of their business operations.
Asides from the listed use cases of IoT in agriculture, there are some important opportunities, which includes storage management, vehicle tracking, automation, logistics, etc.
What you should Consider Before You Develop a Smart Farming Solution
Now you can see that the applications of IoT in agriculture are numerous. There are lots of ways through which smart devices will be able to assist you in increasing the revenue and performance of your farm. However, developing agriculture IoT apps is a difficult task.
There are some challenges you must take note of if you wish to get involved in smart farming applying IoT in agriculture.
The data analytics has to be the center of any smart agriculture solution. This collected data will offer little assistance if you fail to make proper sense of it. Therefore, there is a need to have strong data analytics capabilities, as well as apply some machine learning and predictive algorithms to help in obtaining actionable insights that are based on this collected data.
In order to create an effective IoT solution for our agriculture, there is a need to go for device sensors. You can also create a custom sensor. Whatever choice you make depends on the information you wish to collect, as well as your solution’s purpose generally. Whatever the case is, your sensor’s quality is important to your product’s success. It depends on the accuracy of any data collected, as well as its reliability.
The applications of smart farming must be tailored to be used in this field. As a farm manager or business owner, you should have access to the information remotely or on site through a desktop computer or smartphone.
In addition, each of the connected device has to be autonomous, as well as possess the wireless range necessary to be able to communicate with the other devices, as well as send data onto the main and central server.
There is a need for data transmission between the many different agricultural facilities. This is a challenge for smart farming adoption. Today, the IoT devices make use of different connection protocols, though efforts required for developing the unified standards are presently underway. Furthermore, the advent of technologies and 5G space-based internet hopefully, should find a solution to the problem.
There is a need to have a strong internal infrastructure to make sure that your application for smart farming performs properly as well as ensure it handles the data load properly.
Also, the internal systems must be secure. When you don’t secure the system properly, it once increases the possibility of anyone breaking into it, to steal your data, as well as take control of the autonomous tractors.
Maintaining your hardware could be a major challenge which is very important for the IoT products used in agriculture. This is because the sensors are useful in this field and can get damaged easily. Therefore, ensure that the hardware is easily maintained and is durable. Otherwise, you will end up replacing these sensors too often.
IoT technology and precision agriculture implied working with different large data sets. This increases possible security loopholes, which perpetrators could use for hacking attacks and data thefts. For example, many farms make use of drone to transmit data to the farm machinery. The machinery helps in connecting to the web. However, it has very little to no security protection like user passwords.
Some basic security recommendations for IoT in agriculture include the use of encryption methods in protecting sensitive data, monitoring of data traffic, storage of data in blockchain to keep its integrity.
We have explained in detail the applications and uses of IoT in agriculture. We hope more advancements in agriculture result from the use of IoT technology.