Internet of Things (IoT) in Agriculture

Introduction:

The amount of agricultural output is expected to grow till 2030, says a report by the “Food and Agriculture Organization”. With a projected growth of 1.4% in the aggregate crop production worldwide, the demand for supplies and solutions from industries working in the periphery of the agricultural sector is expected to rise. However, this does not necessarily mean that land under cultivation will rise dramatically. If anything, the agriculture industry will have to find ways to optimize productivity from a given piece of land as the urban sprawl occurs at the cost of arable land.

Internet of things (IoT) has been proving its mettle across the industries such as banking, retail, telecompanies, manufacturers and more. Amidst the various industries, the one sector it is quickly catching up with is the agriculture. With the concept of smart farming and digitization, it is gaining popularity like never before and is coming with the potential to offer high precision crop control, data collection and automated farming techniques.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects outfitted with electronics that enable data collection and aggregation. IoT comes into play with the development of sensors and farm-management software. For example, farmers can spectroscopically measure nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in liquid manure, which is notoriously inconsistent. They can then scan the ground to see where cows have already urinated and applied fertilizer to only the spots that need it. This cuts fertilizer use by up to 30% Moisture sensors in the soil determine the best times to remotely water plants. The irrigation systems can be programmed to switch which side of tree trunk they water based on the plant’s need and rainfall.

Innovations are not just limited to plants—they can be used for the welfare of animals. Cattle can be outfitted with internal sensors to keep track of stomach acidity and digestive problems. External sensors track movement patterns to determine the cow’s health and fitness, sense physical injuries and identify the optimal times for breeding. All this data from sensors can be aggregated and analyzed to detect trends and patterns.

Why do we need IoT in agriculture?

A forecast by the “food and agriculture arm of the United Nations (FAO)” says that the food production worldwide should see a 70% increase by 2050 to cater the ever-growing population. And the experts believe that IoT could play a crucial role in meeting this need. Combined with big data, it can do so by improving the efficient use of inputs like soil, fertilizers and pesticides, monitoring the livestock, predicting diseases, scanning storage capacities like water tanks, and making sure that crops are fed and watered well. It shows an overall potency to increase the productivity with a reduced cost.

Productivity- ‘Today, it’s more critical than ever to maximize yields from every acre of land dedicated to food production.  Wireless, cloud-connected systems aid in this crop yield maximization, automating everyday agriculture operations and providing real-time monitoring and data analysis for smart decision making.’

Pest control – ‘As the organic movement gains popularity, the food and agriculture industries have taken increasing interest in finding effective and relatively inexpensive alternatives to pesticides. Pheromones are particularly useful when they are paired with the power of IoT. Wireless sensor networks monitor pest counts and when it detects that the pest population is too high; its metered chemical delivery system automatically activates and disrupts the mating patterns of pests.’

IoT application in agriculture:

  • Storage Mapping: with IoT, you can set the auto temperature for storage house and cold store and all data you can save and access from a back-end system.  No need to set manually temperature for any floor or segment.
  • Soil Quality Checking: A sensor connected through IoT to your system can give all soil quality and a ratio of an essential component.
  • Auto Irrigation for Crop: Through IoT can cover whole land water system and set custom irrigation that can be accessed and monitor from a single end.
  • Smart Dairy with IoT: In dairy you can track an individual animal with efficiency, production ration, filling station control and much more.
  • Crop Water Management
  1. Usually, the farmer pumps the water more or less to cultivate the land.
  2. This may result in wastage of water or insufficiency to the crops.
  • Sends an alerting message to the farmer when the moisture level increases or decreases.
  • Pest Management and Control Works
  1. Often farmer’s hard works are destroyed by predators that result in huge loss to farmers.
  2. To prevent such situation Agriculture Internet of Things has a system that detects the motion of predators using PIR sensors.
  • This information can be used by the farmers to reduce damage done by predators.

How is Big Data and IoT being used in agriculture?

While we talk about various interesting aspects that IoT can bring about in agriculture, it gets our curiosity high about how that can be achieved? Well, the most important aspect of it is big data. The data collected from a variety of sensors ensure that all the operations are executed well. Let’s take the use of IoT to monitor the health of livestock into account. The farmers can track animals’ movement to establish grazing patterns and hence help increase yield.

In the same way, IoT has the potential to address issues such as irrigation and productivity wherein the data gathered by IoT sensors have the ability to provide an overall performance of the crops and hence determining when the crops might require servicing.

At other instances, real-time data about soil, air quality, water levels etc. can help farmers in making a much-informed decision about planting and harvesting crops, thereby increasing the overall yield of the crops.

Companies exploring IoT in Agriculture

With newer compelling IoT ideas, people are taking applying the same in agriculture industry more seriously. And many companies from India and across have stepped up their foot to speed up IoT implications in agriculture.

Libelium is one such company with an extensive experience in Smart Agriculture and uses platforms like Waspmote Plug&Sense! which enables tracking of environmental parameters such as farming, vineyards or greenhouses. It has been used successfully in projects like increasing crop quality in tobacco and preventing pests in olives. With applicability in countries like Italy, Indonesia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Australia and others, it has been used for a variety of crops.

Challenges faced in IoT applications

Though it is has been a trend in developed nations, despite being an agricultural nation, countries such as India faces various challenges while applying IoT in agriculture. To begin with, internet connectivity and availability is one of the major challenges. Then there are certain other aspects such as presumption amongst the vendors about Indian consumers not being “ready” for the advanced products. This results in drastically low awareness of IoT devices and systems amongst consumers. That’s not all, the infrastructure required for smooth functioning of the IoT devices, such as smart grids and traffic systems are far from ready, hindering the growth furthermore.

Conclusion

Despite being a newer concept in the field, there has been a tremendous popularity in the agricultural circuits about the benefits of smart farming and the applicability of IoT. It has been looked upon as a hope to encourage innovation in agriculture with “connected farms” speculated to be the future of farming.

If we talk about the India perspective, with its experience in IP design and project management, it shows up unique potential to come up with innovative products. And with the government initiatives like “Digital Bangladesh” and “Smart Bangladesh”, IoT could be utilized to make the best out of our agricultural potential.

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