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IoT and Agriculture: The Smarter Way to Grow Food

The Internet Of Things (IoT) has revolutionalized all the major business sectors and industries of the world. The impact it has made on farming and agriculture cannot be defined by mere words.The advent of IoT into agriculture has been made in good time because the world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050. It would have been impossible to feed all those people when there are limited farming methods. In order to keep up with the food requirements, it is imperative that a new and innovative method of farming should be introduced -a method that would lead to least wastage of water, knowledge of what kind of seeds to plant and when, deciding harvest time, and so on.
Currently, these are some of the threats that harm the progress of agriculture:

  • Productivity has become considerably slow
  • Need for fresh water
  • Availability and price of fossil fuels
  • Arable land becoming scarce
  • Drastic changes in climate
  • Lack of labor due to effects of urbanization

This is where IoT steps in and takes the reins of farming, thereby protecting farmers and improving their livelihood.

Precision Farming with IoT

IoT has been instrumental in bringing precision farming to agriculture. The main aim of precision agriculture is to maximize the yield per unit of land fit for farming by using latest farming methods. This would continuously be done in a sustainable manner so highest quality yields are produced, improving the financial returns of the farmer.As precision farming is a separate discipline in itself, it is also called smart farming. This kind of farming makes use of the latest technologies in GPS, big data and sensors to improve crop yields. Farmers no longer have to take uninformed decisions, and then worry when the climate changes adversely. With precision farming they can be better equipped for what might happen, sometimes preventing complete loss of yield.
When IoT began to make an influence in agriculture, farmers started using computer-based imaging, GPS technology, robotics, precise climate forecasting techniques, knowledge of environment controlling factors and all kinds of highly accurate science-based solutions.
Thus, in smart farming, the farmer uses the following technologies to get his work done:

  • Software applications
  • Hardware and software systems
  • Data analytics solutions
  • Positioning technologies
  • Modern communication technologies

GPS is the basic technology that is used in precision farming. This concept was widely followed by US Defense Department and was thus developed by the scientists working for the US Defense. It was much later that GPS was introduced to civilians for earthquake monitoring, navigation purposes and synchronizing telecom networks. The scope of GPS in precision farming is extremely vast, and several new innovations in the agricultural sector are happening constantly.
Through Internet of Things, it is possible to receive highly accurate, real time information about dynamic agricultural processes like planting of seeds, harvesting and so on. Farmers can also garner real time information on cost of labor involved in the process, the quality of soil, weather conditions and more.
Some other areas of farming that IoT is sure to transform are outlined below.

Pest Management and Control

There are intelligent systems that can monitor pests remotely. This would tell the farmer what kind of pesticide to use and in what quantity. Now the farmer can protect his fields and seek the fruits of his yields without worrying about precision.
IoT also prevents too much pesticide from being applied on the crops. In certain countries, farmers are not even aware of how much pesticide he should be using, resulting in overuse of chemicals and thereby making it poisonous for human consumption.
Additionally, farmers use pest control sensors to help predict pest behavior. This would be instrumental in controlling the damage done by pests on a large scale.

Crop Water Management

Proper water management can boost crop productivity. This is a major move and a boon for farmers because of the impending doom of water scarcity. Water will never be wasted and farmers will be able to open and close water gates in an effective manner through the apps in their smartphones.
With the sensors attached on the water sluice gates, farmers will be able to do a trend comparison analysis. Through this, farmers can calculate the amount of rain received in the current year and decide on the minimum level of irrigation required for the crops.

Food Production and Safety

Sensors connected to IoT will inform the farmer of his yield status by monitoring food production and handling operations. A huge network of devices will communicate with one another in the automated mode requiring absolutely no human involvement. It would also help him to monitor and adjust temperature in the food storage centers.
Temperature is an important metric that would protect food and produce. These sensors would continuously keep tabs on the quantity and quality of food that is transported, thereby ensuring that food safety standards are followed.Companies can monitor the shipments, their location, the amount of jostling received by the produce, the amount of light exposure they are getting and climate in that area. If any inspections are required, these devices would send alerts as well.

Apps for Farming

IoT has led to the development of a series of apps that would help in smart agriculture:

  • Compost - Helps in controlling the humidity and temperature levels of hay, straw, alfalfa, etc.
  • Green Houses - Helps in increasing the production and quality of fruits and vegetables by controlling micro-climate conditions.
  • Meteorological Station Network - A useful tool that would forecast rain, snow, drought conditions, wind changes and ice formation.
  • Claas Equipment - Farmers can automate this equipment and get information on how to minimize grain loss, improve crop flow, perform fertilization planning, adjust nutrient balance and more.

With all the technological innovations that IoT has brought about, it's no surprise that it has positively impacted the agricultural industry as well. There is a lot of scope for creating farming apps that would benefit both farmers and food corporations.

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