We all need food to survive. From humans to animals, we are all a part of the food chain. No matter how far we progress in terms of technological inventions, we will still rely on our farmers to get fed. This makes blessing or better say equipping our farmers with the latest technology a general advantage which will offer collective benefits.
We have a lot of examples of modern technologies being leveraged in different sectors and these uses are showing promising results. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and Deep Learning are helping humans to get their tasks done with the least effort. The Internet of Things has helped us build our smart homes. It has brought all electronic devices in one place that makes it easier to control their functioning.
Some of the examples we have observed include IoT’s role in disaster management, music industry, E-commerce , manufacturing industry, hospitality, construction industry, travel industry.
In this blog, we will learn about the role of IoT in agriculture- the biggest source of livelihood for the Indians. We will try to understand the applications of IoT in farming.
How IoT entered the Agriculture sector?
The introduction of sensors in agricultural operations is a talk of the past. However, the problem with this traditional approach of sensor technology was that it did not give live data. These sensors used to store the data in the attached memory and were later utilized.
With the introduction of industrial IoT in Agriculture, modern-day sensors are now available for use. These sensors are connected to the cloud via a cellular/satellite network. This system helps us to obtain live and real-time data and make effective decisions.
The application of IoT has helped the farmers in a lot of activities such as monitoring the water levels in tanks. This all is done in real-time which increases the efficiency of the whole process of irrigation. One more thing that has been made possible with the advancement of IoT technology is the tracking of seed-growth. Farmers can now track the consumption of resources and the time taken by a seed to fully grow into a plant.
The introduction of IoT in Agriculture was like a second wave of the Green Revolution. IoT has provided twofold benefits to the farmers. They can now perform the same amount of tasks in a lesser amount of time and also increase the crop yields with the help of accurate data obtained from IoT.
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Applications of IoT in Agriculture
The Internet of Things has made smart farming possible. Now, you may wonder what exactly is smart farming? Smart farming is a capital-intensive and hi-tech method of growing food cleanly and sustainably. We can also call it the application of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in Agriculture.
When we talk about IoT-based smart farming, we are looking at a system built to monitor the crop field with the help of sensors. These sensors track every essential for crop production like soil moisture, humidity, light, temperature, etc., and automates the irrigation system. This system allows farmers to monitor the field conditions from anywhere. IoT-based farming is way too efficient when compared to conventional farming.
The IoT-based smart farming not only helps in modernizing the conventional farming methods but also targets other agriculture methods like organic farming, family farming (complex or small spaces, particular cattle and/or cultures, preservation of particular or high-quality varieties, etc.), and enhances highly transparent farming.
IoT-based smart farming is also beneficial in terms of environmental issues. It can help the farmers to efficiently use water, optimize the inputs and treatments.
Now, having understood the concept of smart farming, we will look at the major applications of IoT-based smart farming that are revolutionizing the agriculture sector.
1. Precision Farming
Precision farming, also known as precision agriculture, is anything that makes the whole process of farming accurate and controlled when it comes to raising livestock and growing crops.
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The key component of this farming technique is the use of Information Technology and various other technologies like sensors, robotics, automation vehicles, control systems, automated hardware, variable rate technology, and so on.
Use of IoT devices for Precision farming
The key characteristic of precision farming is the adoption of access to high-speed internet, mobile devices, and reliable, low-cost satellites (for imagery and positioning) by manufacturers.
Precision farming is considered one of the most famous applications of IoT in the agricultural sector and it is being leveraged globally by several organizations. One of the examples is CropMetrics. It is a precision agriculture organization that focuses on ultra-modern agronomic solutions. Moreover, it specializes in the management of precision irrigation.
2. Agricultural Drones
Technology has progressed significantly and at a higher rate in the past few years. Agricultural drones are a prime example of this development. Drones are being used in the agricultural sector to enhance many farming practices.
The two types of drones- ground-based and aerial-based drones are being used in agriculture for crop health assessment, crop monitoring, spraying pesticides, irrigation, planting, and analyzing the field. These drones capture multispectral, thermal, and visual imagery during their flight.
The use of drones offers many benefits such as crop health imaging, integrated GIS mapping, saving time, ease of use, and also increasing crop yields. When we combine drone technology with proper strategy and planning based on real-time data collection, we can give a high-tech makeover to the agricultural sector.
From the data collected from drones, farmers are able to draw insights regarding plant health indices, plant counting and yield prediction, plant height measurement, canopy cover mapping, field water ponding mapping, scouting reports, stockpile measuring, chlorophyll measurement, nitrogen content in wheat, drainage mapping, weed pressure mapping, and so on.
3. Livestock Monitoring
Owners of large farms utilize wireless IoT applications to track the location, health, and well-being of their cattle. This information helps them to identify sick animals and henceforth separate them from the herd, take care of them, and also curb the spread of the disease among other animals. It is also useful for cutting labor costs as owners can locate their cattle with the help of IoT-based sensors.
JMB North America is an association that offers cow checking answers for cow makers. One of the arrangements helps the cow proprietors notice cows that are pregnant and going to conceive offspring. From the calf, a sensor fueled by a battery is removed when its water breaks. This sends data to the owner or the farmer. In the time spent with the cattle giving birth, sensors allow the farmers to be more focused.
4. Smart Greenhouses
Greenhouse farming is concerned with increasing the yields of vegetables, crops, fruits etc. Greenhouses control the environmental factors through manual intervention or a proportional control mechanism. However, manual intervention leads to production loss, energy loss, and labor costs. This makes the whole concept of greenhouses ineffective. So, smart greenhouses are a better alternative. A smart greenhouse can be created with the help of IoT. These smart greenhouses intelligently monitor and control the climate without requiring any sort of manual intervention.
Different kinds of sensors are used in a smart greenhouse that measure the environmental factors and assess their suitability for plants. A remote access is created by connecting the system to a cloud with the help of IoT. This eliminates the need for constant manual monitoring. The cloud server controls the data processing and applies a control action inside the greenhouse.
The IoT sensors installed inside the greenhouse provide crucial information on temperature, humidity, pressure, and light levels. These sensors control everything from turning on the lights and opening a window to controlling temperature and cooling off, all through a WiFi signal.
5. Monitor Climate Conditions
Climate plays an important role in crop production. Different crops require different climate conditions to grow and any little knowledge about climate heavily deteriorates the quantity and quality of crop production. IoT solutions enable the farmers to know real-time weather conditions.
The sensors placed in the agricultural fields collect data from the environment that is used by farmers to choose a crop that can grow in particular climatic conditions.
Climate monitoring with the help of IoT
The whole IoT ecosystem is made up of sensors that detect real-time weather conditions like humidity, rainfall, temperature, all very crucial for crop production. These sensors are able to foresee any drastic change in the climatic conditions that can affect the production. An alert is sent to the server about the change in climate which helps to eliminate the need for physical presence. This ultimately leads to higher yields.
6. Remote sensing
IoT based remote sensing makes use of sensors placed along the farms such as weather stations for accumulating data that is carried forward to analytical tools for analysis. The crops can be monitored by farmers via analytical dashboards and action can be taken from the insights derived accordingly.
These sensors placed in different corners of the farms assess the crops to keep track of any alterations in the shape, size, light, humidity and temperature. Any deviation noted by the sensors is assessed and the farmer is informed. As a result, remote sensing aids in preventing disease spreads as well as in keeping track of the advancement of crops.
The data garnered by sensors in the case of temperature, humidity, moisture precipitation and dew detection aids in concluding the weather pattern in farms so that the cultivation is executed for appropriate crops.
The analysis of soil quality aids in deciding on the nutrient value and parched sections of farms, soil drainage capacity or acidity, that permits to adjust the level of water required for irrigation and the select an advantageous type of cultivation.
7. Computer imaging
This form of imaging mainly involves using the sensor cameras that are placed in various corners of the farm to generate images that go through digital image processing.
Image processing combined with machine learning makes use of images from the database to compare with images of crops for concluding the size, shape, color, and growth, as a result, adjusting the quality.
Computer imaging can aid in sorting and grading the produce on the basis of the color, shape and size.
Irrigation over a period of time helps in mapping of irrigated lands. This helps in taking the decision in the pre harvest season of harvesting or not harvesting.
With the human population increasing exponentially, the world will need to produce 70% more food in 2050, according to FAO projections. This will result in the shrinkage of agricultural lands and depletion of finite natural resources. So, the need to increase crop yields becomes critical. Thus, IoT can be a prevalent factor in this process.
The use of IoT has enabled farmers and ranchers to go for smart farming. A technique that is capital-intensive and hi-tech. Smart farming provides twofold benefits as farmers can spend a lesser time in fields and yet increase the crop yields. The IoT-based ecosystem has several applications in the agricultural sector. We have discussed the applications in detail.
We can conclude with the fact that IoT applications are making it possible for farmers to collect meaningful data that is utilized to increase efficiency. Large landowners and small farmers must understand the potential of IoT-based smart farming and they must implement IoT solutions in a prosperous manner.