The need for food and plant-based products is an unceasing demand.
McKinsey’s recent “The rising risk of the global food crisis” report cites the pandemic, supply chain strains, climatic events, and global conflict as converging disruptions that have sent food prices soaring.
Innovation is needed, now more than ever, to progress efficiency, automation, and sustainability within the agriculture industry. Many farmers are looking to IoT to help.
The increasing popularity of precision agriculture
Precision agriculture is an approach to farm management that uses information technology (IT) to ensure that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. It has become increasingly popular. According to Vantage Market Research, the precision farming market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of roughly 12.10% from 2022 to 2028.
This type of farming is unique in that it relies heavily on data collection and remote monitoring using devices such as long range and low power wireless IoT sensors. With this type of sensors, farmers and companies can collect data and metrics on various aspects of the environment so that they can make more informed decisions on the optimal amount of water, fertilizer, and other needs of the crops. To illustrate, IoT sensors can drastically simplify this process by making improvements like the following methods:
● By reducing environmental risks and footprint of farming (e.g. smart irrigation system that conserves more water) – like this ultrasonic sensor which can be used for water level monitoring to check the status of irrigation reservoirs and determine when to stop if there is already sufficient amount of water in the system.
● By matching farming practices more closely to crop needs (e.g. moisture levels in soil) – like this soil moisture sensor from RAKwireless.
● By creating more efficient practices (e.g. predictive maintenance tools)
Using IoT sensors is a way for each application to gather data about its environment so that the collected data can be used to optimize the management of a particular system. In the case of smart farming solutions, sensors help farmers and agricultural groups assess, keep track of, and manage their land.
Sensors give insights into important details of the farming process, including pH levels of the soil, asset monitoring, and predictive maintenance of tools, among others. They help manage resource consumption and reduce farming costs by optimizing the way everything ebbs and flows. Examples of important IoT sensors for smart farming solutions are those that measure soil moisture and water levels. These sensors could help monitor irrigation systems and help get insights on how to adjust for specific soil conditions and weather changes, thus conserving more resources like water and electricity used on pumps. Additionally, it can work with an actuator to automatically control the irrigation system and only turn it on when absolutely needed.
Overall, through IoT and precision farming, farmers can reduce the cost of production and management, while increasing yield and taking care of the land better in the long term.
What kinds of farms are most likely to see growth in the use of IoT technology?
Precision farming utilized for crops is a great example of massive growth areas in Smart Farming, but IoT technology can also be used for livestock farming.
Another problem that sensors can address for farmers is livestock monitoring and asset tracking. Keeping an eye on all the animals can be laborious and with IoT sensors, it’s as easy as pulling up your phone and seeing the location of your cow, pig, or horse on the other side of the ranch. Geofencing can be used for both livestock and assets, for example in the case of theft of farming vehicles.
IoT as a solution for the labor shortage
Sensors can also reduce the need for human labor. The labor shortage in California has hit the agriculture industry particularly hard.
Innovation in IoT is providing California farmers with unique ways to solve some of the most pressing issues they face today – such as labor shortages, environmental stresses, and supply chain strains.
IoT sensors can help provide easy, round-the-clock monitoring and increased visibility, requiring less staff to be on-site at all times. The analytics and data gathered can also enable and empower employees to make more impactful decisions without needing to bring in outside experts or consultants. Beyond that, the sensors can also create automated responses to faults and incident prevention to cut down on labor-intensive repairs.
Carl Erick Rowan is an electronics engineer and technical documentation Lead at RAKwireless. He has 10+ years of experience in electronics design from kick-off to mass production. He was involved in companies that design and manufacture electronic devices, like high-speed industrial sensors, switch-mode power supplies, and IoT devices. His involvement in various projects makes him a well-rounded engineer, who can navigate hardware, firmware, and software parts of the product design. He is now focused on IoT and dedicates his time to evangelizing IoT technology. He is a family man and ensures he spends quality time with his wife and two beautiful kids.