Precision Farming and the Internet of Things.
How the Internet of Things is Changing Agricultural Operations...
When most people think about the internet, they do not immediately think about agriculture. Instead, most people think about their computers or their smartphones. Little do people know, Internet of Things (IoT) technology is allowing farmers to connect devices to the internet in order to improve agricultural operations. IoT technology is allowing farmers to leverage the internet to reduce waste, better pest control, streamline livestock management, and increase productivity.
Reducing Waste: With limited resources available for growing crops or raising livestock, farmers are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste. Conservations of resources, particularly water is of high importance, especially in the drought stricken state of California. Although traditional methods of conservation such as only irrigating after dusk can reduce waste, Internet of Things (IoT) technology can reduce waste and conserve resources even further5. For example, smart connected sensors that are embedded in the soil can measure moisture and PH levels. These sensors connected to smart irrigation and smart fertilizer systems can then apply just the right amount of fertilizer and water to ensure optimal conditions for the crops to grow.
Better Pest Control: With the public pushing for more natural food and less pesticide use, farmers are increasingly looking to reduce or even eliminate pesticide use. Internet connected sensors and cameras will enable farmers to better monitor pest populations6. In the event pest populations are reaching points where it is detrimental to crop yields, farmers can remotely release pheromones to control pest population without using synthetic pesticides.
Livestock Management: The cost of raising livestock continues to rise every year. At the same time, the public is also pushing for the more humane treatment of animals as animals reared in a humane fasion produce higher quality meat that is more nutritious. Under pressure to reduce costs and raise their livestock in a more humane manner, farmers are starting to turn to Internet of Things (IoT) technology7. For example, farmers are able to embed internet connected sensors on their livestock that does not cause them discomfort. Using information from these sensors, farmers are able to monitor the overall health of the animal by analyzing blood pressure, heart rate, and other parameters. If any of these parameters where to veer outside of accepted ranges, farmers would be able to more quickly provide treatment to the animal.. Not only can these sensors help monitor the health of the animal, in some cases GPS technology can also help track the animal’s location. Location monitoring can be extremely useful to farmers rearing free range or pastured livestock as it would enable farmers to better account for their livestock.
Increasing Productivity: In order to maximize yields and profits, farmers must increase productivity. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is allowing farmers to become more productive in a variety of ways such as monitoring farm equipment8. IoT technology will allow farmers to monitor their equipment from tractor fleets to grain conveyor belts. For example, internet connected sensors can be integrated into tractors to determine if the tractor is running at peak efficiency. If the tractor is not running at peak efficiency, the sensor can send an alert to the farmer so that necessary repairs can be made immediately. This will help prevent sudden malfunctions in the tractor enabling it to stay in the field longer and therefore increasing productivity. Similarly, internet connected sensors can also be integrated into grain conveyor belts. These sensors can monitor a variety of parameters such as the amount of friction generated by the belt. If the grain belt is generating too much friction, the sensor can trigger an alert for operator to apply more lubricant. Once again, taking a proactive approach to maintenance can enable the equipment to be used for longer periods of time which leads to increased productivity.
Conclusion: In many ways, the internet is changing many aspects of day to day agricultural operations thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The benefits of IoT technology in agricultural operations include but are not limited to reducing waste, better pest and livestock management, and increased productivity. As farmers continue to face growing costs and limited resources, IoT technology will be the key to reducing costs and maximizing yields from available resources.