White Paper: Introduction to IoT in Agriculture
After hunting and gathering, growing food is the oldest human pursuit - dating back approximately 10,000 years, but with the global population headed toward 10 billion by 2050 there are many more mouths to feed. While farm productivity in the US has more than doubled over the past century, farming remains highly labor intensive and subject to the vicissitudes of weather. Agriculture has been one of the most active adopters of IoT technology in order to improve yield, optimize the timing and amounts of watering and fertilizer, and prevent the potential outbreaks of crop diseases. Our new White Paper, Introduction to IoT in Agriculture provides an overview of the tools and technologies now gaining ground across the farming industry.
There are over 2 million farms in the US today, and over 50% of them are employing some sort of Connected Industry technologies. “Smart Farming” refers to the use of intelligent assistance in implementation, maintenance and use of the technology for farming. Many types of Industrial IoT solutions such as real-time equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance are directly applicable in agricultural scenarios. The leading manufacturers of farming equipment including John Deere, Komatsu and Caterpillar are embedding connected technologies into their machinery in order to help their clients better anticipate and prevent potential downtime. In many regards, Smart Farming principles are similar to IoT used for manufacturing and transportation. Agriculture in effect is a form of manufacturing, heavily capital intensive, so application of connected technologies helps to extend the life of equipment, improve output (and potential revenues) and reduce risks.
“Precision Agriculture” is defined as making the practices of farming more accurate and controlled when it comes to growing crops and raising livestock. Use cases tend to be emerging and innovative, and are still largely bespoke or custom solutions because every situation occurs in different context. Tracking livestock for instance is a emerging solution area – cows can be outfitted with collars and sensors that can help locate the herd and determine when cows are best able to be milked. Temperature and humiditity sensors placed in the fields can help identify how where and by how much to water the crops. UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones can survey cropland with advanced cameras and filters and identify problem areas that might suggest disease of parched conditions
There are several dimensions to applying IoT to agriculture, which we explore in our White Paper: connectivity, sensors and hardware, big data analytics, people and platforms. The revolution of Low-Power Wide Area Network technologies, both open and proprietary, enable sensors to be placed over extensive acreage where traditional cellular connectivity is too expensive and impractical to support hundreds or even thousands of battery powered devices and where coverage may be spotty. Agriculture IoT benefits from a growing plethora of sensors and modules that can last for years without a change of battery while optimizing power usage while delivering critical data for analysis. Big data analytics continue to evolve and provide predictive capabilities – helping to predict when an agricultural combine may be about to fail, or identifying the optimal mix of fertilizers and water to maximize yield based on the latest weather micro-forecasts. Precision Agriculture is also helping organic farmers deliver sustainable products to market while validating the provenance of the food they produce to discerming consumers.
The new generation of farmers is more likely to run their operations on a tablet or smart phone while analyzing the latest weather data. While the Farmer’s Almanac will always be relevant, IoT helps give producers of crops and livestock the edge they need to stay profitable and feed an increasingly hungry world.