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IoT in agriculture: cases of use and opportunities

IoT in agriculture
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Allowing communication between machines and various hardware, and inserting digital intelligence into devices, enables to the connection of a vast number of physical devices and sharing of data through the internet without human intervention.

Basically, the term ‘IoT’ includes everything connected to the internet, however, it is increasingly being thought of as pertaining to objects that ‘talk’ to each other. This can include everything from simple sensors to smartphones, wearables, and computers – but for devices that are all connected together.

When connected devices are combined with smart software, as in many automated systems, it is possible to do much more than just gather information but to analyze topography, soil, and crop yield and initiate some action, including learning from a process. The IoT can apply equally to devices on closed private networks, but the concept of the Internet of Things brings those networks together, creating a much more connected world.

There are many devices that are part of the IoTs, which allow the monitoring of entire processes of agricultural production. IoT devices, supported by software systems, can monitor processes from seedling production through crop management (irrigation, plant protection, and plant nutrition) up to post-harvest. These devices and software systems allow primary production to be seamlessly connected and integrated into other phases in the agricultural value chain – such as processing, wholesale, retail, and even the final customer.

Most of the IoTs implemented in agricultural production are in the form of sensors that provide relevant data about the real situation in the fields, and the greenhouses, allowing us to make crop monitoring at any time, or in the context of animal production, the status of the individual animal. These sensors are capturing or generate various types of data, and mostly they capture environmental parameters (humidity and temperature of the soil and air, electrical conductivity, precipitation, wind velocity and direction, leaf wetness, irradiation, and many other implementations specific to the needs of the growers).

What are the opportunities of Iot in agriculture?

The increasingly negative effects of climate change that we are witnessing in the recent period are disrupting agricultural production, bringing up the need for taking well-informed and adequate decisions in a very short period of time. In addition to this, but totally another perspective, is the following of the strict legal framework and correct record-keeping process, where the producers are losing too much of their precious time. In the context above, the implementation of IoTs across the farm and agricultural operation can help solve one of the main issues of the modern farmer. The IoTs can help the farmers in getting insights about the conditions in the agricultural productions in real-time. They also can help feed the decision-support software for generating proper advice in the decision-making processes.

Additionally, all of the recorded data can be later used as proof for every operation that is made and all of the inputs that are applied, allowing the farmers to not spend additional time in crunching numbers which extensively alleviates the record-keeping process. Specifically, the implementation of IoT in agriculture can shorten the time in checking the farm routine activities, monitoring specific operations and statuses and allowing the farmers to focus on important activities such as strategic management and positioning of the products on the market. The end result of IoTs is the potential increase in productivity, cost reduction in input application, traceability, and less labor.

How does IoT work in agriculture?

IoT in agriculture

The IoT implementation on-farm can help the farmers to cut their costs by applying inputs that are more accurate in quantity, just from the interpretation of the information generated on the fields. With the IoTs data, the farmers can run different models for detecting disease and pest occurrence, directly influencing the number of applied pesticides and the number of executed operations that will ultimately lead to saving time, cutting costs, and putting less impact on the environment. Additionally, by calculating the evapotranspiration with the help of the generated IoT data, the farmers will have an opportunity to timely schedule their irrigation patterns allowing them to minimize the applied water. Saving irrigation water is extremely important in places where there is water scarcity. In addition, the data needed for executing such an operation can be managed with the implementation of several IoT sensors mentioned above.

Apart from crop production, the IoT technology is also very useful in livestock management, where the costs for raising livestock are rising from moment to moment. Lately, in livestock management, a great accent is put on how the farmers are treating the animals and different concerns sides are pushing the farmers in to threaten the animals in a more humane way. The implementation of IoT allows farmers to attach different sensors to the animals without making any kind of discomfort, thus giving them away to constantly monitor their health and activity status. There are a lot of types of data that are measured through the IoTs, such as animal heart rate, blood pressure, ruminating time, body temperature, etc. Additionally, there are sensors that can be found on the market that are transmitting GPS data. Location monitoring is very useful to farmers who have open-range pastures.

Utilizing all of the above-mentioned types of data is giving the farmers enough time to be proactive about their operations resulting in increased productivity, lowering the negative impact on the environment, and mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

How to use IoT in agriculture?

The advantages of IoT in agriculture can be many, mainly because of their wide-ranging applications. In order to gain a more complete picture of the importance of IoT in agriculture, we are going to mention several types of IoT applications in different types and phases of agricultural production:

Weather stations

Sensors combined within weather stations collect data providing measurements that map climate conditions, inform crop decision making, and potentially help to improve crop capacity, delivering maximum possible yields. By measuring these environmental factors, and generating data from them, the IoTs can build up a precise history that can help farmers with their decision-making processes, or make probabilistic-based plans, thus lowering the risk of unexpected costs and operations.

Greenhouse automation

Weather stations are not only used for collecting necessary environmental data but can also be used to automatically adjust conditions in controlled microclimate conditions, such as greenhouses, to match specific growing parameters. Whether the use is for hydroponics or substrate-grown plants, the benefits of automated greenhouses can be significant. Instantaneous data obtained by the sensors can be combined to give a broad picture of the conditions in the greenhouse. If the optimal parameters for optimal growing conditions are known and set, automatic adjustment of the environment is readily achieved.

Crop management devices

There is a large range of sensors that can be placed in the field to collect decision-making information such as temperature, precipitation, crop health, crop nutritional state, and many others. These devices are core elements in precision farming. From the sensor measurements, many forms of valuable data can be obtained. When that data is stored, it creates a temporal history that feeds into the decision-making software that helps the farmers in their decision-making processes.

Livestock management devices

Sensors can be applied, or even attached, to animals to provide information on the temperature, health and nutritious insight of each individual animal, as well as overall information about the herd. With this kind of sensor, the farmer knows exactly where specific animals with unique identifiers are. The sensors can also provide information such as when a specific animal last ate, slept, walked, etc.

Farm productivity management systems

There are many potential systems that monitor and control all sensors installed in the field, combining them to provide a powerful analytical dashboard for logistics, accounting and reporting functions. By knowing the exact inputs and outputs used across the farm, farmers can obtain a clear of potential risks that they might face but have information to hand to help with formulating optimal solutions.

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