Smart Farming: IoT in agriculture

Internet of things has been proving its mettle across the industries such as banking, retail, tele companies, manufacturers and more. Amidst the various industries, the one sector it is quickly catching up with is, the agriculture. With the concept of smart farming and digitization, it is gaining popularity like never before and is coming with the potential to offer high precision crop control, data collection and automated farming techniques.

Why do we need IoT in agriculture?

A forecast by the food and agriculture arm of the United Nations (FAO) says that the food production worldwide should see a 70% increase by 2050 to cater the ever growing population. And the experts believe that IoT could play a crucial role in meeting this need. Combined with big data, it can do so by improving the efficient use of inputs like soil, fertilizers and pesticides, monitoring the livestock, predicting diseases, scanning storage capacities like water tanks, and making sure that crops are fed and watered well. It shows an overall potency to increase the productivity with a reduced cost.

 

How is Big Data and IoT being used in agriculture:

While we talk about various interesting aspects that IoT can bring about in agriculture, it gets our curiosity high about how that can be achieved? Well, the most important aspect of it is big data. The data collected from a variety of sensors ensure that all the operations are executed well. Let’s take the use of IoT to monitor health of livestock into account. The farmers can track animals’ movement to establish grazing patterns and hence help increase yield.

In the same way, IoT has the potential to address issues such as irrigation and productivity wherein the data gathered by IoT sensors have the ability to provide an overall performance of the crops and hence determining when the crops might require servicing.

At other instances, real-time data about soil, air quality, water levels etc. can help farmers in making a much informed decision about planting and harvesting crops, thereby increasing the overall yield of the crops.

 

Companies exploring IoT in agriculture:

With newer compelling IoT ideas, people are taking applying the same in agriculture industry more seriously. And many companies from India and across have stepped up their foot to speed up IoT implications in agriculture.

Libelium is one such company with an extensive experience in Smart Agriculture and uses platforms like Waspmote Plug&Sense! which enables tracking of environmental parameters such as farming, vineyards or greenhouses. It has been used successfully in projects like increasing crop quality in tobacco and preventing pests in olives. With an applicability in countries like  Italy, Indonesia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Australia and others, it has been used for a variety of crops.

Others such as Link Labs, Thingworx,  have been providing IoT architectures to benefit the agricultural industry. Using the IoT platforms for agriculture, it enables resourcing and mapping, monitoring crops, climate and livestock.

Back in India, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed an android based app which collects real-time information to assess the damage to agricultural crop due to hailstorm. This app aims to allow the farmers to process faster claims to insurance during crop damage by accessing real-time data. It currently applies to rice and cotton crops in the states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra.

Few other use cases of IoT in agriculture have been in monitoring water level, testing of soil parameters and helping to control the use of pesticides.

 

Challenges faced in IoT applications:

Though it is has been a trend in developed nations, despite being an agricultural nation, countries such as India faces various challenges while applying IoT in agriculture. To begin with, internet connectivity and availability is one of the major challenges. Then there are certain other aspects such as presumption amongst the vendors about Indian consumers not being “ready” for the advanced products. This results in drastically low awareness of IoT devices and systems amongst consumers. That’s not all, the infrastructure required for smooth functioning of the IoT devices, such as smart grids and traffic systems are far from ready, hindering the growth furthermore.

 

Conclusion:

Despite being a newer concept in the field, there has been a tremendous popularity in the agricultural circuits about the benefits of smart farming and the applicability of IoT. It has been looked upon as a hope to encourage innovation in agriculture with “connected farms” speculated to be the future of farming.

If we talk about the India perspective, with its experience in IP design and project management, it shows up unique potential to come up with innovative products. And with the government initiatives like “Make in India” and “Smart India”, IoT could be utilized to make the best out of our agricultural potential.

 

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Manisha Salecha

Manisha is a Senior Content Analyst with Analytics India Magazine. Apart from writing & editing articles and taking interviews, she is also responsible for covering analytics news, and handling social media for AIM.