How Smart Farming Will Answer The Need for Increased Food Production
As the world’s population continues to rise year after year, the area of land available for agriculture is on the decline. According to a Scientific Foresight Study on precision agriculture and the future of farming, the area for agriculture production has decreased by 0.7% since 2013. With the United Nations projecting that there will be 9.7 billion people on Earth by 2050, the agriculture industry will need to increase its productivity by at least 70% in order to keep up with the demand.
In order to do this without placing any burden on the environment and contributing to changes in seasonal events, climate change, and the world’s freshwater supply, the solution at hand is through precision agriculture, also known as “Smart Farming” – leveraging multiple technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, etc.
What Is Smart Farming and What Is Needed For It?
Precision agriculture or smart farming involves the integration of advanced technologies into existing farm architecture. IoT based solutions and services are in demand now leveraging IoT app development services for Smart farming in order to increase the production quality of agricultural products and the efficiency at which products are produced. Smart farming is considered a management concept or a way to address the challenges that the food industry is experiencing, such as population growth, labor issues, and climate change.
Fortunately, just about every aspect of farming can benefit from the technological advancements that our industrial revolution has spurred on. For instance, smart farming will be able to increase the effectiveness of pesticide and fertilizer use in a selective manner, it can provide farmers the ability to monitor individual needs of all animals, it can help prevent disease and increased herd health, and it can even allow farmers to monitor crop health and speed up harvest time. Currently, there are three agricultural technologies that are expected to become the pillars of the industry, autonomous robots, drones or UAVs, and the IoT sensors based farming solutions. Before we jump into these, however, let’s take a look at what is needed for smart farming.
What Do You Need to Get Smart Farming Up and Off the Ground?
As with all innovations, both knowledge and capital is required but more so than anything else, the farmer needs to have the passion and professional skill set in order to work the technologies being implemented. Beyond this, the farm or group of farmers need to be able to have a legal expert on board in order to maneuver through the growing maze of regulations that are being put in place as smart farming becomes popularized. Other than this, smart farming requires capital investment; luckily there are several low-cost options available like using custom mobile application development to track livestock and plant health. The benefit to these low-cost options is that they are easily scalable and generally easy to implement.
Three Pillar Technologies Driving Smart Farming
1) Autonomous and Robotic Labor
Replacing human labor with automation is a growing trend and with how labor intensive farming is, it makes sense to automate repetitive and standardized tasks. As smart equipment becomes possible, the agriculture sector is going to see things like driverless tractors, precision seeder machines, and automatic smart water irrigation systems that use IoT sensors and data information to get the job done. Beyond this, several robotic prototypes are being tested to navigate through crop fields and perform tasks such as weeding, pest control, and plant maintenance through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Finally, engineers are currently working on robotic components that will be able to complete sophisticated tasks such as picking fruit off trees and identifying food ripeness.
You may like to Read: IoT based Smart Plant Solution to Ensure Optimum Health
2) Drones for Imaging & Planting
With the advancement in imaging technologies, farmers are no longer limited to taking bird’s eye pictures of their farm in visible light nor are they required to only take still photographs. Farmers are now able to take photographs in infrared, hyperspectral imaging, and ultraviolet imaging, not to mention video. In utilizing all of these imaging types, farmers are able to collect more detailed data than ever before, helping them make informed decisions on assessing soil quality, planning out planting locations, and monitoring crop health. When land surveying is done regularly, farmers will be able to optimize the smart farming process.
Beyond this though, farmers will soon be able to use drones to seed and plant their fields. When these drones are combined with IoT software and autonomous operation, a fleet can completely replace the need for manual labor. Plus, with precise planting, the drones ensure that each crop is planted with ideal conditions. This can increase crop growth and provide a higher crop yield. This can be taken a step further, as drones will be used for crop spraying applications, offering farmers the ability to eliminate a labor-intensive task. How? Through the use of GPS, laser measurements, and ultrasonic positioning, enabling each drone to adapt their position, adjust for geography and topography, and take into account wind speed. If used correctly, drones can spray crops with greater accuracy and eliminate excess waste.
Finally, drones can be used for remote monitoring and field analysis. Rather than using a small team of workers to visually check on each field, a small fleet of drones can be used. This will eliminate the time needed to get sensitive data back about each field and eliminate extra labor on healthy plants that do not need tending.
3) Connected Farms Using IoT based Sensors
Despite the fact that IoT technology has been a bit of a catch-term used for the idea of having computers, machines, and devices connected to one another and able to communicate and exchange data, the term does apply here with smart farming. Smart farms will have IoT Sensors embedded throughout every single stage of the farming process and as a result, on every single piece of equipment used. These sensors will be able to take in data such as light levels, soil conditions, air quality, weather, & irrigation needs. This data can then be transported back to the farmer or directly integrated into the robots that autonomously respond and take care of the work needed. This can be anything from performing weeding maintenance, watering and pruning plants, harvesting crops, and collecting crop and animal data.
This can go a step further with drones, which will have a bird’s eye view of plant health, soil conditions, and weather. They can generate maps that will help guide the robots being used and help the farmers’ plan out what steps to take in the farming process. In this type of smart network, not only will there be higher crop production, but there will increase the quality of the food and how quickly it becomes available. The information that gets generated through the smart farming process will be the backbone of operations as it will allow farmers to see all aspects of their farm at a glance, including which fields need watering, what harvesters are doing and which animals and plants need attention.
Smart Farming is In Its Infancy But is Inevitable
As helpful smart farming will be to the agricultural sector, there are still a lot of hurdles that have to be overcome before it becomes a widespread IoT based farming solution. However, despite its infancy, precision farming is definitely inevitable as our advancement in technologies will make it possible, it’s just about raising the capital to fund the innovations needed to get the technology running in real-time rather than being just an idea on paper.
If you want to know more about IoT solutions for farming, get in touch with our IoT experts now.