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Internet of Things in agriculture

7 mins read

According to World Bank forecasts, it will be approximately 9.6 billion people living on the Earth by 2050. As population grows rapidly, the need in food supply increases either. That is why farmers will be forced to increase the volume of food produced by more than 60% to meet the needs of population.

IoT technologies undoubtedly helps agriculture to meet global food demand. It provides necessary tools for moving from traditional inefficient methods to intelligent precision farming. This transformation will permit farmers to raise productivity and reduce food production costs, as water, pesticides, and fertilizers are being applied more efficient. This action also helps to improve the quality of products through real-time monitoring.

The lack of information for decision-making leads to the fact that up to 40% of crop is lost in the process of planting, growing, caring. During harvesting, storage and transportation another 40% is also lost. Moreover, as scientists have revealed, 2/3 of the loss factors (besides weather) can be controlled using automated control systems.

So, let's consider how IoT technologies are being used in agriculture and what benefits IoT provides to farmers.

1. Smart irrigation systems

There are networks of sensors located throughout the agricultural area. Periodically, gadgets check soil state: they control level of its moisture, friability and monitor the saturation of various substances. In areas where indicators are negative, smart devices automatically water the ground. Such system allows farmers to control significantly the flow of water.

Ukraine also keeps up to date in the development of agricultural sphere. As an example, the innovative company Wuxal at the exhibition “International Field Days in Ukraine 2018” presented new irrigation systems used in agriculture. In particular, it was a question of “smart” sprinkler technology.

“We were the first to bring sprinkling machines with intelligent control systems to Ukraine. Thanks to the established meteorological stations, client can receive data in the same moment when it began to rain. If it rains or there is any precipitation, client can stop the machine or change its water discharge,” said representative of Wuxal business in Ukraine and Moldova Olga Kurban.

Another example is The WaterBee system – these wireless sensors significantly reduces water loss ultimately. The system analyzes collected data and selectively irrigates various land plots on the basis of immediate need. Water Bee systems can be used for a variety of businesses, including farms, fields, vineyards, and golf courses. Smart irrigation tools save energy, water and therefore money. The prototype of this system was tested on 14 different areas in Europe. As a result, water consumption in given places was reduced by an average of 40 percent.

2. Storage facilities

SmartBob is a device that measures and reports electronically on levels of grain and other food products шin agricultural bins and storages on farms. Farmers use the device to control the inventory of corn or seeds remotely.

The CheckItNow device allows farmers to control the temperature in storage online and receive a warning if the temperature rises above the limit of the allowable range.

Yellow Box is an appliance that allows farmers to use their smartphones for managing warehouses remotely. In particular, they are able to monitor trays, conveyor belts and engines of devices involved in grain loading. Farmers can control this process using video channel. If a problem is detected, the system automatically stops any operation.

3. Drones

Unmanned aircraft systems also help monitor plants remotely, spray fertilizers and scare away pests. Farmers use drones mainly for creating 3D maps, planting seeds, applying chemicals and mineral fertilizers, monitoring the condition of crops, conducting of irrigation, and even monitoring movement of herds in livestock.

US farmers, especially Skycision co. actively uses drones and infrared technology both in the diagnosis of diseases and for monitoring crop pests. The drone operator takes hundreds and thousands of pictures in the infrared, and then creates a detailed map with photos.

Moreover, infrared sensors can even detect the amount of chlorophyll in plants. Marker of diseases: crops are affected - chlorophyll is reduced. You can also use the doctor of plant medicine program from Skycision, so that you can diagnose the problem and get an “appointment” for processing crops.

4. Smart sensors

Sensors are installed in the ground at certain places, and they help to collect necessary information. For example, sensors can detect weeds, recognize plant diseases, evaluate yield, detect damage, and even make predictions.

Using smart sensors, you can also think through competent plant care and effectively implement it. For example, a project, implemented by the Ukrainian Skok Agro team, establishes sensors, which measure soil and air humidity and temperature, wind speed and direction, and a number of other indicators. All data collected is displayed in the agronomist's electronic office to a cloud server with an interval of 5-15 minutes, which ensures a constant data stream. Online monitoring saves up to 20% of resources. This percentage depends on the sort of culture and region of cultivation. In addition, there are special dashboards, which help farm personnel to observe the dynamics of measurements in real time.

5. Intelligent Harvesting Robotics

IT companies have long been working on the introduction of driverless technologies in various industries, and agriculture has become one of the key areas where such equipment has been urgently needed and useful. Smart tractors are equipped with “off-the-shelf” intelligent technologies software, as sensors, radars, and GPS systems. These tractors roam the fields, cultivating the land and harvesting, without driver at all. With such autonomous crop management systems, it is possible to cultivate much more area over longer periods of time.

In September 2017, the first crop grown by robots was harvested in the UK. Scientists have automated all processes of cultivation. That’s why agrarian does not have to drive a tractor or combine harvester by himself in modern conditions. Clever technology independently planted, raised and harvested barley on an experimental hectare. The first harvest from the field, on which the human foot did not step, amounted to 4.5 tons of grain.

Prospects for the Internet of Things in Agriculture

Now agriculture is transforming from a traditional to a high-tech industry, creating new markets for innovations and IT developments. Researchers at Business Insider suggest that the number of IoT sensors used in agricultural sector will constantly increase, and by 2020 it is going to reach 75 million devices.

man with tablet on field

IoT technologies do not break the established process and do not turn everything upside down. In contrast, they are organically embedded in process and give a real effect.

Using drones, land stations and GPS trackers, farmer collects large amounts of data from environment. Then, with the help of specific analysis algorithms that combine statistics and machine learning, he identifies factors that negatively affect crop quality.

Farmer receives forecasts and tips that will greatly increase the yield and overall quality of products, optimize the cost of fertilizers and chemicals. Moreover, Horos.Tech even allows you to evaluate fire zones and determine mass tree diseases.

So, we can see that opportunities for modernizing the agriculture sphere are huge, so developers are constantly looking for new ways of productivity increasing.

The transition to autonomous equipment management and process automation is taking place gradually. However, it should be noted that innovative solutions have already given first results and improved the quality of doing agriculture business by raising productivity and profitability.

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Olha Polishchuk
Content manager
April 2, 2020
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