By Matt Champion
Recently, I attended the IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas. While I was there, I sat in on a panel called “The Farmer’s IoT Markets: From Drones to Prawns”, and what really struck home was how such an important industry like Agriculture can benefit from IoT technologies.
Agriculture is one of the largest industries in the world and is also one of the most vital. Everything we consume comes from a field, it may be highly processed or it may be fresh picked, but it all originates from the same place: a farmer’s fields. Unfortunately, in some areas such as the state of California, strict regulation on water consumption has driven out many farmers or caused significant changes in how they do business.
Efficiency, one of the main takeaways from the panel, is what will transform agriculture. For instance, if we can precisely monitor the soil moisture level in the field and dial it in to exactly what the crop needs, we will be much more efficient than just watering for time and gallons. Along with monitoring the soil, another process that benefits greatly from IoT is field irrigation. Companies like Net Irrigate and Observant monitor automated irrigation, allowing the system to precisely fit the needs of the crop being grown. Additionally, these companies are producing affordable solutions that not only monitor the location and amount of water placed on the field, but can send alerts if there is damage or theft of assets at the site. If fields have sensors monitoring soil moisture, water pumps, valves, and all of these sensors report to one location, the automation process allows the farmers to have better yielding crops, less water consumption, larger profit margins and higher quality food.
The second big takeaway was centered around tracking product and food safety. New regulations around produce monitoring and tracking have been implemented to help identify any areas that could possibly risk the safety of the food supply. Small IoT devices that can track crates, pallets, or truckloads of produce from the field to the production facility create a bread crumb trail right back to the source of the product and even the crew that harvested it. By monitoring the movement and temperature, through companies like Locus Traxx, the producers of our perishable food supply can be better protected against loss and damages associated with the transportation and movement of product.
This technology is not limited to field crops either. Sensors can be attached to livestock to track their movement, take their temperature, and other vital signs. Keeping livestock healthy allows for a better life for the animal, as well as a higher quality product for the consumer, with lower costs to the farmer. Visual monitoring of fields by drones can save farmers countless hours and allow them to get critical feedback in order to make decisions on a daily basis. Even simple security is being addressed by devices remotely placed around the operations.
If more farmers took the time to adapt their operations with IoT solutions, their operations would increase in efficiency, and the possibility for the agriculture industry to become more environmentally conscious and profitable is greatly advanced. Furthermore, the most important thing to remember, is in this increasingly over populated world, we can make better use of our land, time, and resources to better our own lives and those of future generations.