How IoT is Growing in Agriculture

By: Maxx Ortega, key account manager at Advantech

Since the Great Farming Revolution of the 1960s, our population has more than doubled in size. This has greatly impacted the agriculture industry, as the burgeoning population’s needs strain the limits of existing systems, which have historically struggled to accommodate fluctuation in supply and demand.

Recent applications of IoT technology in the agriculture sector are beginning to help combat these issues — automating many everyday farming processes, reducing labor costs and ultimately maximizing production for our growing population.

The agriculture industry is beginning to embrace and accept the need for IoT solutions. This technology is already making waves with precision farming and livestock monitoring.

Precision Farming to Help Increase Yields, Limit Losses

There are 7.6 billion people today and is projected to reach over 9 billion in 30 years. Population growth compounded with the labor shortage looming (due to aging population and fewer people entering the workforce) are driving the agriculture industry to produce more. With the rise of robots and automation, precision farming gives us the tools to not only sustain the industry, but also continue to meet its growing demands.

Irrigation plays a major role in crop production, yet it’s often overlooked by those outside of the farming industry. Precise moisture levels in soil are crucial to maintaining the integrity of crops. For instance, if water levels get too high, the consequences are often excessive runoff and the overwatering of crops. This allows for the spread of pesticides and other harmful elements into the ecosystem. Retrofitting drainage pipes with IoT sensors provides farmers the ability to closely monitor the control and release of water in real-time, from a remote location. Additionally, IoT can reduce labor costs and other expenses by limiting the frequency and need of site visits.

Livestock Monitoring Goes “Free Range” to Meet the Needs of Both Modern Farmers and Savvy Consumers

IoT technology has been used in livestock monitoring in an increasing scale over the last several decades; however, its use has been limited to livestock housed in confined, controlled spaces. Recently, the trend of “free-range” livestock has pushed the industry to find new and innovative solutions for collecting data. This data gives us answers to questions like: how much grazing does an animal need? Or, what size area of land do they require to be healthy? Modern farmers are using IoT to capture all these different data points in order to yield the best outcome in production.

Two decades ago, “free-range chicken” or “grass-fed beef” were not even on the public’s radar. Today, consumers are far more informed and conscious of what they are eating. These savvy consumers no longer share a one-size-fits-all mentality, as they have unique desires for what constitutes the healthiest, safest products on the market. IoT applications bring the ability to monitor the heart rates, acceleration and location of livestock on a free-range farm; offering buyers increased peace of mind, as they seek to make smarter, healthier purchasing decisions.

Demand for IoT solutions will increase exponentially, as digital transformation continues to reshape the agriculture industry. While most of the current requirements to implement these IoT solutions are complex, the need of ‘co-creation’ will continue to grow. This will help simplify the adoption of IoT applications in the industry, bringing technology experts from different fields together to create agriculture-specific solutions that can be customized to meet individual farmer needs.

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