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The Internet of Things (IoT) has undeniably impacted the modern-day world. Its impact has reached everywhere: home, health, fitness, smart cities, health sector, industrial sectors, and more. The agricultural industry is no different. IoT agriculture is why farmers have moved far away from old-age methods such as ploughs and horses. IoT forms a significant part of agriculture and farming practices. But grave concerns surrounding the food and agricultural sector need to be considered. 

As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, by 2050, the world will need to produce 70% more food. With shrinking agricultural lands and depletion of non-renewable resources, enhancing farm yield has become difficult. Another concern is the shifting structure of the agricultural workforce. The number of labourers working in the agricultural sector in most of the countries has declined. Resultantly, the declining agricultural workforce has led to the adoption of IoT agriculture solutions in farming practices. It has triggered the need to reduce manual labour. 

How Does IoT Agriculture Technology Make Farming Practices Sustainable? 

IoT in agriculture has enabled farmers to utilise smart farming gadgets successfully. It enables them to control the process of growing crops and raising livestock. IoT solutions such as smart greenhouses, agricultural robotics, cattle tracking systems, and smart pest management make farming practices predictable, efficient, and sustainable. 

IoT agriculture solutions are aimed at helping farmers bridge the demand-supply gap by ensuring high yields, protection of the environment, and profitability. IoT agriculture technology ensures a reduction in operational costs and optimum application of resources for high crop yields. This is called precision agriculture. IoT in agriculture technologies comprises wireless connectivity, software, specialized equipment, and IT services. According to BI Intelligence, the global market size of smart agriculture is expected to reach $15.3 billion by 2025. 

IoT agriculture technologies allow farmers to reduce wastage of resources such as electricity, water, etc. and enhance productivity. Whether the quantity of fertilizer or the number of journeys a farm vehicle makes, IoT agriculture technologies enable efficient utilisation of resources. IoT agriculture solutions help monitor crop fields with the help of sensors such as humidity, light, temperature, crop health, soil moisture, etc. It automates the irrigation system and enables the farmers to monitor the field from anywhere. IoT has the potential to transform agriculture. 

Essential Aspects That IoT Agriculture Can Transform

In this farm management approach, data collected by smart agriculture sensors are crucial components – sensors, automated hardware, control systems, robotics, autonomous vehicles, motion detectors, variable rate technology, wearable devices, and button cameras. This data tracks the state of the business, staff performance, and equipment efficiency. The ability to predict the output of production allows planning for product distribution in a better manner.

  • Agricultural Drones

In agriculture, aerial and ground-based drones enhance crop health assessment, crop monitoring, irrigation, soil, field analysis, and crop spraying.  

  • Livestock Tracking and Geofencing

Farm owners can collect data regarding their cattle’s well-being, location, and health by utilising wireless IoT applications. This prevents the spread of disease and reduces labour costs.

  • Smart Greenhouses

The greenhouses are smartly designed with the help of IoT monitors, control the climate, and eliminate the need for manual intervention.

  • Predictive Analytics for Smart Farming

Predictive Analytics plays a crucial role in Smart Farming. It helps the farmers plan the crop production, its storage, marketing techniques, and risk management with the help of IoT, agriculture-related information such as temperature, rainfall, soil, and humidity. The farmers get accurate soil data with the use of a customised mobile application. 

Farmers realise that IoT is the driving force behind increasing cost-effective agricultural production. With these advancements being implemented in the agriculture sector, it will scale up the revenues and allow farmers to manage more acreage. This will enable higher profit potentials and higher yields. 

The Concept of Smart Farming

IoT Agriculture technology enables farmers to have better control over growing crops, rearing livestock, and bringing in massive scale efficiencies. 

With the IoT agriculture applications being implemented in farming, targeting conventional, large farming operations is now possible. It elevates common trends in agriculture, such as organic farming, family farming, and boosts highly transparent agriculture. IoT-based smart farming offers immense benefits such as efficient water usage, optimising inputs and treatments, and more. 

Efficient Scaling

This is made possible via automation. Multiple processes around the production cycle, such as pest control, fertilization, or irrigation, can be automated using IoT devices. Amongst the more efficient IoT agriculture gadgets that link several smart farming sensors are weather stations. They can be located across a field to collect data from the environment and send it to the cloud. But the climatic conditions can be mapped, appropriate crops can be chosen, and necessary measures can be taken to enhance their capacity with the help of this data.  

Better Quality

It is possible to have increased control over the production process and maintain high crop quality standards and growth capacity via IoT. Crop management devices are a specific kind of IoT product that enables precision farming. They can be placed in the field just like weather stations to collect data specific to crop farming. They can help track leaf water potential, temperature, precipitation, and the health of the crop. With the information on crop growth, irregularities can be monitored. It then becomes easier to prevent diseases that may harm crop yields. 

Be In Control

The integration of IoT agriculture maintains control over internal processes. In this way, the risks can be decreased during the process of production. Predicting the output of production enhances product distribution. When the farmers know how much crop they would be yielding, they can ensure that it doesn’t go unsold.

Data collection

The smart sensors collect data to track crop growth progress, weather conditions, soil quality, and cattle’s health. This data can be used for monitoring the state of operation and factors such as staff performance and equipment efficiency.  

Manage The Costs

Increased control over the production leads to reduced waste levels and allows for effective cost management. The insights into the irregularities in crop growth rate or livestock health mitigate the risk of complete crop failure or diminished yield.  

Implementing IoT Agriculture Technology

While implementing IoT solutions for agricultural purposes, choosing suitable sensors for the devices is essential. For the success of the IoT solution, ensure that the sensors’ quality is great. The success depends on the accuracy and reliability of the collected data.

The IoT potential is unlimited in developing markets, such as the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In fact, in 2018, IDC predicted that in Africa & Middle East, IoT would see a growth of 15% in the times to come. The growth is already visible in South Africa as businesses are forced to adapt to new business models ushered by IoT. 

Meanwhile, an efficient IoT agriculture solution must be able to operate at three levels – 

  • Allowing real-time collection & data presentation.
  • Offering an IoT solution accessible globally and not limited to the local networks or the operator alone.
  • Providing a resolution that is cost-effective, easy to install, and needs to be low-powered.

When an IoT agriculture solution is implemented, then the farm must be able to optimise labour usage, costs, quality, and yield in the following areas – 

  • Water: Accurate irrigation management that must result in savings in water consumption by a farm.
  • Electricity: Saves money by accurate irrigation and less electricity usage. 
  • Labor: Does not require a dedicated person to manage data logging but can be efficiently used somewhere else in farm operations. 
  • Reduced Stress: With informed and timely decisions, it will be possible to manage the operations efficiently.  
  • Better Yields: When all the aspects mentioned above are taken care of, it will result in better yields.

When an IoT solution is integrated successfully, it allows for the expansion of global smart agriculture into remote areas. It offers many other benefits that can be attained using the latest technology.  

The Future of Agriculture

IoT agriculture has helped implement modern technological solutions. This has bridged the gap between production, quality, and quantity yield. Data obtained from multiple sensors for real-time use or storage in a database ensures swift action and minor damage to the crops. With seamless end-to-end intelligent operations and improved business process execution, the farm produce gets processed faster and reaches the marketplace in the quickest time possible. 

Because technology is revolutionising many industries, it is evident that innovation such as big data has become a more prominent part of the agricultural industry. As the tech becomes even more sophisticated and affordable, farmers’ reliance on IoT will inevitably grow in the future.

By Alexis Leibbrandt

Senior Growth Marketing at Akenza, IoT application enablement platform.

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