Agriculture is one of the oldest fields of human activity, but today it cannot remain aloof from total digitalization. Through the development of modern technology and the Internet of Things, more and more farmers are being replaced by robots.
And this is where the concept of connected farming comes in. Euristiq IoT specialists, who provide customized services for IoT software development for agriculture, took us on a brief excursion into this specific topic.
What is Connected Farming, and What Does it Include?
IoT in agriculture is intended to help farmers to monitor vital information about fields and crops, such as air temperature, humidity and soil quality. For this purpose, remote sensors are used.
Connected farming is sustainable agriculture, which uses the latest information and communication technologies. In simple words, this is smart farming, where the Internet of Things plays a key role.
Connected farming can include the following features:
- monitoring of agricultural machinery and equipment (location, consumption of fuel and lubricants, planning of agricultural works);
- system for planning the application of irrigation and fertilizers;
- remote monitoring of farm facilities (the state of stored products, data collection and control of air conditioning, heating and ventilation);
- accumulation of statistics for the optimal choice of sowing crops;
- short-term weather forecasts;
- remote monitoring of temperature and humidity of air and soil of fields;
- tracking the location of animals.
To get a feeling for how it all works in practice, let’s have a look at a few examples.
Internet of Things in Livestock
Prevention of epidemics and identification of sick animals are of great importance in the maintenance of large herds of livestock. Therefore, special sensors are used to monitor the health of animals, which collect indicators and send them for processing to a cloud service.
The sensor is able to detect the presence of a disease in the early stages, which allows starting treatment immediately and, accordingly, reducing its cost. If this is a respiratory disease, then this approach also makes it possible to reduce the number of diseased animals by separating infected individuals from the herd.
For example, in Japan, farmers use the Internet of Things to monitor the physical condition of cows and even their moods. The system, developed by one of the largest IT corporations Fujitsu, was called GyuHo SaaS (“walking cow” translated from Japanese) or Connected Cow.
A special bracelet is put on the animal that counts the steps taken during the day. Herd activity data is sent to the cloud, analyzed and transferred to a farmer’s smartphone or computer. Information is updated every hour, and thus specialists can adjust the feeding, milking and sleep of animals. And diseases in “connected cows” can be detected at an early stage, because a sick animal will move less.
Moreover, the main task of a smart bracelet is to calculate the favorable period for conception. The sensor allows doing this with a high degree of probability, since cows in heat move more, and, accordingly, the number of their steps increases significantly. As a result, the success rate of artificial insemination increases from 44% to 90% (according to the developers). Also, the system predicts the date of birth and allows monitoring of the process remotely.
Internet of Things in Agroindustry
IoT systems in the agricultural industry can significantly increase the number of products obtained from farmland. Sensors installed in the soil can provide real-time information on soil moisture and nutrient content.
In addition, installing a large number of such sensors allows monitoring of the necessary soil parameters in small areas, thus reducing the consumption of fertilizers and water for irrigation. With the help of sensors, such a system can receive a weather forecast and regulate irrigation taking into account precipitation (snow, rain, wet foliage, etc.).
Israel’s farmers grow vegetables and fruits on an area of just over 20,000 square kilometers, most of which is taken up by the desert. The country, seemingly not intended for farming, is making phenomenal progress in the agricultural sector.
The scarcity of freshwater, resulting from low rainfall, makes the use of drip irrigation systems necessary and widespread. Plants receive exactly the required amount of water, and special sensors monitor this, collecting data on the condition of the soil on land.
Agricultural company Roots has developed smart pipes that are laid in the soil. The Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) system calculates and sets the optimum ground temperature for each area. The water pipes heat the root zone in winter and cool it down during summer, maintaining a relatively stable temperature. In addition, pipes that run over the soil surface are used to condense moisture from the air and irrigate plants.
So, connected farming opens up great development prospects for agriculture and becomes an important competitive advantage, because it automates labor-intensive processes, saves resources and makes accurate forecasts for strategically important decisions.