Farming is a complex, dynamic, highly competitive industry, especially since finding help has become quite complicated. Farmers need to boost production to meet growing demand whilst maintaining and ideally, growing revenue. Technology advances, like IoT, is an option that offers them that ability.
With the exponential growth of the world population, the world will, most likely, need to produce 70% more food in 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Agricultural businesses must clear significant hurdles to reach that goal. The amount of farmable land is shrinking as urbanisation flourishes. Competition for the limited availability of natural resources, such as fresh water and arable land, has intensified. Their workforce is in flux because the potential agricultural labour pool has been declining, a problem aggravated by the pandemic.
In addition, agricultural enterprises face many traditional business challenges:
- The large size of many farms makes manual planting, harvesting, and surveying difficult.
- Cellular connectivity is often poor in rural areas.
- The workplace environment (indoors and outdoors) is complex.
- They lack visibility into equipment performance.
- Securing farm assets has been an onerous task.
Farming’s Inefficient Manual Processes
To date, farming has been largely a manual industry, one where the equipment has been mechanical and sometimes simple. As a result, the only way to produce more crops (and grow revenue) has been to hire more workers, which conversely increases expenses.
The business has sometimes been inefficient, as farmers have operated reactively. Equipment breaking down and in need of maintenance could happen at the most inconvenient times and with time-consuming repairs, as a result, sometimes interfering with agricultural production or processes. Often the outcome of the operations has been subjected to the whims of the weather, unforeseen pests, and supply chain fluctuations.
So, where can farmers turn for help?
IoT Solutions transform farming
With IoT, the traditional way of farming is enhanced through technology and data, resulting in a transformation that enhances efficiency, predictability and offers a positive environmental impact.
Smart farming is much more efficient than the traditional approach. A raft of new devices have been developed which provide visibility into areas, like soil composition, weather patterns, pest control, and crop nourishment. With IoT, farmers can gain, a complete 360° view of their operations, and enhance their business in several ways:
- An improvement in both the quality and quantity of their produce.
- They can minimise risk and waste.
- They gain insight into their assets’ performance.
- Closer tracking of crop development, harvesting, and distribution can be performed.
- They see the impact of environmental and other factors on their produce.
- Automate repetitive tasks and save both time, energy, and money. By using technology to perform a task - e.g. sensors monitoring soil moisture level (when it decreases, the irrigations system kicks in) - farmers can instead focus on more high value activities and improve overall efficiency.
- Technology delivers actionable intelligence in its ambition of sustainability; enhanced productivity and it helps in minimising environmental impacts. Farmers monitor the field conditions from anywhere with the help of sensors that monitor light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, crop health, etc.
Smart farming and IoT Solutions gain efficiency
Agricultural enterprises also become more efficient. Smart farming enables the reduction of waste from the quantity of fertiliser utilised and for example, the number of journeys the farm vehicles have made. They can also lower costs by better-utilising commodities, such as electricity.
In areas of drought, crop water management solutions maximise the use of increasingly limited water supplies. These solutions calculate valve operation and timing and create an optimum irrigation process, a change resulting in preserving water resources.
Pests are prone to destroy crops and cause significant monetary losses. To prevent such situations, IoT sensors scan and monitor environmental parameters and plant growth. They understand pest occurrence by observing, inspecting, identifying, and recording. This information then enables farmers to recognise what is happening with their crops and helps reduce the potential damage as a result.
Smart Farming automates manual processes
With IoT solutions, agricultural enterprises streamline their operations in new ways.
Improved Herd Management:
Farm owners utilize wireless IoT applications to collect data regarding the location, well-being, and health of their livestock, like cattle. This information not only prevents the spread of disease but also lowers labour costs, as there’s no longer a need to send employees out in the field to gather the information.
Better Vegetation Yields:
Smart greenhouses intelligently monitor as well as control the climate, again eliminating the need for manual input.
Longer Equipment Life:
Predictive analytics help farmers manage their equipment proactively. They no longer need to wait for tractors to break down to know when they need to be serviced. The solutions correlate information, identify trends, and then make recommendations, which means that possible alteration is done before the equipment breaks down. As a result, agricultural enterprises maximise their machinery’s lifespan and increase their maintenance team’s efficiency.
In summary, agricultural enterprises gain efficiencies in many areas by deploying IoT solutions. Sensors monitor vital information, like humidity, air temperature and soil quality, resulting in improving yields, enhancing forecast accuracy, and maximising harvests. This in turn makes the farmers’ operations and competitive position stronger.
IoT Solutions gain traction
The new developments have sparked interest in a series of investments. The global precision farming market size is anticipated to reach $20.84 billion in 2030, registering a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.8%.
The technology is being used in a wide and growing variety of ways, such as:
- Soil management
- Crop monitoring
- Local/zonal temperature and humidity monitoring
- Equipment monitoring and machinery preventative maintenance
- Livestock monitoring and management tracking and geofencing
- Process automation
Read more about target applications in agriculture here
Many farmers are struggling to create viable businesses as they face a number of natural and manmade obstacles. IoT technology offers everyone in the farming business the ability to add digital intelligence to traditional devices, to gain more visibility into specific operations. When applied the users can streamline operations, reduce expenses, and increase revenue, traits needed to survive in today’s difficult marketplace.