Almost every facet of life is being affected by the innovative technologies that are being bestowed onto us. Not only is this the case in our homes and cities, but various workplaces and industries are beginning to embrace these transformations—including the agricultural field. The WiFi in rural America is expanding, which appears to be just the beginning of a technological and digital wave of enlightenment sweeping through these regions and their industries.
Farmers have been utilizing high-tech agricultural technologies and techniques to improve the quality and rate of their crop production. Sensors and (especially) the Internet of Things (IoT) are playing an integral role in this technological renaissance occurring in the agricultural industry. The smart agriculture market is projected to grow from its $5.18 billion value in 2016 to $11.23 billion by 2022, which translates into a compound annual growth rate of 13.27 percent over the next five years.
Farms are becoming more connected as farmers continue realizing the benefits and efficiency of IoT technologies to help minimize operation expenses, while still receiving higher crops, lower livestock losses, along with using lesser resources like water. IoT technology makes this possible as they continue developing platforms that can precisely sense, process, and communicate measured environmental data in the form of sensors, microcontrollers, transmitters, energy harvesting, LED lights, drones, along with other devices and gadgets.
For many farmers, livestock maintenance can be a daunting and costly task. The IoT is not only giving farmers the ability to constantly monitor and supervise entire herds, but offers devices that can provide alerts via cellphone, text, or email of any anomalies that may occur, or if conditions fall outside of any preset parameters. Several livestock monitoring systems contain elements of integration available commercially for swine, cattle, broiler, and milk.
A company called Moocall, for example, assists farmers in monitoring pregnant cows about to give birth, using a battery-powered sensor that detects motion associated with oncoming labor. An SMS alert is issued when the sensor is triggered, which is equipped with an embedded machine-to-machine chip that can work over multiple networks. CattleWatch is a cloud-based hardware/software technology that utilizes energy harvesting to power sensor and communication platforms to remotely monitor health the health status and location of livestock. CattleWatch equips hub collars on roughly two percent of a farmer’s cattle that contain miniaturized photovoltaic cells, which harvest solar energy. Users can access real-time data from any IoT-connected devices to monitor their cattle without being physically present at their farm.
Another way farmers are utilizing IoT technologies is to collect data on weather, soil, air quality, and crop maturity, enabling them to make smarter decisions on their agricultural operations. A growingly popular company among farmers is CropX, which utilizes data and sensor devices to improve farmers’ understanding of water usage across their fields, and keep them informed on the amount of fertilizer and pesticide needed by each patch. Their sensors rely on algorithms and pattern-recognition technology to analyze farmland and determine various elevations.
Another company called Analog Devices has been working on a precision agriculture experiment leveraging technologies like microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors. They do this by combining precision gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, and pressure sensors to determine whether environmental monitoring could improve flavor of crops. They integrate hardware solutions with a cloud-based IoT application from ThingWork to develop complete solutions for farmers. They provide them with apps and dashboards to gain a better understanding and implement these improvements.
Agricultural vehicles are poised to experience their own innovative advancements and while none are currently available on the market, companies are currently incorporating fully autonomous qualities in vehicles like tractors. Tractors containing autonomous functions have been on the market longer than semi-autonomous cars, with notable manufacturers like John Deere and Case IH offering these vehicles to agricultural consumers.
One advantage of autonomous tractors is their ability to avoid reworking the same crop row by reducing the overlap to under an inch, resulting in the need of taking fewer passes to cover each field, which saves farmers time and money. Autonomous tractors can make tight precise turns without the driver even touching the steering wheel, and navigate using lasers that bounce signals off mobile transponders placed throughout the field. On the contrary, supervised tractors driven by people are followed by autonomous machinery that copies the steering and speed of the manually operated tractor. One advantage this offers is a reduction in human error when conducting tasks like spraying insecticide.
Filed Under: Energy management + harvesting, M2M (machine to machine), Sensors (pressure)