IoT in Agriculture: 8 Technology use cases for smart farming

With the growing adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices have penetrated every aspect of our life, from health and fitness, home automation, automotive and logistics, to smart cities and industrial IoT.

Farming has several technological transformations in the last decades, becoming more industrialized and technology-driven. By using various smart agriculture gadgets, farmers have gained better control over the process of raising livestock and growing crops, making it more predictable and improving its efficiency.

In 2020, the market share for IoT in agriculture reached $5.6 billion.

What is smart agriculture? The definition and market size

Smart agriculture is mostly used to denote the application of IoT solutions in agriculture. So what is smart agriculture using IoT? By using IoT sensors to collect environmental and machine metrics, farmers can make informed decisions, and improve just about every aspect of their work – from livestock to crop farming.

The adoption of IoT solutions for agriculture is constantly growing. COVID-19 has had a positive impact on IoT in the agriculture market share. Disruptions in the supply chain, and the shortage of qualified workers, has propelled its CAGR to 9,9%. In fact, as per recent reports, the smart framing market share is set to reach $6.2 billion by 2021.

At the same time, the global smart agriculture market size is expected to triple by 2025, reaching $15.3 billion (compared to being slightly over $5 billion back in 2016). Because the market is still developing, there is still ample opportunity for businesses willing to join in.

But why should you consider building an IoT application for agriculture in the first place? Technologies and IoT have the potential to transform agriculture in many aspects. There are 5 ways IoT can improve agriculture:

  • Data, tons of data, collected by smart agriculture sensors
    This data can be used to track the state of your business in general as well as staff performance, equipment efficiency, etc.
  • Better control over the internal processes and, as a result, lower production risks The ability to foresee the output of your production allows you to plan for better product distribution. If you know exactly how many crops you are going to harvest, you can make sure your product won’t lie around unsold.
  • Cost management and waste reduction thanks to the increased control over the production Being able to see any anomalies in the crop growth or livestock health, you will be able to mitigate the risks of losing your yield.
  • Increased business efficiency through process automation By using smart devices, you can automate multiple processes across your production cycle, e.g. irrigation, fertilizing, or pest control.
  • Enhanced product quality and volumes Achieve better control over the production process and maintain higher standards of crop quality and growth capacity through automation.

As a result, all of these factors can eventually lead to higher revenue.

IoT use cases in agriculture

There are many types of IoT sensors for agriculture as well as IoT applications in agriculture in general.

1. Monitoring of climate conditions

Probably the most popular smart agriculture gadgets are weather stations, combining various smart farming sensors. Located across the field, they collect various data from the environment and send it to the cloud.

2. Greenhouse automation

The use of IoT sensors enables them to get accurate real-time information on greenhouse conditions such as lighting, temperature, soil condition, and humidity.

In addition to sourcing environmental data, weather stations can automatically adjust the conditions to match the given parameters. Specifically, greenhouse automation systems use a similar principle.

3. Crop management

Just like weather stations, they should be placed in the field to collect data specific to crop farming; from temperature and precipitation to leaf water potential and overall crop health. You can monitor your crop growth and any anomalies to effectively prevent any diseases or infestations that can harm your yield. 

4. Cattle monitoring and management

Just like crop monitoring, there are IoT agriculture sensors that can be attached to the animals on a farm monitoring their health and log performance. Livestock tracking and monitoring help collect data on stock health, well-being, and physical location.

For example, such sensors can identify sick animals so that farmers can separate them from the herd and avoid contamination. 

5. Precision farming

Also known as precision agriculture, precision farming is all about efficiency and making accurate data-driven decisions. It’s also one of the most widespread and effective applications of IoT in agriculture.

By using IoT sensors, farmers can collect a vast array of metrics on every facet of the field microclimate and ecosystem: lighting, temperature, soil condition, humidity, CO2 levels, and pest infections. This data enables farmers to estimate optimal amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides that their crops need, reduce expenses, and raise better and healthier crops.

6. Agricultural drones

Perhaps one of the most promising agritech advancements is the use of agricultural drones in smart farming. Also known as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), drones are better equipped than airplanes and satellites to collect agricultural data. 

7. Predictive analytics for smart farming

Precision agriculture and predictive data analytics go hand in hand. While IoT and smart sensor technology are a goldmine for highly relevant real-time data, the use of data analytics helps farmers make sense of it and come up with important predictions: crop harvesting time, the risks of diseases and infestations, yield volume, etc.

Data analytics tools help make farming, which is inherently highly dependent on weather conditions, more manageable, and predictable.

8. End-to-end farm management systems

A more complex approach to IoT products in agriculture can be represented by the so-called farm productivity management systems. They usually include a number of agriculture IoT devices and sensors, installed on the premises as well as a powerful dashboard with analytical capabilities and in-built accounting/reporting features.

This offers remote farm monitoring capabilities and allows you to streamline most of the business operations. 

In addition to the listed IoT agriculture use cases, some prominent opportunities include vehicle tracking (or even automation), storage management, logistics, etc.

Things to consider before developing your smart farming solution

There are certain challenges you need to be aware of if you are considering investing in smart farming.

1. The hardware: To build an IoT solution for agriculture, you need to choose the sensors for your device (or create a custom one). 

2. The brain: Data analytics should be at the core of every smart agriculture solution. The collected data itself will be of little help if you cannot make sense of it. 

3. The maintenance: Maintenance of your hardware is a challenge that is of primary importance for IoT products in agriculture, as the sensors are typically used in the field and can be easily damaged. 

4. The mobility: Smart farming applications should be tailored for use in the field. A business owner or farm manager should be able to access the information on-site or remotely via a smartphone or desktop computer.

5. The infrastructure: To ensure that your smart farming application performs well (and to make sure it can handle the data load), you need a solid internal infrastructure.

6. Connectivity: The need to transmit data between many agricultural facilities still poses a challenge for the adoption of smart farming. 

7. Data collection frequency: Because of the high variety of data types in the agricultural industry, ensuring the optimal data collection frequency can be problematic. The data from field-based, aerial and environmental sensors, apps, machinery, and equipment, as well as processed analytical data, can be a subject of restriction and regulations. 

8. Data security in the agriculture industry: Precision agriculture and IoT technology imply working with large sets of data, which increases the number of potential security loopholes that perpetrators can use for data theft and hacking attacks. Unfortunately, data security in agriculture is still, to a large extent, an unfamiliar concept. 

IoT applications in smart agriculture vary from farm to farm depending on your market segment, climate, and region. In many instances, out-of-the-box tools won’t be relevant, and you may need a tailored smart farming IoT solution.

For detailed information on farming IoT solutions for your business, go to https://easternpeak.com/blog/iot-in-agriculture-technology-use-cases-for-smart-farming-and-challenges-to-consider/

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