The potential of the “Internet of Things” or IoT has been heavily hyped over the past year or two, with promises of a future filled with flying cars, smart homes and personal robots. As network speeds and efficiency improve along with the advent of 5G, it’s thought that technology will explode with new devices that are able to communicate with one another. Although much of this talk is still in theoretical stages, one area where great advances have already been made is in the agricultural industry. The farming industry is facing increasing pressure to meet food production targets to feed a booming global population, and the use of smart machinery and high-tech gadgets is one concrete way to achieve these goals.
What Smart Farming Looks Like
According to Beecham Research, the Internet of Things could be the secret weapon needed to increase food production by 70% by 2050. Smart farming techniques would help farmers boosts their productivity and reduce waste at the same time, making it possible to cope with the new demands of climate change in particular. Smart gadgets can track weather conditions for a more productive farming environment, allowing farmers to offset extreme weather conditions and implement more eco-friendly practices to stave off global warming. So what does smart farming entail? It includes monitoring soil quality and weather conditions to plant and harvest at the right time, as well as monitoring livestock health and patterns to ensure greater productivity and yield.
The Internet of Things and Agriculture
Have you ever heard of a connected cow? This is one way that the Internet of Things is already being used to help boost agriculture production! Cows can be connected to the internet using special electronic collars, which use wireless sensors to track the cow’s health and milk production. This data is transmitted back to a central device to improve milk yield. The movements of a herd as a whole can be monitored with the use of radio positioning tags, while sensors can pinpoint any strange behaviour to notify a farmer immediately if an animal is sick. This is important because it can prevent the spread of diseases like foot and mouth by providing early detection capabilities.
This can also be used for vegetable crops. For example, Fujitsu and Microsoft have also worked together on a project to grow high-tech lettuce suitable for consumers with kidney problems. They’ve used computer sensors to micro-manage nutrients by fine-tuning the soil conditions, creating lettuce with 80% less potassium.
The Future of Smart Farms
Sensors are being used to monitor soil quality, temperature, humidity, and feeding rates to get the best yields in both vegetable crops and animal herds. As more major companies like Nokia Networks and Microsoft are researching where the Internet of Things could go, it’s likely we’ll see an even greater use of sensors and high-tech gadgets in the farming industry soon. While machine to machine technology is still new, farms are already becoming increasingly connected and where accurate data could really make a difference. Many believe that this could open up a whole new era of farming, using data from multiple sensors and sources to boost production on a plant-to-plant basis. Experts at Beecham Research expect the growth of smart farming to accelerate between 2017 and 2020 as 5G networks start to enable new forms of technology.