Precision Agriculture IoT and The Future of Farming
When it comes to precision agriculture, IoT is simplifying data collection, dissemination, and analysis for smarter farming processes. Find out how digitally transformed smart agriculture is overcoming modern farming challenges.
What is precision agriculture IoT technology?
A precision agriculture system is widely accepted to be a management system that observes, measures, and responds to variables to improve production sustainability. These systems use sensor and analysis technologies to collect and report on data across whole-farm operations. They can be used for crops and livestock.
How does precision agriculture work?
Precision agriculture uses IoT data to optimise quality, productivity, and processes within the farm environment. Implemented cleverly, it also has the potential to mitigate losses, improve safety, and work towards minimised supply chain operations.
In its most basic form, precision agriculture relies on the collection of real-time data using connected sensors and pressure pads to measure a range of metrics and conditions. Through alerts around undesirable changes as they happen, farmers and managers are empowered to take action to avert issues. In the long term, the analysis of this data informs strategy on everything from crop rotation, water and fertiliser levels to field mapping, labour management, stock and equipment management.
Example applications of precision agriculture
- Automated irrigation
- Livestock management
- Weather forecasting
- Remote crop yield optimisation
- Soil health monitoring
- Smart warehousing, logistics, and distribution
- Remote asset monitoring
- Greenhouse monitoring
- Weed control
- Predictive analytics
- Stock control
- Equipment management and maintenance scheduling
- Worker safety
Benefits of precision agriculture
Full-Farm visibility and data insights
Data drives digital transformation by providing detailed insights into actual circumstances. In real time, this means the chance to intervene when things go wrong. For example, if a fence goes down, an alert reduces the response time to prevent theft or loss and to aid recoverability. Similarly, monitored pH and irrigation levels keep farming conditions relatively constant and regulated.
Long term, this data is used for strategy. Whether creating digital twins or monitoring cause and effect from actual on-farm activities, there is potential to optimise operations for boosted productivity, profitability, and reduced losses. It also means farmers are best equipped to plan around yields, risks, and changing circumstances.
Automation and improved labour management
Data paves the way for automation. Reduced reliance on manual processes means reduced risk of human error. This includes everything from the accuracy of record-keeping to monitoring movements of staff to ensure everyone works to their best potential.
Improved yields and productivity
By monitoring inputs and gauging their effect, farmers have better control over yields and quality. With livestock, smart technologies improve the viability of every individual animal through things like automated temperature monitoring and GPS tracking collars for continuous location monitoring and prevention of livestock theft.
Asset, stock, and equipment management
By knowing where every asset is at any time, farmers can control costs and reduce risks around those assets. It also helps farmers to monitor and control inventory and ensure optimal maintenance schedules for machinery. This streamlines operations and reduces the chance of downtime for broken machinery, unscheduled maintenance, or lack of resources. It also helps to safeguard high-value assets from theft and to ensure they are being used to best effect.
Better use of resources
Smart farming reduces the reliance on human resources. For example, rather than heading out into the fields to check fences – a traditionally time-consuming, resource-intensive (and so expensive) activity – the integrity of fences are reported to connected cloud-based dashboards. These are remotely accessible and are visible at all times.
The costs traditionally involved in such activities are reduced through automation – and this frees up human resources to work on other areas of the farm for improved productivity.
The move to sustainable agriculture
Some of the greatest challenges facing farmers in the future will be to maintain or increase yields to feed growing global populations – but to do this while preserving valuable natural resources. Preventing wasted resources is a fundamental tenet of sustainable agricultural practices.
One of the great advantages of precision agriculture is its capacity to reduce wastefulness. By monitoring actual irrigation levels, irrigation management stands to be revolutionised. Space utilisation also has the potential to be optimised to ensure rotation with a focus on yield.
Quite simply, the only way to reduce wastefulness is to understand inputs and the cause and effect of different actions. The data derived from smart technologies allows farmers and managers to quickly identify areas of wastefulness, inspires sustainable change, and informs ongoing monitoring of the effects of these changes. This means greater flexibility and adaptability for the changing agricultural landscape.
Security, safety, and recoverability
Smart technologies are a match for farm security. This is a notoriously hard task – with remote areas and sometimes easy-to-steal, high-value assets making farms attractive targets for thieves. The scale of farms is also difficult to monitor in totality.
Smart technologies collect and report on whole-farm data in real time. This data performs a key role for access control and reporting on unusual activity on the farm. For example, smart sensors and pressure pads report on whenever a gate is opened, when doors and windows are opened, when critical assets move irregularly, or quantities or levels change when they shouldn’t.
In the event of criminal activity, time is of the essence and these insights can prevent theft or aid recoverability through real-time location monitoring.
In the case of lone or vulnerable workers, smart technologies act as a safety tool. Smart data reporting on metrics like noise, vibration, and atmospheric conditions also play a role in ensuring workplace safety on farms.
Find out more about the future of farming
Farmers face a range of serious challenges. Questions of food security arise out of increasing population statistics, climate change concerns, increased urbanisation, and the need to preserve precious resources. Additionally, the need for nutritious and safe food sources adds to the burden. The move to digital tools and smart farming practices are a natural progression for farmers. When it comes to precision agriculture, IoT is a powerful tool for the future of farming.