The Complete Guide to Smart Farming & Agriculture

Welcome to your complete guide to smart farming and agriculture.

If you want to learn more about how to implement smart farming technologies for your agricultural business, you’ll enjoy this comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know.

The Smart Farming Industry Worldwide

9.7 billion

The world’s population by 2050.

69%

The increase in global agricultural production between 2010 and 2050.

In the next few decades, the agricultural industry is set to become more important than ever before as it will need to meet the demands of a growing population. That’s why farmers and agribusinesses are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart farming technologies for improved analytics and greater production capabilities.

Timeline of agricultural revolutions

Since humans have been cultivating food and rearing livestock, technological innovations have been improving agricultural outputs.

Farm Technology Timeline

Today, the IoT will take the future of farming to the next level. In this guide, we’ve outlined how smart agriculture will help farmers meet the world’s food demands in years to come.

CHAPTERS

What is Smart Agriculture and Smart Farming?

Smart Farming Using IoT

Advantages of Smart Farming

Challenges in Smart Farming

Smart Farming Techniques

What’s The Difference Between Smart Farming and Precision Agriculture?

The Global Smart Farming Market

Smart Farming Solutions

CHAPTER 1
WHAT IS SMART AGRICULTURE AND SMART FARMING?

Also known as Farming 4.0 or digital farming, smart farming is the application of information and data technologies to optimise complex farming systems. It involves individual machines and all farm operations.

Smart farming incorporates information and communication technologies into machinery, equipment and sensors used in agricultural production systems. Technologies such as the IoT and cloud computing are advancing this development even further by introducing more robots and artificial intelligence into farming.

For example, farmers can use smartphones and tablets to access real-time data about the condition of almost anything involved in their day-to-day operations:

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Soil

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Plants

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Terrain

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Weather

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Location of assets

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Condition of assets

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Livestock

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Resource usage

Smart agricultural practices allow for the generation of a large volume of data and information. Farmers can use this information to make data-based decisions and take action for improved productivity and profitability.

Where Did It All Begin?

Agricultural technology has been evolving over the last 10,000 or so years. Simple hand tools gradually evolved into the mechanical equipment that now runs almost every aspect of commercial farming. However, this kind of technology is generally based on mechanical engineering solutions, without much in the way of ‘intelligence’. But now, things are beginning to change…

Today, the phenomenon of smart farming is being propelled by rapid developments in the IoT and cloud computing.

WHAT IS THE IoT?

How Does Smart Farming Work?

The use of smart farming tools is possible due to the use of sensors connected to a network.

What is a sensor?

A sensor is an electrotechnical device. It:

  1. Measures physical quantities from the environment
  2. Converts these measurements into a signal
  3. The signal is read and interpreted by an instrument.

What can a sensor do?

The measurements read by include (but are not limited to):

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Light
  • Pressure
  • Noise
  • Speed
  • Direction
  • Size & weight

Why Do We Need Smart Farming?

Farming ‘smarter’ is no longer an ‘advanced’ tactic for savvy farmers; it’s becoming an increasingly necessary way to optimise and preserve human and natural resources.

  • Farm labour is becoming increasingly scarce due to urban migration and ageing populations.
  • Intensifying climate change is altering growing conditions in less predictable ways.
  • Earth’s resources and biodiversity are diminishing.

Smart farming tools can help reduce these impacts, minimise environmental constraints and reduce production costs in farming activities. Smart farming tools introduce a new level of technology into agriculture, including mapping, robotics, geomatics, automation, decision making and statistical processes.

CHAPTER 2
SMART FARMING USING IoT

IoT technology converges numerous technologies:

  • Real-time analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Commodity sensors
  • Embedded systems
  • Wireless sensor networks
  • Control systems
  • Automation
  • And more…

By using IoT sensors to collect machine and environmental data, farmers can make informed decisions and improve almost all farm operations. IoT in agriculture can also be used to automate farming techniques, optimise the utilisation of resources and minimise risk.

What You Can Do With IoT In Agriculture

Automatic irrigation

Manage livestock with rich data insights

Weather forecasting

Sensor-based precision agriculture

Remote crop yield optimisation

Soil health monitoring

Smart warehousing, logistics and distribution

Remote asset monitoring

Improve the quality of the produce

Greenhouse monitoring with real-time data

Weed control

Predictive analytics for crop sustainability

CHAPTER 3
ADVANTAGES OF SMART FARMING

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Efficiency

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Sustainability

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Cost-effectiveness

Ultimately, the goal of smart farming is to be able to observe and record data and automate processes to improve overall production output while minimising cost and preserving resources.

Smart farming technologies have the potential to transform the agricultural sector. Here are some of the advantages of smart farming.

Remove human error

Using smart sensors reduces manual work, and thus human error. For example, a person taking a cow’s temperature could take or record an inaccurate reading; whereas a temperature bolus inserted into the rumen of the cow sends accurate temperature data straight to a management dashboard.

Data collection and analysis

Data collected by smart agriculture sensors can be used to track the state of the business as well as security, staff performance, equipment efficiency and so much more.

More control over internal processes

With more control (even remotely), farmers can reduce risks and plan better. For example, If you know exactly how large your yield is going to be, you can ensure that you find enough buyers and your product won’t lie around unsold.

Enhanced product quality and yield

Automation allows farmers to achieve better control over the production process and maintain higher standards of crop quality and higher yields.

Cost management

Increased control over production allows for better cost management. In addition, being alerted early to any anomalies in crop growth or livestock health allows farmers to mitigate costly risks.

Improved efficiency

Increase agricultural efficiency through process automation. Smart devices can help you automate operations such as irrigation, fertilising and pest control.

Reduced human resources

Because smart technology automates manual processes, this reduces your reliance on human resources. For example, instead of heading out into the fields to locate your cattle, a cattle collar connected to the IoT can report back on an animal’s location data in real time.

Save on insurance premiums

Our UK farmers save an average of 10% on insurance premiums by mitigating the risk of loss and damage from thieves and vandals, livestock and crop disease, trespassers and unleashed dogs.

Early disease detection and prevention

Lower mortality rates and ensure a healthier herd with technologies like a livestock bolus, which reports on an animal’s internal temperature in real time.

‘Beef Up’ your security

Smart sensors can detect unwanted activities happening on the farm, such as gates opening, assets being tampered with, livestock crossing geofenced locations and more. IoT technologies can help protect the storage of crops, fertiliser and fuel, secure your farm perimeters and buildings and safeguard your workers.

CHAPTER 4
CHALLENGES IN SMART FARMING

Like any change to processes, the implementation of smart farming doesn’t come without its challenges, such as:

  • IoT security
  • Threat solutions/protocols
  • Operational technology
  • Data storage
  • Cloud platforms
  • Power supplies etc.

Key Considerations When Implementing Smart Farming Solutions

Hardware

Your choice of hardware will depend on the types of information you want to collect and your overall smart farming goals. It’s important that any sensors or other hardware collect data accurately and reliably.

Data analysis

At the core of every smart agriculture solution are powerful data analytics capabilities. It’s one thing to collect data, but the data collected will be of little help if you’re not able to make sense of it. You need a software solution that can help you obtain actionable insights using the data collected.

Hardware maintenance

Sensors used in the field need to be able to withstand the conditions in which they’re placed. Thus, your smart farming hardware should be durable and easy to maintain.

Mobility

Mobility is a key component of smart farming – you need to be able to access the information you need from anywhere, at any time.

Connectivity

Each connected device should have enough wireless range to communicate with the other sensors devices and send data to the central server and reporting dashboard. The connection between IoT facilities should be reliable enough to withstand bad weather conditions and to ensure non-disruptive operations.

Infrastructure

You need a solid, secure internal infrastructure to ensure that your smart farming application performs well. It also needs to be able to handle the data load.

Data collection frequency

Safe and timely delivery of a wide variety of data types is one of the current challenges presented by smart farming. Data from aerial, environmental and field-based sensors along with tags on machinery and equipment all needs to be delivered timeously to allow farmers to make decisions based on this inter-related information.

Data security

IoT technology in agriculture implies working with large sets of data. This also means more potential security risks, such as data theft and hacking attacks. That’s why it’s important that all smart farming devices and applications are encrypted and secure.

CHAPTER 5
SMART FARMING TECHNIQUES

When it comes to the application of smart technology in agriculture, the opportunities are limitless. With the IoT, farmers can use their smartphones or any connected devices to monitor their equipment, crops, and livestock remotely. In doing so, they also gain valuable information and data on which to base immediate and future decision making.

Farm Security

£54m

Rural crime is a major problem worldwide, costing farmers productivity and profits. Smart technology has the potential to reduce theft and increase asset recovery rates. Here are some of the devices that farmers can use to secure their land and assets:

GPS Tags

For moveable assets

Tractor Guidance GPS Tags

Sense any tampering of GPS tractor tags

Perimeter Protection

Light beam sensors protect all openings

CCTV

Monitor key locations in real time

Electric Fence Theft Monitoring

Instant alerts if an electric fence is powered down or stolen

Monitoring and Recovery

Track down stolen assets

Motion Sensors

Notify of unauthorised movement of your assets

Pressure Pads

You’ll know immediately if an item has been moved

These connected sensors can send instant alerts straight to a farmer’s smartphone when any disruption occurs, helping them to take action swiftly.

Monitoring Climate Conditions

Some of the most widely used smarter agriculture devices include weather stations that combine data from various smart farming sensors. These sensors collect data about the environment and send it to the cloud, helping farmers to tailor their responses according to climate conditions.

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Livestock Monitoring

IoT technologies can help farmers monitor livestock health and location. Livestock tracking devices collect data on stock location, and livestock temperature monitoring devices can help farmers identify sick animals.

The benefits of livestock monitoring include:

  • Early disease detection and containment
  • Reduce vet and antibiotic spend
  • Early detection of movement or tampering
  • Quick recovery of stolen livestock
  • Reduced labour dependence
  • Expedite diagnosis and treatment
  • Accurately predict calving
  • Raise productivity

Greenhouse Automation

In the past, farmers have used manual interventions to control the greenhouse environment. By using IoT sensors, they can gain accurate real-time information on greenhouse conditions, including:

  • Lighting
  • Temperature
  • Soil condition
  • Humidity

Along with reporting on greenhouse condition data, smart weather stations can also use predefined settings (and machine learning) to automatically adjust the environmental conditions to match the given parameters.

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Crop Management

Crop management devices can be placed in the field to collect data specific to crop farming, including temperature, precipitation and overall crop health. Having this knowledge accessible at any time, from anywhere allows the farmer to monitor crop growth efficiently and take steps to prevent any unwanted outcomes.

Agricultural Drones

The use of agricultural drones has proved to be a massive advancement in smart farming. They can perform a vast array of tasks previously requiring human labour:

  • Surveillance capabilities
  • Planting crops
  • Fighting pests and infections
  • Agriculture spraying
  • Crop monitoring
  • Livestock monitoring
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farm monitoring dashboard icon

Crop Yield Optimisation

Real-time data taken from a smart agriculture solution can optimise crop yields by:

  • Using data such as moisture levels, soil quality and weather conditions to suggest a practical plan for harvesting.
  • Recommending preventive measures to decrease the chances of crop damage.
  • Optimising the productivity of individual plants through precision farming.

Soil Quality Monitoring

IoT sensors in the soil can identify the condition of the soil to help farmers apply precision farming techniques, optimise applications and conduct soil restoration where necessary. Soil quality is one of the defining factors in healthy crops and a good yield, so being able to understand soil conditions and optimise them allows farmers to reap significant benefits.

Smart tech uses cases
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Precision Farming

The use of IoT sensors allows farmers to collect a vast array of metrics and data to enable them to apply the optimal amounts of inputs such as water, fertilisers and pesticides. For example, using soil sensors to measure soil moisture, temperature, and nutrient density enables farmers to address the individual needs of each crop. The result of this is reduced costs and healthier crops. 

Along with precision farming, the data collected from IoT devices on the farm can be analysed to help farmers come up with important predictions regarding the risk of disease in livestock, crop harvesting times, reproductive cycles, yield volumes and more.

End-to-end Smart Farm Management

Bringing all of these IoT capabilities together is a farm productivity management system – a single, cloud-based dashboard that collects, analyses and reports on all the farm’s IoT devices and sensors. These systems offer remote farm monitoring capabilities and allow farmers to streamline their operations.

CHAPTER 6
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SMART FARMING AND PRECISION AGRICULTURE?

As technological innovations reshape the agricultural sector, the use of digital innovations has caused the emergence of new concepts such as precision farming and smart farming. Despite often being used interchangeably, these terms have a subtle difference in meaning.

What is Precision Agriculture?

The European Parliament’s report on precision agriculture defines precision agriculture as: “a modern farming management concept using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes”.

The key factor here is optimisation. For example, instead of applying equal amounts of fertilisers over an entire field, precision agriculture involves measuring soil variations within the fields and adapting the fertiliser strategy accordingly—optimising the fertiliser usage, which saves costs and reduces environmental impact.

What is Smart Agriculture?

Unlike precision farming, the focus of smart farming is not on precise measurements between variations in land and livestock conditions. Rather, smart agriculture focuses on accessing and applying data.

So, in fact, digital data gleaned from smart farming can be used to inform precision farming.

CHAPTER 7
THE GLOBAL SMART FARMING MARKET

Business Insider Intelligence projects there to be nearly 12 million agricultural sensors installed globally by 2023. Additionally, tech giant IBM estimates that the average farm can generate half a million data points per day – helping farmers to improve yields and increase profits.

USD 11.9 BILLION

Global smart agriculture market revenue in 2019.

USD 25.3 BILLION

Global smart agriculture market revenue predicted by 2027.

11.4%

Compound annual growth (CAGR) over the forecast period.

CHAPTER 8
SMART FARMING SOLUTIONS

Smarter Technologies’ simple, powerful technologies give farmers a detailed, full-scale view of assets, equipment, and livestock. Get a clear picture of what’s happening on the ground with constant data sent to connected devices 24/7.

MONITOR

TRACK

RECOVER

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Highly-effective monitoring, tracking, and recovery of farm equipment/assets

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Five kilometre tracking range

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Notifications when anything is out of the norm

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Continuous readings on temperature, gas, humidity, pH, smoke detection, water & fuel levels

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GPS tracking collars for grazing livestock

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Bolus for constant livestock temperature monitoring

Simple, Smart Digital Transformation For Farms

At Smarter Technologies, our farming solutions are designed around the daily realities faced by farmers in the security of their premises, assets, and livestock – and in achieving competitive advantage through smart digital solutions. Simple, cost-effective, powerful smart technologies are unlocking a new age of precision farming. Smarter Technologies’ smart agriculture security and herd management solutions give you a unique, granular, whole-farm view.

A system of tags, sensors, pressure pads, gateways, and cutting- edge herd management tools combine to create a digital ecosystem which can be remotely monitored in real-time. This empowers immediate response to security breaches, asset and equipment tampering, livestock status and location, and crop management.

If it Can Be Monitored, it Can Be Managed

WATER/FUEL LEVELCATTLE BOLUSCATTLE COLLARTEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY SENSORTRACTOR GUIDANCE GPS TAGS
GATE SENSORSPERIMETER SENSORSCCTVMOTION SENSORSSMOKE DETECTORS

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Tailored Visibility Delivered to Your Personal Smart Farming Dashboard

Smarter Technologies’ agricultural solutions deliver reports to a user-friendly dashboard, which you can access remotely from connected smart devices. This powers your response to alerts and gives you a full-farm overview – from safety and security to livestock health – any time of the day or night.

Speak to a smart farming expert

Contact Smarter Technologies today to find out more about the technologies which will define the farms of tomorrow.


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