February 08, 2022

IoT in Agriculture: How Smart Farming Changes the Industry

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The agriculture industry shares 4% of the global GDP since 2000, so it becomes the driving force for global economies. However, farming faces many challenges. Climate change, soil erosion, water scarcity have affected the pace of both massive agricultural enterprises and small organic farmers. 

In the article, you’ll learn about how the Internet of Things shapes the future of agriculture by improving soils, decreasing water consumption, and making farming operations easier. As a custom software development company, Coreteka contributes to enabling IoT technologies in agriculture. Make sure to examine our use case below in the article. 

What is smart farming and how do IoT applications work in agriculture? 

Smart farming is a concept of high-tech agricultural management, empowered with technologies like IoT, autonomous vehicles, machine learning, etc. The technological approach enables agricultural production quantity and quality growth, human labor optimization, and environmental impact minimization. Smart farming provides time-saving and cost-effective solutions for the industry, changing the way we think about the farming sector. 

AgriTech and smart farming are implementation areas for IoT in agriculture. The first one refers to various software, establishing the agribusinesses’ operational workflow. Smart farming, or smart agriculture, is linked to IoT devices and sensors to gather data and process it automatically. They perform farming activities independently or facilitate decision-making for farmers.

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What challenges can solve IoT in the agriculture market

Now farmers face challenges like water and soil pollution, erosion, water scarcity, and so on. However, the agriculture industry is reinventing its approaches to land management. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how crucial farming automation is while lowering staff involvement. 

We’ve gathered information on the industry’s biggest challenges to describe how IoT solutions are assisting in overcoming them.

Farmers lose more and more agricultural land

The less agricultural land is, the harder it becomes for farmers to carry out their activities and supply the population with food. Soil erosion and land degradation are major causes of agricultural fields loss. Erosion can be caused by both natural factors, when wind and water remove soil and rock from one location to another, and some farming practices, such as overgrazing and intensive land plowing. As a result, the soil becomes unproductive. Erosion also leads to biodiversity decline that adversely affects the pollination of the crop.

As the urbanization processes accelerate, the land area transforms into highways and residential communities. While available farming land becomes inaccessible, farmers lose their capacity to cultivate plants and breed livestock. Therefore, it’s expected food value will grow up. 

Climate changes push farmers to adjust to new conditions

Weather conditions play a crucial role in crops cultivation. However, as forecasts are constantly inaccurate, farmers can barely control climate change. 

Dry ground checks crops growth, while wet conditions cause rotting, and hot weather leads to plants withering. Severe early or late frosts cause great crop losses. Natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, landslides, floods affect not only one harvest but have a long-term impact.

Technologies like IoT help farmers adapt to climate change, using more accurate tools for weather forecasting. They can process a large amount of information about crop seasons in a certain region and in such a way provide farmers with long-term weather forecasts.

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Agro-industry faces a hard choice on how to supply the growing population with food and meet consumers’ expectations

In developed countries, people aspire to get food of higher quality. Society also expects farmers to reduce their environmental impacts and minimize chemical pesticides usage. To meet the demand, farmers have to adjust approaches to make their products eco-friendly and thereby attractive to consumers.

In developing countries, the situation radically differs. As their population is actively growing, farmers require to reinvent their activities to feed more people. It’s an issue of global importance. The UN estimates that the world population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030. So global food production should increase as well.

To supply the population with a sufficient volume of quality products, farmers have to use modern technologies. So IoT application in agriculture is only a matter of time.

Environmental concerns matter

Scientists and society are now concerned about the impact of farming on the environment. It’s nothing new that 12% of greenhouse gas emissions, that cause climate change, are produced by agriculture. Many people protest against certain farming practices. They claim livestock breeding contaminates water, and pesticides and insecticides reduce biodiversity and contribute to soil pollution. It makes many farmers change their crop production and animal breeding methods.

There is no point denying that agriculture affects the environment. However, it works vice versa. The agribusiness productivity and profitability rely on environmental conditions such as soil, water, weather, humidity, and so on. It is impossible to achieve good harvests without high-quality soil, no matter how hard farmers work for it. Smart technologies can both slow down the climate change process by using environmentally friendly methods and help farmers to deal with unfavorable conditions. While the climate is dry, simple irrigation isn’t enough. It is necessary to analyze the plant’s needs, define the irrigation regime, and water amount. IoT solutions, such as crop management systems, resolve this issue. 

Farming as an occupation attracts fewer young workers

Until the 20th century, many people lived on farms and were engaged in agriculture. Later, many of them moved to cities in search of high-paying jobs and better living standards. The process is continuing, especially standing for youth. According to the 2017 USDA census, the American farmers’ average age is 57 years. Moreover, the tendency is the same for many countries, while agriculture is now even more important than ever.

Farming seems unattractive, as there is a perception the industry is outdated and low-tech. However, technologies like machine learning, autonomous vehicles, robotics, and IoT, are used in agriculture and becoming familiar worldwide. Innovations draw the attention of technology-savvy young people, assembling farmers’ efficiency. For example, in some African countries, millennials empower farms with innovations to enhance crop yields.

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Empowering IoT in agriculture: case studies

There are thousands of IoT sensors and applications for the agriculture market. However, as every farm is unique by its specifics, landscape, and soil type, it requires distinct approaches to innovations implementing. 

The most outstanding high-tech IoT solutions for the agriculture market are listed below.

Greenhouse automation, climate conditions monitoring and crop management: new approaches to plant cultivation

Generally, farmers control conditions in a greenhouse manually, while IoT sensors enable them to control irrigation and set the optimal lighting remotely. Climate conditions monitoring empowers weather stations across fields by gathering information from the environment and sending it to the cloud tools. So, when enabling IoT sensors solutions, farmers can receive real-time data on humidity, temperature, lighting level, soil conditions both in greenhouses and fields. 

Other IoT applications are crop management devices. Sensors also collect data on temperature, soil quality, humidity level, crop health. So farmers can regulate crop growth and avoid crop diseases or other factors that can harm the harvest. While collecting and processing data, farmers easily estimate harvest time.

The sensors can be used separately or in combination with other solutions, like GPS, aerial, and satellite imagery. The complex approach is also called precision agriculture, or precision farming. You can learn more about it in our previous article. Accurate data enable farmers to decide on the amount of water and fertilizer needed by the plants. This approach reduces costs and minimizes environmental impacts.

Monitor and manage your livestock remotely

IoT sensors are perfectly implemented in monitoring livestock health and recording their productivity. Devices or tages are applied to different animals’ body parts to collect real-time data on their health and well-being (e.g, temperature monitoring sensors on collars), as well as on their physical location on the farm. In this way, farmers identify sick animals and separate them from the herd to avoid infecting the entire livestock. This enables farm operations automation and increases profits by staffing costs reduction. Moreover, implementing IoT allows to monitor water levels, deliver feedstuff to livestock automatically. 

However, when installing sensors, farmers should find the optimal spot to not disturb livestock, as well as provide the power source for devices.

Agricultural drones as the best farmer’s assistants

Agricultural drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) are one of the most promising innovations in smart agriculture using IoT. Many issues, such as lack of irrigation, poor soil condition, pest infestations, can be identified from above. However, drones can be even more useful than just making observations for further decision-making by farmers. They can accomplish a wide range of tasks that previously could be performed only by humans. Crops planting, pests controlling, water and fertilizer management are just a shortlist of drones options. Moreover, unmanned aerial vehicles are also a great solution to track livestock and survey fences. So farmers can transfer part of their activities to drones and focus on higher priority tasks.

Making forecasts for better farming: predictive analytics and farm management systems

Precision farming is interconnected to predictive data analytics. IoT sensors enable real-time data gathering, while analytics provides farmers with smart forecasting for yield volume, crop harvesting time, unfavorable weather conditions. In this way, agriculture evolves predictably, so farmers mitigate major risk factors.

Farm productivity management systems provide the most complex approach to using IoT in the agriculture market. It is more than just IoT devices and sensors but an analytical and reporting dashboard. Farm productivity management systems enable most agricultural operations optimization. 

In the view of the above, IoT solutions change the way agribusiness operates, bringing benefits to soil and livestock management. Coreteka makes its special contribution to smart farming evolving. Explore our simple use case below.

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IoT solution by Coreteka: remote control app for mechanical machines

Quite recently, a small-sized startup came to us to consult on implementation of a solution to replace radio control for their machines. The idea was to create an iOS and Android app that connects to farming equipment via Bluetooth. After discussing with the client, our team has determined the primary solution functionality. The app would enable to control machine driving by a smartphone. Moreover, we suggested adding a feature to connect multiple machines to one device. The client appreciated it. It was decided to use Java and Kotlin to develop the app for Android, Swift and Objective C for iOS. Despite the seeming simplicity, every farmworker would easily control machines, enabling crop processing speed.

Looking for a custom-made solution to empower your agriculture operations? Talk to our innovation manager. 

Frequently asked questions about smart farming and IoT in agriculture

📌 Is it difficult to implement IoT in the agriculture industry?

It is a common misconception. It’s not as difficult as it seems. Trying IoT devices, an agribusiness will appreciate their usage and installation convenience. For example, a farmer shouldn’t make complicated calculations for water and nutrient usage. Everything will be calculated and delivered to plants automatically.

📌 Can IoT in smart agriculture help a business to cut costs?

Yes, IoT devices can help agribusinesses to save money in many ways. For example, using automated irrigation scheduling reduces the need for staff. In-field sensors analyze the plant’s needs, giving exactly what they need, and cutting costs on water and fertilizers.

📌 How to implement an effective IoT solution in agriculture?

If you rely on applying IoT solutions in your workflow, just make sure to define clear objectives before contacting a software development company. Then you should ensure a stable internet connection for data exchange. Last but not least: decide on data updates frequency. Depending on your business goals, you may need to gather data once a day or week.

Conclusions: IoT shapes the way farmers work 

When accelerating technologies, agribusinesses gain a competitive advantage and increase their revenue. Moreover, the introduction of IoT-based smart agriculture systems enables global problem resolution, dealing with the global food crisis, water scarcity, and soil pollution. Smart farming and precision agriculture enable productivity growth and agriculture sector sustainability. Technologies assist farmers in adapting to the changing weather conditions and prevent losses of crops and livestock. They also reduce the natural resources usage and atmosphere pollution caused by agriculture. So, IoT makes farming more efficient and reduces the environmental footprint of the agriculture industry. 

Still have questions on how to implement IoT solutions in agriculture? Talk to our experts.