Light Sensors: Usage in Smart Farming

Al Ardh Alkhadra > Blog > Agriculture > Light Sensors: Usage in Smart Farming

Farmers all across the globe need to ramp up the production of food to meets the needs of the growing world’s population. The technological advancements in the past decade have moved out of the laboratory phases to commercial productions(commercial farming). To achieve this, light sensors or optical sensors are being used to ensure proper soil management and increase the efficiency of farms. Additionally, it also offsets the shortage of labor in agriculture.

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The population and income are the biggest drivers of food demand, which continues to rise. The world’s population will go from 7.4 billion in 2016 to 9.1 billion by 2050. The aging farmers will eventually leave. Subsequently, they will be replaced with a shortage of young farmers. The consolidation of farms is expected, and the model is forecasted to move from a one-person operation to medium-large scale business. All these factors point towards a shortage of farmers in the long run.

What is are Light Sensors?

A light sensor or optical sensor converts light rays into an electronic signal. The optical sensor measures a quantity of light and, depending on the type of sensor, then translates it into a form that is read by an integrated measuring device.

Light Sensors are used for contact-less counting, detection, or positioning of parts. Moreover, you can have external as well as internal optical sensors. External sensors gather and transmit a required quantity of light. While internal sensors are most often used to measure the bends and other minor changes in direction.

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Machine learning and vision now allow robots to see and train using their surroundings. Due to the lower costs of intelligent sensors, they are being deployed more than ever before. We are still in the very early stages of an agriculture robotics revolution, with most smart devices being in early trial phases and R&D mode.

Light Sensors use light to measure soil properties, measuring various frequencies of light reflectance in near-infrared, mid-infrared, and polarized light spectrums. These sensors can be placed on drones or vehicles which allows plant color data and soil reflectance – data gathering and processing. Optical sensors can determine the clay, organic matter, and moisture content of the soil. Even temperature sensor can be beneficial for the plants.

Light Sensors – Meeting the Challenge of the Farming Industry

The agriculture industry is implementing technology at a breakneck speed when it comes to increasing food production significantly. One of the critical areas is soil management and soil fertility. There has been a significant improvement in the monitoring systems, which feature the latest plant-growth sensors. In addition, there are sensors such as soil moisture sensors, and for microclimate tracking.

Data from these sensors are transmitted to mobile devices and computers for immediate action. The technology has led to the reduction of usage of chemicals and thereby lowering environmental impact. 

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Light sensors measure and record data about crops and soil in real-time by using the reflection of light shined on growing plants. The sensors can tell applicators to apply less nitrogen to healthy plants and more nitrogen to weaker, unhealthy plants. Since the technology is not based on ambient light, you can use the optical sensors day and night.

Light Sensors and Nitrogen Rate

Organic material is a significant source of nitrogen in the soil. The more organic material that’s present, the more nitrogen the soil produces. Because organic matter concentrations vary, nitrogen availability in the soil varies greatly. Poor drainage and uneven moisture distribution lead to denitrification. Optical sensors can determine the nitrogen rate by monitoring crop vigor based on plant biomass and nitrogen content. 

Optical sensors measure soil properties by detecting the different frequencies of light reflectance in near-infrared, mid-infrared, and polarized light spectrums. You can place sensors on vehicles, drones, aerial platforms, and satellites. The drone then collect and process soil reflectance and plant color data for further analysis. Optical sensors can determine the clay, organic matter, and moisture content of the soil. Optical sensors in agriculture can improve soil and crop quality. 

Light Sensors -Machine Vision and Agricultural Imagery 

Artificial intelligence can tell the farmers what types of weed are attacking their crops and that too in real-time via smart farming methods. In the past, farmers would respond with the use of several different types of pesticides and herbicides. But, there are several factors, ranging from species of weeds to diseases to pests on the weed, which can affect herbicide choice.

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Aerial Images

The farmers can use drones to capture multispectral imagery over fields. Drones can cover about tens of thousands of acres on a daily basis. The sharp image resolutions can allow counting of insects on a single leaf. Additionally, the Deep learning engines use mathematical models and cloud-based computing and data in the form of millions of examples of crop health issues.

Population of Plants

Machine vision in agriculture is used for detecting plant positions, row length, row spacing, calculate plant emergence and compare data with planting date. Consequently, farmers can receive data on canopy cover, stand count, plant height, and through out the season. Additionally, the farmers even know flower count, average tree diameter, and more without even stepping into the field.

Detection of Weeds

As machine vision systems are scanning farms frequently, they can detect weeds in near real-time. Consequently, as a weed emerges, artificial intelligence can classify the weed and evaluate its potential threat to the yield. With this information, the farmers can target specific weeds and create customized herbicide solutions. Subsequently, Machine vision can detect the effectiveness of the herbicide and detect resistant weeds left in the field.

Diseases and Insects

Computer vision systems identify as well as categorize top relevant diseases. Systems also detect physical damage caused by the pests and insects. Farmers get notifications about the adverse field conditions at real-time. Subsequently, the system can keep track of the infestation or the spread of disease and notify farmers of any ongoing threat. Consequently, it helps in elimination of the industry’s traditional time-consuming and expensive practices.

Growth Issues

Artificial Intelligence and Machine vision systems analyze the crop and farmland images. As a result, these instruments take images close to the sowing time. This allows easy detection of growth issues before it’s too late to re-sow or correct underlying problems. Subsequently, an extensive, ongoing scan of the entire field provides data on the operation without costly, manual scouting procedures.

Light Sensor – Yara N-Sensor 

The Yara N-Sensor is a real-time variable-rate nitrogen sensor which allows farmers to measure crop’s nitrogen requirement as the fertilizer spreader passes across the field and variably adjusts the fertilizer application rate. Thus ensuring that the plant gets the right and optimal rate of fertilizer at each part of the field.

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This has become the benchmark technology for precision agriculture. The N-Sensor determines crop nitrogen status by measuring crop canopies’ light reflectance properties and enabling variable-rate fertilization “on the go.”

Light Sensor – Trimble GreenSeeker

Trimble’s GreenSeeker handheld crop sensor is an easy-to-use measurement and affordable device. You can use it to assess the health of a crop to make better nutrient management decisions on your farm. You can use the GreenSeeker handheld to take a reading of your crop’s health instantly.

The farmer use these readings to make non-subjective decisions regarding the amount of fertilizer required for  the crop. This would result in more efficient use of fertilizer. This serves beneficial to both farmer and the environment.

  • The sensor emits brief bursts of red and infrared light and then measures the amount of each type of light reflected from the plant.
  • It continues to sample the scanned area as long as the trigger remains engaged.
  • Subsequently, the sensor shows the measured value of an NDVI reading on its LCD display.
  • The strength of the detected light is a direct indicator of the health of the crop; the higher the reading, the healthier the plant
  • High-quality optical sensor instantly measures the plant vigor
  • Easy-to-read display, even in sunlight
  • Simple pull-type trigger and comfortable hand grip
  • Micro USB charging port

Light Sensor – AgLeader Optix

Optix Crop Sensors measure and record data about crop health in real-time. The sensor uses the reflectance of light emitted on the growing plants. Subsequently Optix system then determines the vigor of the crop or the Vegetative Index.

As a result, sensors obtain readings of crop conditions in a field and compare high crop vigor plants to the rest of the area. Optix uses two crop vigor algorithms, NDVI and NDRE.

 Optix Crop Sensors address the challenges associated with weather and soil matter variability. It targets nitrogen investment directly by applying higher rates in areas that will respond favorably to more nitrogen and reducing rates in the nitrogen-rich regions.

In manure used fields, it accounts for the variability of nitrogen caused by fluctuating nitrogen concentrations within the waste and the limitations associated with manure spreading equipment. Optix provides a proven variable rate nitrogen prescription every year. 

Bottom Line

There is a very wide range of optical sensors applied in agriculture, which varies from sensors used to analyze soil attributes to sensors installed in combines to measure protein content in wheat grains while they are being harvested. The optical sensors from a short distance are able to measure the agricultural crop’s reflectance using specific wavelengths. These sensors have been very effective in weed detection.
Over the years, commercial sensors are available to farmers to make real-time application of nitrogen, growth-regulators and desiccants.

2 thoughts on “Light Sensors: Usage in Smart Farming

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