Smart Agriculture – The Need of the Hour

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The world population is estimated to reach 8.5 billion by 2030. The rapid growth in the world population has led to an exponential increase in food consumption globally. This has thrown a challenge of rapid escalation in food production to cater to this growing demand. 

One of the oldest industries, agriculture, has evolved so far to the age, which can be termed as The Third Green Revolution. In parallel, we are also witnessing rapid technological advancement in information and communication technology (ICT). 

In recent years, there has been tremendous progress in applying ICT in agriculture, which has led to sustainable agricultural production. Smart agriculture involves integrating advanced technologies with rural practices to boost production quality and efficiency for farming products. 

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What is Smart Agriculture?

It is a recent concept that refers to managing farmlands using modern information and communication technologies to increase the quality and quantity of products while optimizing the use of human labor. 

It is currently available includes the following technological components, namely sensors, software, connectivity, location trackers, robotics as well as data analytics. 

It is based on the three basic pillars, namely, autonomous robotic labor, sensors and the internet of things (IoT). Most of the farming technologies currently employed and the ones that are imminent can be classified into one of the three pillars mentioned above. 

These advanced technology and tools based on them help the farmers to monitor field conditions without even going to the field and make strategic decisions for a single plant or the whole farm.

The basis of smart farming is IoT - connecting smart machines and sensors integrated on farms to make farming processes data-enabled and data-driven.

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Why is Smart Agriculture the Future?

It is a very new term, and the majority of people are not familiar with what exactly is technology. But the concept is fast gaining popularity and it will be the future of farming. 

The term refers to the usage of hi-tech technologies like sensors, Internet of Things or IoT technologies, precision agriculture, location systems, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robots on your farmlands. 

The ultimate goal is to increase the quality and crop yield while optimizing the human labor used.

Example technologies used in this method are:

  • Sensors – for the soil, light, water, moisture, for temperature management
  • Irrigation control, precision farming and precise plant nutrition
  • Climate management and control in greenhouses
  • Location systems – GPS, satellite, etc
  • Software platforms –specialized software solutions based on IoT solutions and platforms
  • Communication systems – based on mobile connection, etc
  • Robotics – autonomous tractors, processing facilities, etc.
  • Analytics and optimization platforms – standalone analytics solutions, data pipelines for downstream solutions, etc.

The connection between all the above mentioned technologies is the Internet of Things or IoT. This is a mechanism for connecting between sensors and machines, resulting in a complex system that manages your farmland based on data received. 

With the help of this system, farmers can monitor the processes on their farms and take strategic decisions remotely. 

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Smart Agriculture – Processes Taking Place on a Farm

1 Data collection

The sensors are installed at all critical places on the farm. These sensors gather and transmit data about the soil, air, etc which are used as important input data in agriculture. 

2 Diagnostics

The data collected from various systems are analyzed by the system. Then conclusions are made regarding the status of the object or process monitored. Potential problems can easily be identified by this process.

3 Decision making

Based on the problems identified in the diagnostics steps, the software platform or the person managing the platform decides on actions that need to be taken.

4 Actions

The actions identified by the system or the manager are performed. A new measurement on the soil, moisture, air, etc is performed by the sensors and the whole cycle starts again.

The result from this automated smart farming process is of high precision and 24/7 control. This eventually leads to considerable savings in all key resources used – energy, water, fertilizers, time spent by strategic people, time spent by human resources.

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Role of Robotics

Mechanical weeding, application of fertilizers, or harvesting of fruits are being done by autonomous, robotic vehicles developed specifically for farming purposes. The development of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly termed drones, prove to be a game-changer for the agriculture industry.

Drones with autonomous flight control, along with lightweight and powerful hyperspectral snapshot cameras opens the field for sophisticated farm management advice. The hyperspectral cameras are being used to calculate biomass development and fertilization status of crops, 

The farmers differentiate between plant diseases based on optical information and the decision-tree models are available now. Cattle herd management is being done by virtual fence technologies. These technologies are based on remote-sensing signals and sensors or actuators attached to the livestock.

All these technologies taken together constitute a technological revolution that is generating disruptive changes in agricultural practices.

This trend holds for farming in both developed countries and developing countries, where deployments in ICT are being adopted at a rapid pace. This trend can become a game-changer in the future.

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Role of Automation

Automated farming along with the collection of data for further analysis, provides the operator with accurate information. This assists in making better decisions to gain high-quality output of the product. 

A technically advanced farming management system is rooted in observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variables in products.

Research in agriculture is going on to formalise a decision making support system for farm management. 

This system will optimize and examine how high-tech farming can aid the production output and focus on preserving resources.

It is targeting to reduce the heavy workload of farmworkers. They plan to achieve this by providing them with the benefits of technological advancements. This will also help in improving the quality of life. 

It is necessary to address the issues of population growth, climate change and labor. These factors have gained a lot of technological attention, from planting and watering crops to health and harvesting.

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Learn more about the use of Light Sensors in Smart Farming here.

Smart Agriculture – Autonomous and Robotic Labor

Automation replacing human labor is a significant development across industries, agriculture being no exception. The goal of autonomous incorporation of robotics into agriculture is to suspend manual labor dependence and boost efficiency, product quality, and output.

IoT support in the farm’s infrastructure is essential for the machines and the sensors to interface with the farmer, even as they operate autonomously and is the key feature to the “smart” farming system. Autonomous robotic labor, tractors, drones are more capable and self-sufficient, and cameras, GPS, and IoT connectivity enable remote monitoring and operation. High-end tech towards driverless machinery programmed by the GPS to spread fertilizer. 

Seeding machines for sowing, which cover more ground faster than a human. Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI) method that allows farmers to control the required amount of water. Drones for imaging, planting, and spraying enable farmers to collect more information to monitor crop health, optimizing every aspect of their farming.

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Profits for Farmers

It is more profitable for the farmer. Decreasing the resource inputs will save the farmer money and labour. The spatially explicit data will reduce risks and increase reliability. Optimal and site-specific weather forecasts, yield projections will optimally allow the cultivation of crops. 

The probability maps for diseases and disasters based on dense weather and climate data networks will be extremely helpful. Site-specific information also enables new insurance and business opportunities for the entire value chain. 

This value chain comprises technology and input suppliers to farmers, processors, and the retail sector in both developing and developed societies. If automated sensors record all farming-related data, the time needed for prioritizing the application of resources and for administrative surveillance will be red.

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