Why IoT in Agriculture?

The world population is growing rapidly. Having grown from one billion in 1800 to 7 billion in 2012, it is assumed that the world population will surpass 9.6 billion in 2050. A projected 2.5 billion increase in the world’s population will trigger a food shortage unless significant innovations are made in the agricultural sector.

The agricultural sector, as well as the individual farmer, will have to make significant efforts to cope with this pressure. The main obstacles will be rising energy prices, falling groundwater levels due to unsustainable abstraction and irrigation, scarcity of arable land and increasing regulation by the authorities. The Internet of Things, in synergy with other technologies, could be used to maximize yields and minimize costs, guarantee consistent product quality, optimize water consumption and minimize the environmental footprint of a farm and even the entire supply chain.

Use Cases of Smart Farming

Crop Management

Crop management involves the observation, measurement, and control of crops and equipment. It uses weather data, data from air and soil analysis and other factors.

The resulting analytical model can be used by farmers to make more informed decisions about the cultivation, rearing, harvesting, and transport of crops.

IBM estimates that 90% of all crop failures are caused by the weather and that the use of crop management technologies could reduce crop failures by up to 25%. Read more about IBM Smarter Farms.

Livestock and fishery management

Livestock management includes more than just simple tracking of the place of stay. A wide range of information such as obtaining accurate information on health status and well-being, stress levels, reproductive data such as conception readiness and many more could lead to more efficient and animal-friendly agriculture. At the same time, valuable data on the possibility of an outbreak of disease will lead to reduced use of medication and a reduction in the likelihood of the occurrence of multi-resistant germs.

Smart logistics

Over 20% of the world’s food production is destroyed due to transport or storage errors. These losses occur at various points in the supply chain, whether due to delays in transport (in particular for perishable products) or improper storage, which can lead to pest infestation.

An analysis by PwC has shown that M2M solutions can reduce food waste by about 10 to 15% annually. This amount of food could feed Kenya’s population for a year.

Smart Farming IoT-Technologies

Source: GSMA – Agricultural machine-to-machine (Agri M2M): a platform for expansion

Like other IoT systems, smart farming consists of multiple layers – device domain, network domain and application domain.

  • Device domain – Sensors & modules
  • Network domain – How data is transported
  • Application domain – analyzing collected data to make better decisions

We will not go into the different devices in more detail, because there is a very large variety. However, the criteria that these machines have to meet are very similar in the field of smart farming.

These devices are regularly or permanently exposed to moisture, extreme temperature fluctuations, dirt, wind and storms, and other environmental influences. Therefore, they must be designed to be extremely resistant to hostile environmental conditions. Since many IoT devices are generally not suitable for such conditions, they must be adapted. It is likely that manufacturers will specialize in the production of M2M equipment for the agricultural sector.

Connecting the farm to the Internet of Things

Source: GSMA – Agricultural M2M: a platform for expansion

About 85% of the world’s population has access to a mobile network, but coverage is extremely focused on densely populated areas. However, farms are naturally located in rural areas where network coverage is not always guaranteed. In particular, countries that are not industrialized are faced with the challenge of keeping pace with their agricultural production.

M2M modules used in the agricultural sector must be very reliable, efficient in power consumption and, above all, inexpensive. This use case is perfectly covered by LPWA (low power wide area) networks. If you want to know more details about LPWAs, read our short article about different networks we have written.

You can also check out Freeeways M2M/IoT-Sim Card for Smart Farming.