With the global population expected to rise by 2 billion over the next 30 years, the agriculture industry is under increased pressure to meet the projected increase in food supply demand. The good news is that technology is currently playing an important role to help meet the current and future demand. How? Using smart farming.
Smart farming involves the utilization of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) to agricultural processes, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and actuators, GPS, big data, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and robotics.
These smart farming technologies address rising demand for fresh produce, farmers’ labor shortage problems, and the need to manage natural resources more efficiently. This increased reliance on advanced technologies is seen by industry experts as the fourth agricultural revolution.
In fact, smart farming is a solution that is gaining traction in the agricultural industry: it is expected to reach a global valuation of USD 34.1 billion by 2026. Continue reading to learn more about smart farming, including the technologies used, the benefits it offers, and how it varies from traditional agricultural practices.
An Overview of Smart Farming
Smart farming, also known as precision agriculture, uses IoT-based hardware and cloud-based software, also known as Software-as-a-Service, to collect historical, geographical, and instrumental data, and to provide advanced analytics to manage all agriculture activities – from crop selection, field tilling, planting, to harvesting. Because of the technologies used in smart farming, data collected covers all areas of field operations, and is always accessible through cloud-based software.
Advantages of Smart Farming
Smart farming makes agricultural processes more seamless, which results in:
- Reduced overall costs. Data-driven analyses provided by smart farming technologies allow farmers to know how and where to use fertilizers and pesticides, thereby reducing the overuse of available resources.
- Improved produce quality and quantity. Smart farming empowers farmers to detect irregularities in crop growth, which can ultimately help in eliminating the risks of output loss. A smart farming system focuses on maintaining the field’s optimum condition, and keeps necessary parameters in place to offer adequate support for the targeted crop.
- Increased agricultural sustainability. Due to efficiencies brought about by smart farming processes and data analyses, farmers can better manage crops based on the demand forecast, thereby reducing waste. It also allows delivery of goods to market just in time.
- Better control over field operations. Through smart farming, multiple automated operations can be activated at the same time, which assists in labor workforce concerns in the agricultural sector.
Traditional Farming VS Smart Farming
|A region-wide, frequently unscientific, uniform set of agricultural methods.
|There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every farm is assessed to determine the best crop types and input ratios for maximum profitability.
|Application of pesticides and fertilizers across the entire farming area are not backed by data.
|Promotes the early diagnosis of plant diseases and the use of pesticides solely in the afflicted area to save unnecessary costs.
|Farmers manually read, collect, and interpret all operational and financial data separately, which creates difficulties and loss of data.
|There are no time-consuming manual records. All agricultural data is stored remotely on a digital platform.
|Important geo-tagging and zone detection farming technologies are not achievable.
|Smart farming involves the use of satellite imaging, LIDAR, and sensors to detect and visualize the various areas in the field.
|There are no effective practices for predicting the weather.
|It has the ability to provide accurate weather forecasts, which helps farmers make the most of their resources and reduce waste.
|Farmers will employ simple instruments in the absence of smart agricultural devices. This can make farming time-consuming and labor-intensive.
|Farm task automation, including the use of AI and robotic technologies, can significantly boost productivity and efficiency.
Smart Farming Technologies
We have now established that available systems that form part of smart farming have the capacity to record and interpret data, that brings about efficient farming processes and improved outputs. Let’s now delve into the available smart farming equipment and what it does for farmers:
Robotics And Artificial Intelligence
The integration of robotics in smart farming has grown prominence in recent years. Today, AI is being used in various robotics technologies, such as harvester robots, weeders, and autonomous tractors.
This is expected to further escalate in the coming years. Case in point: the global agricultural robotics market is estimated to reach USD 11.9 billion by 2026, growing at a 19.3 percent compound annual growth rate.
Autonomous tractors, in particular, have shown to be a helpful tool in addressing productivity issues and labor shortages. This is because autonomous tractors can run independently 24/7 with little to no monitoring, and can cover far more ground than traditional human tractors. A single operator can command a fleet of autonomous tractors remotely, resulting in efficient usage of farmer resources.
Agricultural drones or UAVs with sensors and cameras are used for imaging, mapping, and surveying farms and fields. These can be operated remotely or fly autonomously using agriculture software-controlled flight plans in their integrated systems.
These systems can work in tandem with sensors and GPS to further survey the land and give farmers usable agricultural data. These include crop health, irrigation, treatment, seeding, soil and field, crop counts and yield forecast, among others. Having these data sets is crucial in making informed decisions to make smart farming operations more profitable and cost effective.
There are now various IoT-based remote sensors that can be used for farming operations. One example of this are those sensors installed on farm weather stations, which can collect data, such as moisture, temperatures, and dew detection. These data sets are then communicated to analytical software tools, which can aid in determining weather patterns in farms.
Other sensors can also monitor crop changes, which help in early detection and mitigation of potential crop health problems.
The most recent sensor technologies in smart farming are also capable of conducting soil quality tests, which can assist in determining drier sections of a field, the capacity of the soil to drain water, or the acidity of the soil. Farm owners are given the ability to make timely adjustments, interventions, and improvements when they have access to such a comprehensive data set.
Radars And Cameras
Sensor cameras that are usually mounted at various points throughout the farm, drones, or autonomous tractors, provide detailed computer imaging. These cameras can provide farmers with a birds-eye view and 360 field vision, which enables them to obtain a better grasp of the condition in their fields.
The images acquired are usually digitally processed to yield relevant insights that can help farmers in getting a clearer picture of their fields. Machine learning technologies are used in image processing to evaluate the size, shape, color, and growth of standing crops by comparing photos from a database with images of the crops themselves, with the end goal of ultimately managing the quality of produce. These images are also used for crop disease detection, irrigation monitoring, and post-harvest sorting and grading of products.
Smarter Future For Agriculture
Farming has developed tremendously through the continuous developments in agricultural technologies. Smart farming and IoT-driven agriculture, such as precision equipment, IoT sensors and actuators, geo-positioning systems, UAVs, and robots are setting the framework for a fourth green revolution.
Smart farming technologies provide farmers with the infrastructure they need to harness data effectively, and to track, monitor, automate, and analyze operations. These tools help farmers have better control of agricultural processes to decrease production risks and improve the ability to predict production results, allowing farmers to better plan and distribute goods.
Because of the enormous potential of smart farming, it will be critical in sustaining the world’s burgeoning population and the growing demand for increased crop output.
Subscribe to the Bear Flag newsletter to receive regular updates and news about autonomous tractor technology.