Agricultural Applications of IoT

The IOT technology is influencing  all aspects of life and transforming all the industrial fields and agriculture is no exception. IOT tech has had a positive impact as a result of the low cost of the devices and pervasiveness of the cellular network coverage across the world including rural areas as well. The simplicity of the implementation, near zero maintenance requirement and low operating costs make it very attractive. The cost benefit ratio will depend on size of the farm, value of grain and other infrastructure. 

The technology allows farmers, cattle raisers stay connected with their fields, storage and animal shelters. Installation of appropriate sensors gives farmers the advantage to remotely monitor actual conditions on the field on real time basis rather than relying on forecasts or meteorology reports of weather Apps. Battery powered environment sensors accurately monitor wind data, rain, ambient air temperature, humidity and pressure. Similarly, smart soil sensors convey data on soil temperature, volumetric moisture content and based on these data transmitted from the fields periodically help farmers regulate irrigation, optimize manpower, and take appropriate action for crop protection. These data collected over longer periods would help develop trends and aid in long term planning related to planting and harvesting schedules.

The temperature, humidity and moisture content is crucial for safe storage of grains in silos to prevent decay due to bacterial activity. Installation of smart sensors to monitor these parameters and level sensors help monitor stock quantity and health. Battery operated sensors that monitor intrusions and raise alarms in case of unauthorized opening of warehouse doors or fencing gates or breaching of fences could prevent animal thefts and any similar criminal activities. 

The IOT solution can be extended to manage the operation of the pumps, irrigation system, heating / drying system for the grain storage, interior and exterior lighting, and any other infrastructure on location. The irrigation pump operation interval, quantity and other parameters can be automated and remotely monitored. The tank levels of animal feed, water storage for irrigation could also be monitored as part of the same IOT solution. Livestock could also be tagged using smart collars to monitor their health and movement. Establishment of an electronic geo-fence can raise alarms and help respond quickly in case of animal thefts.

Sensors for such applications are generally battery operated and wireless capable. The sensor data is aggregated at each farm location in a Gateway. The Gateway establishes a wireless link with the sensors and also acts as the uplink to the cloud either through cellular network or ethernet if available. In very remote locations beyond the cellular network option of satellite link is available. Once installed there is hardly any maintenance required other than battery replacement for the sensors. The battery life is usually upwards of one year and will vary depending on the sensing and transmission intervals. The options are many and the benefits are assured and therefore worth serious consideration. 

Bowles Farming Co is a good real life example of IoT tech adoption in agriculture; for managing their water resources and irrigation needs. The family owned farming company based in California, US that grows cotton, tomatoes and almonds majorly apart from other crops has applied the sub-surface immersed tube irrigation system. The irrigation system is managed using wireless sensors for monitoring soil temperature, soil moisture and actuators controlled remotely for opening and shutting off valves that regulate flow. The entire field is divided into several zones and irrigation is controlled zone wise based on the soil profile, rain data, real time sensor information and the crop being grown. Drones are also being used to survey the field to ensure the irrigation is done and also identify any leaks due to pipe bursts. Mr. Danny Royer, VP of Technology with Bowles Farming in one of his interviews testifies “Just the management of water and reduction in water consumption is a big gain.  Availability of data leads to better decision making and timely decision making and gives one the confidence about the reliability of the decision that it will hold good”. He goes on to validate that adoption of IoT technology has resulted in 15 to 20% direct reduction in water consumption which is significant. 

Please share with us your experiences and ideas of IoT tech applications in the field of agriculture. If you have any queries on this subject please contact us an we will try our best to answer your questions.

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