3 Ways the IoT Revolutionizes Farming
By: Maria Guerra
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Farms are becoming more connected as farmers realize the potential of IoT technologies in helping them minimize operation cost while still achieving better results. Examples include higher crops, lower livestock losses, and less water usage. To help improve farm performance, IoT technology providers continue to develop platforms that can sense, process, and communicate precisely measured environmental data. Behind these IoT platforms is an array of technologies that includes sensing, micro controllers, transmitters, energy harvesting, LED lights, drones, and more.
1. Livestock monitoring
IoT allows the entire livestock environment to be constantly monitored. The user is alerted by phone, text, or email if any condition falls outside of a preset parameter. Several systems containing some of the elements of an integrated monitoring system are now available commercially for swine, cattle, broiler, and milk production.
A company called Moocall helps farmers monitor pregnant cows that are preparing to give birth. A battery-powered sensor detects motion associated with oncoming labor and then sends an alert SMS notification. The battery lasts for up to 60 days and the device will send an alert when the battery level drops to 15%. The calving sensor is equipped with an embedded machine-to-machine (M2M) chip that can work over different networks.
2. Precision farming
With rugged and precise IoT sensors, farmers can collect data on weather, soil, air quality, and crop maturity, enabling them to make smarter decisions. For instance, a company called Cropx uses data and sensor devices to help farmers better understand water usage across their fields. The company also informs farmers about the amount of fertilizer and pesticide needed by each patch at specific times, automatically handling daily decisions for farmers. Algorithms and pattern-recognition technology are used to analyze the farmland and determine the various elevations (where they are hilly or flat).
Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) has been working on a very interesting project called “The Internet of Tomatoes” in its offices in Wilmington, Mass. This precision agriculture experiment leverages technologies like microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors. For example, inertial-measurement-unit (IMU) sensors, based on multiaxis combinations of precision gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, and pressure sensors, are used to figure out whether environmental monitoring could improve flavor. ADI integrates hardware solutions with a cloud-based IoT application from ThingWorx to develop a complete solution for farmers, providing them with apps and dashboards built on ThingWorx to better understand and implement improvements.
3. Autonomous tractors
Tractor manufacturers like John Deere and Case IH offer tractors to farmers that drive automatically. Self-driving tractors have been in the market for many years—even longer than semi-autonomous cars on the roads. One advantage of self-driving tractors is their ability to avoid reworking the same crop row by reducing the overlap to less than an inch. As a result, it takes fewer passes to cover each field, therefore saving farmers time and money. In addition, they can make very precise turns without the driver even touching the steering wheel.
Full autonomous tractors navigate using lasers that bounce signals off several mobile transponders located around the field. With supervised tractors, in contrast, a tractor is driven by a person, but followed by autonomous machinery. That machinery copies the steering and speed of the first tractor. This type of tractor offers the advantage of a reduction in human errors when performing tasks like spraying insecticide.
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