How IoT is impacting traditional farming across the globe

Back in October 2020 we shared an overview of Agritech, what it is and how it is being implemented.  A few months on, we are taking a deeper look, examining how the IoT world is impacting traditional farming. 

Agritech - what do we mean and why?

Just to refresh your memory, we use the term agritech when referring to practices within the agriculture and food production sector which are powered/supported by IoT.  Think soil mapping, satellite imagery, hyperlocal weather data, variable rate seeding/liming, yield mapping, drone monitoring, livestock tracking.  Just about every area of farming can be assisted by IoT.  The ability to streamline processes, reduce costs and wastage in an industry under a lot of strain is imperative.  The change in our diets and the way we live over the last century has made life very hard for those caring for livestock and growing our crops.  Beyond how we live, we must consider just how many of us there are now! The population of the world keeps growing; it took only 200 years for our population to go from 1 billion in 1804 to 7 billion and we are predicted to reach a global population of 9.8 billion by 2050.  If the planet is to safely and fairly support that many humans, the way we farm must change. At Arkessa, we have no doubt technology will play a large part in the future of agriculture.

Use cases in focus:

Sensor based monitoring, connected vehicles and spaces, drones, autonomous robots; agritech means easy collection of useful data, enabling far improved analytics, management, predictive modelling and planning.  It’s clear that there are big changes afoot.  But how about some specific use cases?

Sensors:

Keeping a close eye on soil composition and crops helps to improve yield and prevents wastage and loss.  There are several ways in which LPWA powered technologies are opening up the possibilities. Devices such as Eagle, a high precision, sturdy and waterproof data logger offers tracking and sensor management whilst connected via 2/3G or LTE-M/NB-IoT. A nifty yet robust device which can be battery operated or hardwired providing the chance to track and collate all sorts of useful information from any location! Tech like this works extremely well using LPWA connectivity.  In conjunction with a range of sensors, agriculturists can monitor temperature, humidity, moisture, especially useful when it comes to soil care.  Using Bluetooth, tagged asset management has several uses, such as tracking livestock or equipment.  Wireless pulse counting allows the tracking of utility usage or door/gate opening.  Relay switches can be programmed to turn equipment on and off as required.  The list of potential use cases for these devices feels almost endless!

Drones:

Drone technology has really come into its own over the last few years, going far beyond military use or being something fun for arial enthusiasts.   Potential use cases are exploding across many industries and agriculture is no different.  As a way to monitor crops, they are perfect! Swiss drone specialists SenseFly have a whole range of tech offering different solutions including the eBee Ag drone.  Working in conjunction with their eMotion 3 ‘workflow hub’ software the drone connects wirelessly allowing easy collation and sharing of data.  These drones make monitoring crops at every stage from seed to harvest simple, allowing agriculturists to spot issues quickly, whether it be weed infestations or pests.  Like other drones, the eBee Ag is equipped with Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) functionality giving incredibly precise mapping capabilities.  

What is RKT?

Traditional Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS, which provide geo-spatial positioning with global coverage, are not without errors, even if those errors are small.  Real-Time Kinematic positioning is a technique which improves the accuracy of standard satellite navigation systems using carrier-based ranging.  By measuring the phase of the signal’s carrier wave in conjunction with the usual signals from the GNSS, devices using RTK can achieve 1cm positional accuracy.  In other words, the images and data collected are the most reliable you can obtain, and, in the case of agriculture, this makes light work of something once so arduous. 

Mobile RTK capable devices are supported by high data cellular technologies 4G, 3G and even 2G as a fallback.  Of course, the 3G/2G sunset is looming and it is important to futureproof; we recommend opting for 4G multi-network and 5G ready connectivity solutions. 

Connected Livestock Solutions: 

Farmers who care for livestock have a big job on their hands.  Not only must they ensure their needs are met; provide shelter, grazing opportunities, space, food, medicine and so on, they must (and want) to keep tabs on their whereabouts, for several reasons, not in the least to know they are safe and well, but also to reduce loss and meet regulations.  There have been many solutions over the years, from shepherds who stayed with herds at all times, to the use of helicopters to locate AWOL animals! For most, these options are impractical, too expensive or unrealistic in our modern world.  Que agritech, que mobile NB-IoT tracking devices such as Shiip.  LPWA connected, these trackers provide wide cellular network access and boast incredible battery lives of up to 10 years! Shiip offers two-way communication, using a small tracking device attached to each animal. Tracking livestock across large spaces, across all types of terrain, indoor and outdoor, is no mean feat but NB-IoT tech makes light work of it.  These small, low power trackers are so well suited, transferring data on a regular basis. It’s an ideal solution! 

This is truly an exciting time for technology and agriculture.  Farmers are reaping the benefits offered by low powered tech solutions and this is only set to continue with the rollout of 5G and beyond.  In order to keep up with demand for our growing population, to best use all of our resources, we have no doubt that it’s time to get the countryside connected.  If you have any questions about how cellular LPWAN can help with your agritech IoT application, contact our expert team by emailing connect@arkessa.com.  Check back again soon to read our next blog in this series in which we delve into the world of urban farming.

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