IoT in Farming - How it works
What is AgTech - why does it matter?
Agricultural Technology or 'AgTech' refers to the use of digital and internet connected technologies and devices in farming processes. Often these devices are referred to as IoT or 'internet of things' devices but AgTech can also refer to software and applications for farm management, cameras, robotic technology and more. The AgTech landscape covers everything from reporting on key processes such as water measurement and irrigation, crop management and livestock tracking through to cold chain monitoring, quality compliance and management.
The use and proliferation of AgTech products and services has grown rapidly over the last few years, forming a large part of the rise of Agriculture 3.0. As we move towards Agriculture 4.0 we expect that AgTech use will continue to grow with adoption increasing as technologies become more accessible.
The benefit of AgTech is often in increased productivity and through that, increased profitability for farmers and operators. Added to this, it gives farmers peace of mind that processes are working correctly or most efficiently on their farm, with remote monitoring often allowing the to oversee this from anywhere.
IoT in AgTech - how does it work?
IoT or Internet of things devices are essentially a network of physical objects or devices that are enabled to connect and exchange data with other devices using a communication network. In AgTech, IoT technologies are often used for 'sensors' - devices such as a soil moisture probe that read a particular environmental factor.
These sensors are connected to Nodes which are in turn connected to a 'gateway'. The gateway receives the data from the sensors and transmits this to a receiver through a wireless network - this network might be what we call LoRaWAN (Long range wireless access network) or cellular, similar to mobile phones.
The receiver then forwards that data to a software application via the internet. The data is processed and received by the end user through software dashboards on an app through your phone or computer. This entire process is incredibly quick, so reporting can be near to 'real-time'.
The benefits of IoT AgTech in Farming
The core benefit for farmers deploying IoT AgTech devices across their farm is access to remote reporting and data that was previously unavailable. IoT in AgTech enables us to merge the sensory data we have already (what we can see, hear, touch) with that we cannot easily measure through human observation. By bringing together these data streams, farmers can make more informed decisions around key processes such as irrigation; taking their visual observation and experience and considering this alongside soil moisture reporting at various depths and weather reports from IoT Weather Stations.
Building on the irrigation example, the wider benefits from remote reporting and digital intelligence are focused around increased productivity and profitability. Through access to accurate reporting on soil and weather conditions, farmers irrigate only when necessary, meaning they conserve water - an expensive resource for farms. Controlled irrigation ultimately also leads to optimum yield - increasing the productivity of a field or paddock.
5 other key benefits of IoT AgTech in Farming
1. Get your reporting from anywhere! This technology means you don't have to be standing next to soil moisture probe or node or gateway, or even be anywhere on your property to get reports. Remote reporting means you can be on holiday 1000s of Km away from your farm and still be able to see what is going on.
2. Connect multiple sensors in a connected ecosystem. Most IoT Sensors in AgTech measure one key factor, although some provide data across multiple metrics. An example of such is a weather station which will usually provide temperature and humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction. But the real benefit of deploying IoT sensors across a farm is using different sensors to provide a full picture of what is happening in a particular area - especially for Broadacre cropping and horticulture.
3. Benefit of insights over time. Human observation incredibly important in farming and over time we build experience and can learn to predict patterns based on historical activity, to a degree. With the benefit of data tracked by IoT devices, patterns become more obvious and easier to react to when required.
4. Your data kept safe. Rather than having manual readings kept in a notepad that is susceptible to loss or damage, the reporting is readily available through a dashboard or app, and usually stored securely in the cloud too. So, dependent on your connection plan and level of archived data, you have multiple reports for a sensor at your fingertips.
5. Create efficiencies/cost savings you didn't know were possible. Often when operators deploy IoT AgTech across their farm, it highlights time or resource wastage that can be prevented and create a cost saving. Whether that is asset use by labourers being more efficiently managed through tracking of assets on a property, or irrigation systems being used less due to accurate reporting.