M2M and IoT analysts Beecham Research believes that smart farming could transform not just large farms, but small and medium-sized ones too.
The firm has partnered with wireless sensor network company Libelium to launch a whitepaper into the future of smart farming.
“The farming industry is very receptive to technical innovation and is already embracing IoT, using information from sensors, machinery and weather stations, for example,” said Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research.
“It is the ability to capture, harness and analyse vast amounts of data to take informed decisions that is set to revolutionise the agricultural sector and is starting to deliver tangible benefits and measureable ROI (return on investment) for farms of all types and sizes.”
Beecham says that while the drive towards IoT is usually to reduce costs, time and wastage, there is an added benefit in farming in that these technologies can aid other areas too, such as safety and welfare, health, nutrition and sustainability.
The number of applications for smart farming is also growing rapidly, including: yield measurement and quota systems, plant and livestock disease monitoring, remote machine control and diagnostics, greenhouse management, virtual fencing and livestock biology monitoring. And for areas such as high value crop and precision livestock farming, smart fishing and aquaculture, smart technology is helping to increase production efficiencies and generate higher profit margins.
From an IoT technology perspective, Beecham Research points to three key steps for smart farming: data sensing, data communications, storage and processing.
Farming IoT case studies
“Farms need to have integrated solutions that bring together sensor networks, machine-to-machine communications, data analytics, management systems and applications development,” adds Romeo. “Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) with predictive capabilities are also critical to help farmers make the right decisions at the right time.”
The Beecham whitepaper, in association with Libelium, explores a number of smart farming case studies including predicting vineyard conditions in Slovenia and Switzerland; preventing pests in olives, increasing tobacco crop quality and reducing time-to-market for strawberries in Italy; improving cocoa production in Indonesia (more details in our interview with Industrial Internet Consortium executive director Richard Soley); and preventing environmental impact in waste water irrigation in Australia.
“The overall smart agriculture market is growing across all types of farming and data sensing and data management services are fundamental to its success,” said Romeo. “Companies such as Libelium will play a major role in making the benefits of the IoT accessible to small and medium farms.”
“Small farmers and large landowners need help to approach and understand the potential of the IoT market by installing smart technologies to increase sustainability and competitiveness in their productions.” said Alicia Asín, Libelium CEO.