Whether it’s cattle, crops or agricultural machinery that need to be monitored, farming is proving fertile ground for IoT technologies.
The number of wireless connections used in global agricultural production is predicted to reach 27.4 million by 2021, according to new figures released by Berg Insight. That’s up from an installed base of around 17 million connections in 2016 and represents an annual compound growth rate of 10 percent over the intervening 5 years.
According to the Berg Insight report, M2M/IoT in the Agriculture Industry, A broad range of wireless technologies are used in agricultural production today, with different characteristics and use cases, said analysts at the research company. For example, the 802.15.4-based standard for low-rate wireless personal networks (LR-WPNs) is the most widely deployed, due to its use in monitoring applications for dairy cattle.
Cellular communications (those supported by mobile networks) are most commonly used for machine telematics and remote monitoring for in-field sensor systems. Cellular comms amounted to some 0.8 million connections at the end of 2016; they are expected to reach 3.1 million in 2021.
Low-power, wide area networks (LPWAN) technologies, meanwhile, are expected to see the highest growth over the next five years and achieve a significant market position in the remote monitoring and control segment, according to Berg Insight.
Positive market outlook
Agricultural production remains greatly under-penetrated by wireless IoT solutions, said Berg Insight, which maintains a positive outlook for the sector as a result. But a change in the vendor landscape may be on the horizon: manufacturers of farm and dairy equipment have traditionally chosen to partner with smaller, specialized players but are increasingly focusing on developing their own, proprietary technologies.
“Leading providers are now investing in technical platforms capable of supporting integration with third-party hardware and software solutions as agricultural equipment are becoming part of broader systems,” said Fredrik Stalbrand, IoT analyst at Berg Insight.
He added that the increasingly complex technological environment that farmers operate in requires dealers to offer a greater extent of services to integrate and support the range of technologies that are utilized in advanced production systems. Such services are needed, for example, for precision farming solutions, in-field sensor systems and animal monitoring technologies.
In the crop production sector, a group of companies have emerged as leaders on the market for precision agriculture solutions. Leaders include Deere & Company, Trimble, Topcon Positioning Systems and Raven Industries. Other significant vendors include AGCO, Ag Leader Technology, Dickey-john and Hexagon.