IoT in agriculture — sowing seeds of innovation

IoT agriculture — sowing seeds of innovation
IoT agriculture — sowing seeds of innovation

Verizon’s Tony Judd argues that agriculture is one of the first sectors to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT).

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that to support an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050, we need to produce 70 percent more food. However, with dwindling resources, climate change and the increasing cost of electricity, this will be a challenge. As a result, the ability to produce more food, more quickly, is rapidly becoming a priority. The Internet of Things (IoT) can contribute to solving this problem.

Smart Farming on the way with IoT

Agriculture presents perhaps the perfect business case for IoT implementation — farmers work across large areas and have their assets in different places, which means they are difficult to manually survey. IoT, combined with big data, provides farmers with a wealth of information they can use to optimise efficiency, maximise productivity, and ensure the quality of food in the supply chain — from field to fork.

Interestingly, all kinds of agriculture, be it crop, dairy or indeed livestock farming, are reliant on maintaining the condition of distributed assets — from cattle and crops, to tractors and irrigation equipment.

IoT solutions help farmers track and monitor these assets. There are already initiatives which have developed IoT systems that enhance livestock welfare these use data collected from a variety of sensors to ensure all operations are being executed within set parameter and alerting farmers of any issues.

For example, the health of livestock can be monitored remotely and farmers can track the animals’ movement to establish grazing patterns and help increase yield. For assets like irrigation systems or farming vehicles, data gathered by IoT sensors gives farmers a holistic view of performance and helps schedule servicing and prevent yield-sapping breakdowns. In areas like precision agriculture, real-time data about soil, weather, air quality and hydration levels can help farmers make better decisions about the planting and harvesting of crops.

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Maturing technologies

Although connected devices have only entered the public consciousness in the past few years, there are signs of this application already being taken seriously. In a recent consultation of how to re-use the VHF spectrum, an OFCOM report cited wirelessly connected ‘smart’ farming as a one of the key opportunities in opening up the spectrum. It was highlighted that using VHF would “allow a range of new opportunities in the IoT sector for M2M applications”. Adding that they thought it could “bring significant benefits to citizens, especially those in remote or rural parts of the UK”.

Encouraging Innovation

Given how common the phrase ‘connected car’ has become in the public’s consciousness over the past year, there’s no reasons why we can’t move on to the connected farm; companies need to be committed to helping develop IoT across all sectors, including agriculture.

Given the urgent requirement in the industry to produce more food, businesses should all be looking at how they can improve their operations to ensure they are as successful as possible. IoT could provide a real advantage to those that embrace it by providing better quality information that aids better decision making.

Tony Judd, managing director for Verizon, UK&I and Nordics

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