Tech is playing an increasingly larger role in farming and agriculture these days. In what can be referred to as smart farming technology which involves IT and communications attributes, such as robotics, drones, GPS and connectivity, sensing, software, and AI product quality and quantity are improved, lightening the load on human labor.

Automated Farming

IoT, or Internet of Things, works by connecting and coordinating information and statistics collected through the Internet from things. This is done by adding reading devices to various farm machines and processes, which provides ongoing updates for farmers to make accurate and timely decisions. The fundamentals of IoT are observation, information processing, informed decision-making, and implementation. This provides for precision farming and robotics and automation.

Improve Animal Quality of Life

Precision livestock farming uses IoT wireless to monitor the location and health of even specific animals and adjust to their nutritional needs, helping prevent illness. One example is poultry farming. Modern chicken coops look much different than you imagine. Robots are now doing a lot of dirty work. Coops need continual cleaning, egg collection, and bird-health monitoring. Current designs demonstrate careful egg collection and can monitor conditions, such as humidity, temperature, ammonia and carbon dioxide levels and light and sound levels. Other designs keep chickens moving and healthy and help prevent egg-laying in open areas, all of which lead to healthier and happier animals.

Agricultural Drones

Farmers have started using drone with a variety of tasks that used to take a lot of time. These can be UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles and ground-based machines, which can cover multiple aspects of a farm, including irrigation, crop monitoring, and spraying, soil analysis, and crop health. Aerial drones collect visual, thermal and multispectral images that indicate plant count, height and health, help predict yield, map tree cover and water areas, measure nitrogen and chlorophyll and even map draining and weed onset. This applies equally to large operations and small family farms and provides background on good farming practices.

Smart Greenhouses

Normal manual maintenance of greenhouse environments can be time-intensive and inexact. Greenhouses outfitted with IoT capability use sensors and actuators to carefully keep track of and store data and react in a timely fashion while providing cloud-based information for review and strategy. The system automatically monitors light, air, temperature, and moisture in the soil and reacts with corrective measures to even small changes. This helps produce better yield and reduces labor and energy costs.

Nutrient Sensing and Manure Constituency

Infrared sensors help with the application of liquid manure. These sensors analyze manure for such constituents as phosphorus, potassium, dry material, and nitrogen levels, allowing accurate documentation of amounts applied and automatic or manual adjustment of application in progress. This is done by a tank-mounted tractor that can be automatically adjusted for speed while showing dispersion on a screen in the cab. This precision-ag analysis is done thousands of times per second and produces lab-level results that give an accurate picture of the fertilization process, meeting nutrient goals and saving on fertilizer costs.

Late Season Irrigation With a Moisture Sensing System

Depending on the length of the season and proximity to harvest, knowing whether to do final irrigation can be a bit of a tricky question. The decision needs to be right and is based largely on a crop’s profile and charts accurately indicating what the current moisture levels or “water-bank” and growth stages are. Although this information can be gathered through in-person testing, accuracy is difficult to get. A wireless system of sensors at various depths relays readings several times a day, which can be reviewed at the day’s end, helping balance whether to make up the remaining inches of needed water through scheduling irrigation or by waiting for forecasted rain.

Networked Weather Stations

Weather stations can also play a part in increasing crop yields by millions of pounds, in limiting the use of pesticides and in saving millions in grower expenses. An extensive system of tens of networked weather stations combines data, such as solar radiation, soil and leaf dampness and temperature, with national weather reporting that makes forecasted estimates and bridges gaps in local data and gives an enhanced view of what farmers can expect. This has resulted in the elimination of thousands of pounds of pesticides and has given a clearer view of atmospheric behavior, imminent weather and likelihood of pests.

Food Traceability

According to the National Resource Defense Council, 40 percent of food goes to waste in America between the farm and the consumer. That’s also waste in terms of farmland and growing resources, which drives up cost. Decomposing food also amounts to 8 percent of greenhouse gases. And, even though hunger remains a problem for millions in the US, technology until now has been ineffective in dealing with what many believe is an insurmountable problem.

New IoT methods, however, are offering promising solutions by tracking products throughout the chain of supply, monitoring temperature in particular. Grocers have often taken the blame for the amount of spoilage in-store. But much of the problem comes from the harvesting process, where conditions and temperature can affect food’s capacity to stay fresh by a difference of days. These conditions need to be monitored for every pallet, a task that has been impractical in terms of man-hours, but can now be achieved more effectively with automated IoT sensors. Pallets are monitored at every stage, from receiving dock to loading dock, providing cloud-based information for better routing according to freshness. This changes the focus of food waste from identification to prevention throughout all stages of the supply chain.

Creating a New Paradigm

IoT, smart farming and AI, drawing on the advantages of precision farming systems, data analytics, robots, and drones, are revolutionizing the whole farming process. This leads to projections of better efficiency overall and a reduction in the future use of fertilizers and pesticides. Food traceability contributes to safer food and lower environmental impact with better use of resources and optimized waste prevention. New smart-farming technology and applications are helping to create more efficient, sustainable, and productive farming and to provide for a growing global population.

The world is changing for the better and that is evident in the advancement of the farming industry. The added benefit of technological advances will increase life expectancy and will branch out to other industries.