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Internet of Things June 2023 Viewpoints

The IoT and Smart Farming

By Matthew Beecham

Overview

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts a 60% increase in food demand to feed a world population of 9.3 billion by 2050. The IoT and smart farming enable farmers to use internet-connected devices in efforts to close the supply-demand gap and increase productivity. Although smart farming shows promise, systems need to meet the various constraints that farms face to reach their potential.

Description

A recent study by researchers at the University of Technology, Iraq, and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia has found that smart farming can result in increased crop quality and quantity, potentially reducing food shortages and poverty. In the agriculture industry, the IoT can help farmers use data to drive decisions that improve crop outcomes. Applications using drones, for example, can support remote monitoring and assessment of fields, farms, and livestock. Such technologies have the potential to transform agriculture and help deal with the impending challenges of climate change and a growing global population.

IoT smart-farming technologies such as sensors help with the monitoring of crop fields and can also enable the automation of irrigation systems. Agricultural IoT use includes integrating robots, drones, sensors, and computer imaging with analytical tools to generate insights and monitor crops. By using sensors, farm management can gather metrics about every facet of the field microclimate and ecosystem, from soil conditions to pest infections. Drones, both from the ground and aerial, can replace humans by performing tasks from spraying crops to monitoring them. Livestock wearables can also capture useful data including reproductive cycles, food consumption, and body temperature.

Implications

While the use cases for an intelligent agricultural system using the IoT are plentiful, the infrastructure requirements for adopting such as system can be challenging for farm owners. In addition to making a substantial investment in technologies, farm workers need training to operate and manage the hardware and software. The expensive equipment also needs installation, setup, and ongoing maintenance. Farmers also need sound technical knowledge of robots and computer-based intelligence to operate and understand the insights of this equipment. Also, the use of data security in agriculture may be unfamiliar to many farmers. At a minimum, farmers must establish and maintain internal security procedures. A farm's placing a heavy reliance on the IoT will amplify its vulnerabilities to possible cyberthreats. Conversely, farms in areas of the world without access to the internet won't stand to benefit.

Agriculture is constantly at the mercy of the weather. Harsh environmental conditions—such as high temperatures, humidity, rain, and winds—can damage electromechanical equipment, making it susceptible to malfunction and to recording false measurements, resulting in misinformed decisions. IoT devices must be robust and reliable to transmit accurate data constantly in extreme environmental conditions. Although the use of the IoT in agriculture has migrated from being emergent to something more mainstream, the technology overall still needs to overcome some significant threats and vulnerabilities.

Relevant Areas to Monitor

  • End-User Demand

    Internet of Things technology has an almost limitless number of potential applications, but most markets are nascent with limited end‑user demand. As opportunity areas emerge, grow, and falter, suppliers and other stakeholders may struggle with decisions about how to allocate resources and develop new products.

  • Climate Change

    Concerns about potentially catastrophic and irreversible climate-change impacts are prompting world governments to take more aggressive action to stabilize carbon emissions. Primary uncertainties are how much and how fast nations will shift to renewables or alternatives such as nuclear power to decarbonize economies.

Impact Scale

On a scale of low, medium, or high, the anticipated level of impact for this topic is: High.

Impact Timing

On a scale of now, 5, 10, or 15 years, the anticipated impact timing for this topic is: 10 to 15 years.

Opportunities in the Following Industry Areas

  • Agriculture/Fishing/Food
  • AI/Automation/Software
  • Internet of Things
  • Sensors/Electronics

Relevant to the Following Explorer Technology Areas