When we talk about smart agriculture, what technologies are we referring to? The list is long, but essentially any innovation improves connectivity.
As you have already seen, smart agriculture is based on the idea that it is necessary to integrate all parts of the farm to make processes more efficient while also improving decision-making.
However, this is no longer news. Now is the time to meet the protagonists of these benefits: the technologies that make smart agriculture possible. Let’s go there.
Internet of things (IoT)
As we at Agriculture Mortgages mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the great protagonist of smart agriculture is the Internet of Things (IoT). The potential to connect machines and sensors on farms makes it possible to drive data-driven processes, as well as improve all aspects of farm management.
The great advantage of IoT is that farmers can use different types of smart sensors and extract data from them all remotely.
These devices, once installed, collect data on a cyclical basis, providing a complete and up-to-date overview of all field details.
This makes it possible for farmers to react quickly to problems, even the most pressing ones.
In practice, we are talking about a technology with enormous potential for:
- Note: record data on crops, soil and atmosphere (and also livestock, in the case of agriculture).
- Diagnostics: Integrated with advanced data analytics and business intelligence platforms, this data is processed in the cloud and transformed into insights tailored to your agribusiness needs.
- Decision-making: Once problems are identified, the systems themselves, powered by advanced algorithms and machine learning, rely on history and the database to determine the most effective treatments.
Additionally, IoT makes it possible for any farm to also adopt precision farming technologies, making their crops increasingly profitable and causing less waste and loss.
As an umbrella technology (and foundation) for so many applications, artificial intelligence plays an almost ethereal role in smart agriculture. Basically, all related innovations have some sort of AI resource or connection, using machine learning as an example.
One direct application is planting and harvesting robots, which take advantage of AI to map an area of the field and focus only on it based on data collected on soil quality and nutrients.
These robots work with great precision and use AI to reduce the use of pesticides and agrochemicals, improving the quality of food. And farm management systems themselves, which use AI to learn from previous (and seasonal) crop data, provide increasingly meaningful information for farmers.
One of the most striking characteristics of agriculture is its verticality. When we talk about large farms, we mean acres upon acres, miles upon miles of land! With smart agriculture and the IoT, drones (both terrestrial and aerial) began to be incorporated to optimise field evaluation.
Drones allow for a complete and much more contextualised analysis of crop health, irrigation quality, spraying efficiency, planting progress, and many other points. After all, agricultural drones are much more capable than conventional and personal use drones.
They allow the collection of multispectral and thermal images, also providing data on different metrics, such as:
- chlorophyll measurement;
- measurement reports;
- inventory measurement;
- nitrogen content in wheat;
- drainage mapping;
- plant health indices;
- plant height measurement;
- weed mapping;
- mapping of field water ponds;
- plant count and yield forecast.
Here, it is necessary to include the potential of drones to serve other purposes, such as pest and pest control, as well as ground surveillance. However, it is also worth mentioning that drones are not exclusive to large farms.
Smart agriculture as a whole can be applied to operations at different scales, adding value to each of them. An example is organic or family farms. Drones can be applied to speed up, optimise, and improve the quality of field management, allowing these producers to create products with ever higher quality.
One of the main innovations that smart agriculture will bring to the countryside will be the use of autonomous vehicles.
Although it is not new for the agroindustry itself, it continues to be a resource that is not very accessible for small producers.
Tractors, seeders, and harvesters, among many other vehicles, must work automatically, following the commands defined by the system itself, based on the data collected.
In addition, there is the possibility that the vehicles are piloted by humans, but with an automation function that allows the heavy part of the work to be done by the machine itself.
Access to state-of-the-art technologies also extends to satellites, equipped with powerful terrestrial recording and monitoring devices. In this way, producers will be able to access never-before-seen images of their land, which will make it possible to map critical areas, as well as regions where pests are attacking.
The automated systems will help the agribusiness modernise all processes within the farm, from agricultural planning to the logistics of grains and basic products produced. Best of all is the integration potential of all, providing the producer with the necessary data to support their decision-making.
Big data, one of the great supporters of smart agriculture, will be essential for IoT devices to work and send data continuously. It is through this amount of information that farms will be able to monitor every aspect of their production, knowing exactly when and how to act in case of problems.
Of course, we don’t even need to mention that smart agriculture, as a concept, can only exist if agribusiness as a whole becomes adept at technologies that exploit big data.
Storing the information collected every second, by hundreds or thousands of devices spread across a farm, is not a mission for a physical database. You need unlimited capacity and all the flexibility that only cloud computing allows.
To integrate remote systems and devices, even cloud computing will be essential since it is what will serve as the “floor” for the creation of digital infrastructure. Another point is that the applications for the tasks of the farm will be hosted in the cloud. Coupled with technologies like 5G, they enable unmatched communication in the field.
In a nutshell, blockchain technology is used to keep data and information secure. Today, more farmers are beginning to take advantage of the interaction between blockchain technologies and the IoT. After all, the information collected in the field is often corporate secrets that cannot be divulged.
With blockchain, farmers can create a secure environment to store and process their data. Another point is that the blockchain enables some actions, especially with the use of smart contracts.
Do you want an example? A farmer can install smart sensors in a greenhouse, which run synchronously on a private blockchain. This blockchain records all the information in the greenhouse, ensuring that the data is not tampered with and that subsequent analysis is as accurate as possible.
Sensors are a key part of the integration required for smart agriculture. The good news is that there are several of them, suitable for an infinite number of functions in the field, whether it is to measure the quality of the land or identify the appearance of pests in the middle of the plantation.
Its application will surely make processes more efficient, allowing your farm to get closer to business objectives.
GPS-controlled agricultural machinery is already a reality and promises to be one of the main resources behind smart agriculture. With this technology, farmers can improve crop planning, measure agricultural productivity, and also control their equipment and vehicles.
And you, how are you going to centralise and manage all this data that the previous technologies are going to collect? The management system is useful in this situation. An efficient software system that is both flexible and robust is essential for you to harness the full informational potential of smart farming.
In this way, it will be possible to unify sectors of the farm and, with a few clicks or taps on the mobile device screen, gain a deep understanding of how the operation is going in the field and beyond.
On your farm, is smart farming already a reality or is it still part of a distant plan? Remember that modernising and optimising your production is essential to staying relevant in the market of the future.