(By Ranjeet Koul)
The world’s population is steadily growing and as per the United Nations estimate, roughly 83 million people are added to the global population every year. By 2050, the number of people on planet Earth is projected to reach 9.8 billion. While the scientific community has begun to view old fears about overpopulation as unfounded, the rapidly expanding human population presents genuine & real-time challenges to economic, agricultural, and communal infrastructures. Farmers, especially in the emerging and developing economies like Asia Pacific, Africa and SAARC regions face an ever-growing demand to produce more food on smaller landholdings, even as they struggle to protect their farms against extreme weather, climate change, environmental impact, market fluctuations, etc.
To inclusively feed this massive population, it is imperative to have transformation in Agriculture with disruptions from next-generation technologies like the Internet of Things, AI, ML, Robotics etc. These latest technologies, especially IoT, not only provides a way to better measure and control growth factors, like irrigation, water and soil conservation and limit the use of fertilizers on a farm only to the bare minimum requirements, but, also changes how we view agriculture in its entirety. According to a CII report, with more than 500+ AgriTech start-ups in India, the AgriTech momentum is gaining pace due to which many of these start-ups are leveraging technologies like AI, machine learning, etc. for improving efficiency, yield, speeding up agricultural finance, and other functions that are vital for India’s agricultural growth. To meet the increasing needs of a growing population and get the most yield from their farms, growers are turning to new technology powered by the Internet of Things (IoT). New “smart farming” applications, based on IoT technologies, will enable the agriculture industry to reduce waste and enhance productivity.
IoT-enabled precision agriculture techniques give farmers productive tools to optimize every farming task. These technology-driven practices are focused on increasing crop yields and profitability while lowering the levels of traditional inputs (water, fertilizer, insecticides, and herbicides) that are needed to grow crops.
For example, GPS devices on tractors enable farmers to plant crops in more efficient patterns and optimize travel over and between their fields, saving time and fuel. Sensors installed on farming equipment can also collect data related to the weather, soil, pest, or hydration conditions, then send that data to a centralized smart farm platform to analyse and make predictive farming decisions. Fields can be levelled by IoT-controlled lasers so that water can be applied more efficiently and with less liquid waste running off into local streams and rivers.
AI can also be used for predicting the behaviour of pests which can be beneficial for advanced planning of pest control. Efficient pest management leads to lower crop and environmental damage. A combination of remotely sensed data, efficient image classification tools, weather data, and other relevant data points can be used to distinguish the weed from the crop. This will confine the usage of weedicide only to the areas that require treatment. Remote satellites can monitor crop health and also warn against pest attacks.
When the time comes to spray fields with crop protection products, automated drones can be used in place of crop dusters to reduce costs and remove the safety risk of piloted aircraft flying at high speeds so close to the ground. While flying, crop dusting drones can also take continuous photos and video of fields so that farmers can monitor plant health without sending out scouts.
The result of these precision agriculture farming methods represents a boon for farmers in terms of resource use and effectiveness that holds great potential for making agriculture more sustainable, increasing food availability.
Uberization of Tractors & Farm Equipment
Rapid urbanization and aging populations continue to deplete the farm labour workforce. And this is a worldwide phenomenon. Farmland remains uncultivated because local farmers lack the resources to work on it, leaving the country food insecure and many families trapped in a cycle of poverty. So, new business models, as well as best practices, are needed to ensure agricultural investments benefit low-income farmers who cannot afford to purchase heavy farm machinery, but are able and willing to rent them on an as-needed basis.
On the other hand, tractor owners, want assurances that their leased equipment is used properly. They need to know if the machine is working, en route, or just endlessly idling and if and when payments are made. To that end, a mobile payment system, with SMS functionality, is required. Owners need the ability to track, enable, or disable the tractor in regards to lease payments. They need financial partners (banks, insurers) that can assist in this effort. Insurance firms need insight into high levels of data that define all tractor actions, at all times
To help meet the demand and supply for farm equipment and heavy machinery, Aeris and Hello Tractor partnered to create ‘Tractor-as-a-Service’ market offering, enabling more farmers to receive the services on pay-as-you-go model so that farmers could afford the equipment they needed to succeed.
How CropMetrics Uses Smart Farming to Optimize Field Irrigation
CropMetrics, a precision irrigation company founded by farmers in 2009, has developed a smart farming solution that enables growers to effectively manage their crops’ irrigation. They begin by identifying a field’s variability using metrics such as soil type, texture, topography, slope, and yield. These metrics, combined with the farmer’s consultative insights, enable CropMetrics to determine what each field needs to achieve proper irrigation. They then install a soil moisture probe in the optimal field location. The examination is fitted with sensors that send data to CropMetrics’s platform in real-time, driving irrigation scheduling. CropMetrics’s system provides practical, data-driven recommendations for irrigating crops. With these tools, farmers can create a custom irrigation plan that looks several days ahead, predicting exactly how much irrigation will be needed and where the water needs to go.
IoT enabled agriculture has helped implement modern technological solutions to time tested knowledge. It has also helped bridge the gap between production and quality and quantity yield. With seamless end to end intelligent operations and improved business process execution, produce gets processed faster and reaches supermarkets in the quickest time possible. Aeris, IoT infrastructure gives precision agriculture companies the technology to transform unconnected products into connected solutions with deep insights based on analytics to achieve optimal resource utilization and efficiency at any field, anywhere in the world.
(The author is the Vice President & Country Manager, Aeris APAC & MEA)
If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]