IoT in Agriculture: Paving the Way for Smart Farming

Lidiia Lelechenko -
IoT in Agriculture: Paving the Way for Smart Farming

Relying on intuition and outdated farming methods is impractical when rising global food demand pressures the agricultural industry. The food sector faces a dilemma: it must produce more while addressing growing concerns for environmental stewardship. Smart farming technologies provide aid in this balancing act.

Agribusinesses increasingly embrace IoT (Internet of Things) to sustainably elevate productivity and efficiency. Here, we’ll delve deeper into the perks and pitfalls of IoT adoption and reflect on how to navigate the path toward fully leveraging the smart farming potential.

What Is Smart Farming?

Every farm is a small universe with its microclimate, soils, terrain, and other properties, which ultimately affect agricultural output. IoT-enabled smart farming utilizes various technologies, such as GPS, sensors, machinery, and software, to help farmers keep track of all these variables in real-time, optimize management strategies, and put them into action using automated hardware from the comfort of their offices or homes. 

Sensor monitoring and software management oversee every aspect of farming. Internet and wireless connections conveniently link all data sources into a single control system. It frees up time and labor, increases the quality and volume of production, and boosts ROI. Moreover, farmers optimize use of energy, water, fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers, cutting costs and minimizing the environmental footprint.

A once revolutionary and now ubiquitous application of innovative IoT-led smart farming involves using satellite views of the Earth for crop management. Sensors aboard spacecraft capture satellite images of Earth, which analysts further analyze to understand the individual water, nutrient, and other needs of crops. Such crop intelligence enables more efficient decision-making throughout the growing season and across the agricultural cycle – from seeding to harvesting.

In the long run, integrating up-to-date satellite images into farming routines saves substantial time and cost. With the most recent satellite images at their fingertips, they can scan fields for issues 24/7 and dispatch scouts only where and when on-site validation is required.

The Benefits of Smart Farming

Implementing IoT in crop cultivation brings a host of benefits to agricultural producers, contributing to their on-farm success.

Enhanced Crop Productivity

Agricultural productivity depends on how well farmers manage their crops. IoT devices eliminate the guesswork from crop management decisions by providing real-time data on plant health, soil moisture, and weather parameters. Leveraging these insights, farmers can provide tailored crop care and quickly react to ever-changing growing conditions to maintain high productivity levels, e.g., detect weather-stressed crops and make interventions to minimize yield losses.

Resource Efficiency

Traditional farming practices disregarding in-field variability (such as blanket input application) are costly to farmers’ budgets and the environment. Thanks to IoT-led precision agriculture, crop growers can dramatically optimize resource allocation by collecting key production-related parameters (e.g., air temperature, humidity, moisture levels, water pH, soil nutrient concentrations, etc.).

A network of sensors collects these parameters to determine the exact amount of water, fertilizers, and pest control agents to apply. It ultimately translates into healthier crops, lower production costs, and more environmentally friendly farming. 

Supply Chain Optimization

Approximately 14% of globally produced food experiences loss or waste between harvesting and retail. This insight highlights the potential for improvement in the supply chain. Using IoT solutions to connect various parts of the chain, farmers, distributors, logistics businesses, and food companies can facilitate management and increase transparency and traceability.

Real-time sensors enable tracking of the entire food’s path from farm to table, ensuring optimal storage and transportation conditions. Logistics operators may feed weather and traffic data to AI algorithms to plot optimal routes, minimizing transportation time and costs. Dynamic inventory tracking makes it easier to fill the supply-demand gaps and reduce out-of-stock incidents at warehouses.

Environmental Monitoring

The IoT-driven smart farming approach brings double environmental benefits. It paves the way for sustainability, enabling efficient resource allocation and reducing agrichemical runoff, and soil and water pollution. Automated irrigation, fertilization, and seed dispensing systems minimize energy and fuel consumption, benefiting nature through decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

What’s more, rich networks of in-situ and remote sensors help monitor agriculture’s environmental footprint. By tracking soil and plant health alongside air and water quality metrics, we can measure pollutants and GHGs and the efficiency of mitigation efforts, such as carbon sequestration.

The Challenges of Smart Farming

Despite IoT’s tangible benefits, technology uptake is still at its lowest. Due to its complexity, high cost, and multiple parties involved, this promising tech novelty is mainly restricted to big market players.  

High Initial Investment

IoT technology has a complex underlying architecture comprising hardware and software. Purchasing and implementing all its major components may be too complicated and costly for smallholder farmers, especially in low-income environments.

Complexity and Technical Skills

Just like with any other innovation – be they fruit-harvesting robots or mobile apps analyzing recent satellite images of fields – a lack of technical expertise holds back the adoption of agricultural IoT. While there might be crop growers with a solid technical background who can oversee the IoT solution across the entire value chain, often its effective implementation requires specialized training.

Data Management and Privacy

Internet of Things technology generates massive amounts of agri-data continuously collected, transmitted, and processed to deliver value to end users. Keeping this synergy of devices and wireless connections up and running is challenging regarding data storage, delivery, and analysis. 

Data is the new gold, and it must be thoroughly protected. With IoT, this is more challenging as interconnectivity increases the risks of sensitive data leaks. Given the growing number of data breaches observed in recent years, data security has become a significant concern. Agribusinesses face threats to their integrity and financial safety.

Connectivity Issues

One of the biggest hurdles to IoT adoption is the lack of robust Internet infrastructure and stable connections. Strong internet service is imperative to real-time data transmission. This enables farmers to make quick decisions and proactively manage any incoming issues. Leveraging the technology’s full potential is often impossible in rural and remote areas. Complex terrain, poor Internet infrastructure, and increased exposure of IoT devices to severe weather conditions disrupt the data flow.

The Future of Smart Farming

The future of IoT-enabled smart farming looks bright as technologies continue to evolve. Sensors are growing more miniature and cost-effective, making the technology more accessible. As data analytics techniques keep advancing, the IoT will be able to create more value from vast datasets, aiding farmers in yield prediction, disease and weed detection, and optimized resource use. Novel AI algorithms and hi-tech robots – the powerful allies of IoT technology – will further propel intelligent decision-making and elevate productivity on smart farms.

IoT technology certainly holds much promise for breaking out of the seeming deadlock situation that agriculturists face – the necessity to radically increase food production amidst the lack of arable land, finite water resources, and hard-to-predict weather. Despite the impressive scope of benefits offered by IoT deployments, it is fraught with challenges. Yet, continued tech advancement and joint efforts of key stakeholders and farming communities could help overcome these. Once significant barriers to IoT adoption are eliminated, the technology will be all set to become the driving force of brand-new agriculture that sustainably feeds the world.

Lidiia Lelechenko - Account Executive

EOS Data Analytics
EOS Data Analytics
EOS Data Analytics, a global provider of AI-powered satellite imagery analytics. With a strong focus on sustainability, our mission is to harness the power of satellite technology to provide businesses with fast and precise data-driven solutio...
EOS Data Analytics, a global provider of AI-powered satellite imagery analytics. With a strong focus on sustainability, our mission is to harness the power of satellite technology to provide businesses with fast and precise data-driven solutio...