The technological transformation of the agriculture industry over the past decade has been monumental. It has aided in revolutionising the farming sector. Smart farming, also referred to as precision agriculture, was the phenomenon that brought the transformative transition leveraged with the application of cutting-edge technology such as AI-driven drones, IoT, and other data-driven solutions that catapulted productivity in farming and enhanced efficiency in agriculture simultaneously.

The integration of technology in agriculture was the vital driver for the development of smart farming solutions that helped empower farmers to make better-informed decisions in the optimisation of resource utilisation and mitigate key challenges like weather, pest, and disease control. IoT sensors and devices also come in handy to detect pest cluster areas, according to which the appropriate amount of pesticides are applied for timely protection of crops and better crop yields eventually.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technological advancement that is gaining widespread awareness and acceptance in several fields due to its practical relevance to everyday life. As per recent research, it is forecast that by 2025, the number of connected mobile IoT devices will surge to 30-40 billion globally.

A game-changer

The primary application of IoT in agriculture is helping with precision farming, as IoT sensors or devices can collect data on various parameters such as soil conditions, weather forecasts, and crop health in real time. By understanding these factors, farmers could use this data to maximise crop yield, optimise resource usage, and cut down on waste.

It is no secret that water scarcity is a pivotal concern for farming, specifically in regions with unpredictable rainfall. Thus IoT comes into play for farmers as it can help in foretelling and monitoring soil moisture levels along with weather forecasts with the help of IoT-enabled irrigation systems. Thus, the automated irrigation process helps with ensuring the right amount of water needed at the right time for better crop yields.

Similarly, the application of IoT is also a game-changer with respect to livestock management, and the use of smart collars and tags connected to IoT sensors helps the farmer to monitor the health and behavior of animals, identify if animals are sick, track their movement, and optimise feeding schedules. A healthy and well-fed livestock is responsible for yielding better quality products like milk, cheese, meat, and dairy.

How IoT works

The main working mechanism of IoT begins with a device such as a mobile phone, wearables, or electronic appliances by which secure communication is possible with the IoT device. The platform thereafter collects and analyses data which is further transferred to sensors, security devices, or smart wearables to make successful operations and make apt adjustments.

Implementation challenges

While IoT is a great ally for smart farming, it can be an expensive affair to implement, especially for small-time farmers. The basic infrastructure needed for data transmission and storage isn’t cheap, and also purchasing sensors and devices could be expensive. Also, as IoT devices are completely dependent on connectedness, the lack of reliable internet connectivity issue could be a major issue and hinder the implementation of IoT solutions, particularly in rural areas. Farmers also need to invest in additional infrastructure, which adds to the cost.

It is also a must for farmers to ensure that they ensure the IoT systems are both secure & compliant with the latest data protection regulations and policies to avoid penalties and punishments.

Road ahead

While we have already seen the benefits of both AI-backed drones and IoT for sustainable farming, the integration of IoT technology will further bolster the efficiency rate of sustainable farming, and with the data-driven analysis, farmers can improve on making better-informed decisions, mitigate risk, and optimise resource management and curtailing on the waste.

Leveraging IoT technology will further open doors to enable the amalgamation of renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines into farm operations, which would not only reduce the energy cost but also cut down on the carbon footprint from agriculture, contributing to a better percentage of sustainable future in tandem to achieving a step towards India’s long term goal of reaching net-zero by 2070.

The application of IoT is also not just limited to on-farm applications but actually revolutionise the entire agricultural supply chain management as IoT sensor and devices also play a vital role in tracking and monitoring the transportation and storage conditions, guaranteeing it reaches the end, consumer/customers, in optimal quality.

The author is co-founder and chief architect, [x]cube LABS