Smart Farming: IT Technology in Agriculture
The population of Earth is growing. By the end of 2050, it is projected to reach almost 10 billion people. While many other areas of life need our attention today, food production is probably the most important one. With the growth of the population, we need to rethink how we produce food. For decades we have been using the same techniques to cultivate our crops, milk our cows, and collect our fruits. Farmers are eager to get more land so they can satisfy the need for more production. Half of the habitable land in the world is used for the needs of agriculture. Whole forests are wiped out, so more agricultural land is created. Surprisingly, most of this land is used for grazing farm animals, not for the growing of crops.
Another issue that causes concerns is water usage in agriculture. The current estimates show that agriculture consumes as much as 70% of all freshwater in the world. This number will most probably increase by the end of the century as the population grows. It is apparent that we need to think about a smarter way to do our agriculture. Twenty years ago we didn’t have technology powerful enough to change the way we produce our food. Today, we have AI and machine learning helping us find other, smarter ways to farm.
Smart farming is focused on developing technologies like the cloud infrastructure and the internet of things for monitoring and automating operations.
Climate change is a widely discussed topic in the news. With weather uncertainty, it is of utmost importance to monitor and analyze the weather. While the complicated topic of climate change is something that is hard to see on a local scale, weather patterns are easier to monitor.
Every farmer should consider installing an agricultural weather station. This can be helpful with deciding about pesticides, watering, and it also can help to define the right time of sowing and harvesting.
MONITOR SOIL HUMIDITY
Another helpful technology in agriculture is the soil moisture sensor. Water is a very helpful resource, and water conservation should be made priority locally and on a global level. With different plants, then this setting can be different, but the soil moisture sensors are usually inserted in the soil near the root of the plant. Monitoring the soil moisture can give a better understanding of how fast the water is evaporating and how fast the plant is using up the available water in the soil.
Not a lot of farmers are aware that such technology exists, but livestock trackers can lead to the improvement of animal health and welfare.
There are a lot of applications of livestock tracking, but probably the most important is analyzing the behavior of the animals. When applied correctly, the data can even tell where is the lost animal, or if an animal is sick, how did it get sick.
Another technology that is used to save water is related to the irrigation automation of the crops. Usually, it includes water flow sensors, pump controls, humidity, and temperature sensors. In combination with soil moisture sensors, this can be a powerful tool for cutting costs while at the same time developing sustainable agriculture.
The best part of this system is that it is completely automated. All sensors collect the necessary information which is then sent for processing to a server. The special software program is developed to analyze the gathered data and decides where to water the crops and when it should wait on watering. The only manual operation that has to be performed by humans is the maintenances of the IoT devices.
Vertical farming is the solution for the growing concern of agricultural land taking over habitable land and forests. There are pros and cons to such an unusual solution in farming. To name the biggest disadvantage of vertical farming is the bigger initial investment in all the technology needed to build an artificial farm. Because vertical farming is only sustainable in closed premises, the construction cost prevents many farmers from entering this field.
While the initial investment can be high, consequently there will be lower operational costs because most of the time, the vertical farm will be fully automated. Another benefit is that vertical farms can be located anywhere in the world – it doesn’t even have to be near agricultural land. Farms can even be placed in repurposed industrial premises in the big cities. And the biggest advantage of vertical farming is growing more plants on less horizontal space. Produce is vertically stacked to save space.
Few more benefits of vertical farming worth mentioning are the faster-growing plants, less use of pesticides and less water, and the cut costs for hiring because most of the operations are automated.