IoT in agriculture tells tales of the ubiquitous, connected cow – and other connected things

By IoT Now Magazine

As I sit writing this article with a fabulous glass of viognier I can taste the irony, we are all intellectually aware that the world needs to produce much more food and wine, of course, writes Tracy Hopkins the chief marketing officer of Everynet. Emissions modelling suggests that agriculture-related emissions alone will take up almost 100% of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. Meat and dairy production are especially carbon intensive, making livestock farming a key component of total agricultural emissions.

According to the World Economic Forum: “The dominant paradigm of global food security is that humanity needs to increase food production by 50% to 100% by 2050” but dramatically increasing total global food production in not the answer. To sustainably feed a planet of nine billion we must find ways to produce food far more efficiently, optimise the supply chain, waste less food and be much kinder to the environment.

The Internet of Agriculture

There are many new initiatives to make agriculture smart. These include the work of the Climate-Smart Approach (CSA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the commercial drivers pushing the farming landscape to evolve from the historical micro-farms run by families to large scale macro-farming operations, precision and urban faming. Innovation in farming technology in the late 19th century gave us tractors and harvesters while today much new innovation is focused on the IoT of which the common denominator is data, data and more data.

The smart factor however is not simply about the data, it is about the insight that can be gained from the data, and how, when this insight is combined with context or situation awareness, it can drive both local actions and enable intelligent business decisions that are relevant at that specific time. Farming will not need to be dependent upon a rain man, traditional methods and the fluctuations of climate to be more efficient.

A key challenge for using the IoT in agriculture is connectivity, getting the data from sensors deployed in the field as cost effectively as possible. Traditional communications network infrastructure is focused on people and converge is predominantly centred around them and does not extend far into rural areas in many countries as the cost model doesn’t work for the mobile network operators (MNOs) or fixed line providers. A flexible, long range option that offers different deployment models and a very low connectivity cost per sensor is essential. The sensors themselves also need to be very low power or even disposable because a truck roll to change or charge batteries invalidates any business model due to the cost sensitivities in some applications.

LoRaWAN low power wide area networks (LPWAN) are being used in several continents to get data from the field across many application verticals because of the technology’s inherent low power and long range capabilities. As it is an open communications standard there are many deployment and business model options available from simple Farm Only private networks to Agriculture-as-a-Service offerings.

The ubiquitous connected cow

Historically it had always been the […]

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Posted on: June 11, 2018

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