Smart Agro: what advantages does IoT technology bring to the agricultural sector?
The newest technologies are not at all at odds with sectors as traditional as agriculture.
Starting from the sensing of the fields, the possibilities in control, management and optimization of agricultural processes are very different. With Smart Agro we identify the digital transformation in the agricultural sector. In this post we will mention some of the possibilities that IoT offers in this field.
From the field to the cloud and from the cloud to the field
The use of the IoT linked to the agricultural sector is a key technological enabler in the process of digital transformation since it makes easier the promotion and the development of an intelligent economy as well as optimizing resources and reducing costs through the implementation of systems, applications and digital devices that improve and considerably streamline work in the field.
To continue advancing in the digitization process of the sector, it is important to join the use of the following technologies:
- Implantation of sensors. A first step in the process of digitizing the field is in its sensing. There are IoT devices capable of measuring temperature, radiation, humidity, etc. and that allow to program irrigation operations only when it is really necessary and thus optimize energy and water costs. Nowadays are sold sensors that measure the salts of the land, reducing the use of fertilizers to the minimum amount necessary. All these data that are collected are important to know the situation of the land of crops and act accordingly. But these data can be sent to the "cloud" where they are shared by different applications that use them in decision making, to plan risks and to account the operations performed. The communications networks of IoT technology (LORA, SigFox, GPRS, NB-IoT) simplify and significantly low the cost of telemetry in the field. Up to this point, data can be available numerically.
- Use of drones and satellite images. The digital transformation in the field also incorporates the use of drones and satellite images. Drones are currently used to visualize the state of the crops to, for example, determine if it is the right time for harvesting, check if the plantation is growing as expected or if it is being attacked by a pest.
- Artificial vision. In addition to monitoring the state of crops, the acquired images can be the basis of artificial vision algorithms that help, for example, in the counting of elements. These images are integrated into geographic information systems in which they overlap even with cartographic and cadastral information that help in the payment of crop subsidies.
- Analysis of data. The incorporation of information in a systematic way over time gives rise to historical, which treated with data analysis algorithms can help to predict how the crops will be and get ahead of the tasks of hiring collection services, logistics, etc. In this way, based on the data from the field that was uploaded to the cloud, decisions can be made about operations that must be carried out in the field.
All these technologies combined with the exponential use of mobile devices and personal computers ensure that irrigators have their crops "in their hands" at all times. The opening of irrigation hydrant valves is no longer carried out manually, but from a smartphone or a web of management of irrigation communities, kilometres away from them.
The incorporation of technology in the agricultural world not only makes easier the work of people living in the countryside. The use of energy, fertilizers and water is reduced if the risks are programmed according to the real needs. Water is a scarce resource, and both in Spain and in the rest of the world work is being done on initiatives that improve water management in order to optimize its use.
The communities of irrigators benefit from the technology for the programming of their irrigations and the consumption billing according to the water use of each crop. Artificial vision is used in crop inventory tasks. The more integrated the technology is in the agricultural sector, the more efficient and sustainable the crops are and the simpler their management.