Agricultural yields increased sharply during the 20th century, due in particularly to new technological methods and to science. This technological revolution has allowed considerable advances in nutrition, genetics, computing, imaging, meteorology, to name a few advantages. Progress has increased crop yields and optimized modern irrigation strategies to make water use more efficient.
Why do we need smart agriculture?
Today, the yield must be increased. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) foresees a future increase in the world population to eight billion people by 2025. Production will have to increase by 70% by 2050. Agriculture also consumes 70 % of the world’s freshwater supply. Water management therefore goes hand in hand to ensure food security.
All these new data put considerable pressure on the agricultural sector, which will have to adapt. Tomorrow, the agricultural sector will face a number of challenges:
- Limited availability of arable land
- Climate change
- The scarcity of water
- The price and availability of energy
- The impact of urbanization on the supply of rural labour
Smart agriculture, technology will play a decisive role.
New technologies will play a central role in achieving these new imperatives.
One of the essential means is to combine scientific expertise, soil chemistry, disease management through intelligent sensors and information technology. And the FAO recommends that all actors in agriculture be equipped with innovative techniques and tools, in particular digital technologies.
Smart agriculture is a precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is based on sensor technologies (already well established in other industrial sectors). IT systems concentrate, collect, analyze and present data to trigger an appropriate response from the end user. In the agricultural world and according to the type of agriculture involved, special (and intelligent) sensors collect data on the soil and on the behavior of crops, animals, machinery, storage tanks and other states from remote sites . All these data will then be transmitted to the information systems for monitoring and analysis.
What could a smart farm look like?
- Weather stations installed in each field and connected soil moisture sensors could warn you when conditions warrant fungicide treatment. The valves in the underground drain lines could open or close automatically depending on the conditions detected by the detectors.
- Different types of farm equipment can already transmit performance and performance data wirelessly. There is no limit to the destinations of these data in real-time and to the devices to which they will be connected. Drones? Robotic tractors? The future will tell.
- Biomonitoring devices that monitor temperature, heart rate, respiration, and movement of sentinel animals in livestock herds will provide early warning of health problems or stressors in animals. The relevant changes could thus be made automatically or remotely to ambient conditions and food rations.
- Farmers and their employees could also take advantage of biomonitoring devices that help detect fatigue and stress.
- In addition, connected sensors will automatically monitor all kinds of stocks: fuel, feed, crop protection, etc. When inventories fall below a given level, an order could be placed automatically.
Each connected device can generate real-time data and keep it in the Cloud. An avalanche of data from the billions of connected devices will surge online over the next few years. What to remember is that if a device can be connected, it will be connected.