Connected Farming and the Future of Agriculture

May 12, 2020 • Shannon Flynn

Connected agriculture encompasses a wide assortment of high-tech options to promote growth, streamline maintenance and facilitate overseeing. The Internet of Things (IoT) factors heavily into these improvements.

Many of them will likely change farming for the foreseeable future. Here are some recent fascinating developments in the world of connected farming. 

Farmers Engage in Less Guesswork

Agricultural
professionals know a variety of factors could affect a season’s yield, the
taste of crops and other aspects that directly tie into profitability. However,
researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are using a
variety of technologies to decrease the uncertainty associated with a career in
farming. 

One recent effort involved depending on machine learning to create the best-tasting basil. The researchers discovered the optimal amount of volatile compounds, which affect how the leaves taste. They used algorithms to find out how much light the leaves required.

The MIT group wants to promote data sharing, and indeed, urging farmers to become more dependent on collected information is one of the foundational elements of successful connected farming. 

A
company called Arable offers a collection of IoT tools that
make it easy

and efficient to compile accurate and useful information. One of
its products, called the Mark 2, collects both crop and weather data. The
statistics captured by the sensor help users make decisions about irrigation,
pest management and more. 

The
results do not negate the need for a person to rely on their experience before
taking action. However, they reduce the instances of farmers potentially making
mistakes that could dampen the success of a growing season.  

Technology Allows Remote Monitoring

Having access to regular updates about crop growth rates and overall health empowers farmers to make prompt decisions and stave off catastrophes.

The traditional ways of keeping an eye on-field activity proved time-intensive, however. Agricultural professionals initially accomplished the task by hand, then progressed to using satellite imagery to help. Even those images were only two-dimensional or 3D reconstructions at best. 

A
multi-institutional team working in Georgia engineered something more effective
that autonomously gathers higher-quality images via computer vision. The
scientists built an algorithm process data, then taught it to work with sensors
mounted to a conventional farm tractor. The team took information across 89 days and 23
sessions
,
giving results featuring 36 million data points. 

Seeing that kind of information in a single place saves time, plus increases knowledge. Advancements like these could change the future of farming because growers don’t need to wait to notice a major issue before acting.

They can get alerts about minor changes that may warrant concern, then take decisive measures to reduce the possible problems. 

Smart Robots Assist With Necessary Tasks

Intelligent and purposeful robots are also making waves in the connected farming sector. Many of these solutions enhance efficiency while maintaining high standards of quality and excellent precision.

If these robotic options meet expectations, they could substantially benefit agriculture operations burdened by labor shortages. 

One
company called FarmWise built weeding robots to keep fields tidy. The machines
have plucked weeds from more than 10
million plants
 so
far. The brand believes its technology gives crops the best chances to thrive
while cutting down on chemical applications. 

A
similar collaborative effort from Bosch and xarvio Digital Farming
Solutions of BASF involves a product called Smart Spraying, set to arrive on
the market in 2021. Connected sensors and cameras attached to an aerial sprayer
only require
milliseconds to locate weeds
, differentiate them from crops and dispense an
herbicide. 

Famers
using the Smart Spraying application can access a dedicated interface that
shows the status of each field targeted with the system. The technology also
offers recommendations for individual fields, as well as zones. 

These
are just some of the many examples of robotic equipment assisting with tasks
that formerly took a long time to achieve and needed a substantial workforce to
get done on time. As more options like these arrive on the market, agriculture
workers should find they can get more done with less effort. 

An App Disrupts Traditional Farming Commerce

Connected farming also promises to upend the usual ways farmers make money for their efforts and purchasers obtain the produce they want.

One example concerns a software development team that created the KROPS app for farmers in the Philippines. It’s a mobile application based in Microsoft Azure that lets farmers display what they have to sell and connect with people who are ready to buy it. 

Jomar
Guerinia, who uses the app as a farmer, explains, “Now I’m able to sell my
produce on a level
playing field

where a handful of buyers don’t control everything. Now I have all kinds of
customers buying my produce from many different places because of my visibility
within KROPS listings.”

Buyers
and sellers can then communicate with each other to arrange deliveries of the
items or iron out additional specifics. The app also allows people to see how
demand fluctuates across a given period. Such information aids in setting fair,
yet competitive prices. 

Connected Farming Propels an Exciting Future

These
examples show why people are so eager to see how connected agriculture might
remove obstacles and boost production, among other perks. Such technology could
bring farmers closer to the ultimate goal of keeping the world fed with
nutrient-rich choices.

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