01 Jan 2024

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Farming

Cameron Roy
01 Jan 2024

‘Smart farming’ is the term used to describe farming operations that incorporate modern day technologies in order to improve their overall operation. Technologies utilised on smart farms can include things such as sensors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Drones, and Farm Management Softwares (FMS), just to name a few. The goal of these technologies is to increase output in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Although not a new concept, the Internet of Things (IoT) is relatively under-utilised within the Agricultural space, especially when compared to other industries. The adoption of IoT within the industry thus far has seen positive disruption, and in some cases, has shaken up traditional farming methods. This has resulted in producers being in an advantageous position, with the opportunity to re-examine how they define best common practice. The implementation of IoT technologies has even led to automated devices, such as sensors, superseding previously tedious manual tasks, ultimately achieving the goal of smart farming - to utilise technology to increase output in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Common Agricultural Technologies

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – AI in the Agricultural space tends to relate to the execution of Precision Agriculture. This technology is incredibly powerful in analysing big data, and can even aid in detecting disease in crops.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) – Unlike virtual reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) utilises the real world, enhancing the virtual and real world in applications such as pest control and soil monitoring.
  • Drones – An unmanned remote controlled flying device used to provide real-time and accurate data to farmers.
  • Farm Management Softwares (FMS) – Software used by farmers to centralise and  manage their production activities and overall farming operation.
  • Sensors – A sensor can be a variety of things, whether it’s a soil moisture probe or a weather station, it’s more or less a general term for a sensing device

With technological tools such as those mentioned in the table above, farmers can monitor field conditions and make strategic data-backed decisions.

Why Do Smart Farms Exist?

The reason smart farming has become such a popular phenomenon is due to the increasing demands placed upon primary producers, arisen from things such as a growing population, and unprecedented climate events. Aside from that, there’s also something comforting about knowing that you can check the status of any point on your farm at any time, just by opening your mobile device.

Having access to AgTech and real time reporting should no longer be considered a ‘luxury’ and something only large corporations have access too, but rather, a staple across any farming operation. Before going any further, it’s important to note that the role of AgTech on a smart farm isn’t necessarily to take away jobs of hard working individuals, or create redundancy, but instead, aid in increasing levels of efficiency, and to allow for farms be data-driven, resulting in a more effective allocation of resources.

Think about some of the key issues you currently face on your farm. Now, think about what you would need in order to remove some of these. Could these issues be solved if you had more time? A greater competitive advantage? Or, Better allocation of resources?

Let’s use an example to address how smart farming plays an active role in easing some of these pressures. Imagine a large scaled property with multiple water tanks spread out kilometers apart. In order to check each tanks level, the operator of that property (or their staff) would historically have to drive out to each site, evaluate, record, and then repeat this process for each tank they own. As common practice, most may see no issue with this,  however, the time spent doing this repetitive and time consuming task does come at cost. Now, if you multiplied that time consumed by the amount of times you would need to check each tank over a calendar year, how much is that time worth? Can you get it back? Or, could it be spend elsewhere doing something more productive?

In this case, by implementing an AgTech device, such as a Tank Sensor, and linking that sensor to a reporting software, you would be able to check the level of each respective tank across that property in real time. This example, although simple, is great to think about when considering the need for Smart Farming.

Another important consideration to keep in mind is that the progression from a farm to a Smart Farm doesn’t have to take place all at once. If anything, we tend to advise farmers to begin their smart farm journey with a handful of relevant sensors, ensuring they’re only reporting on the things that matter to them. Additionally, the introduction of sensors and other agricultural technologies to a farm doesn’t necessarily mean that there will need to be drastic changes in processes. If anything, these technologies will help refine what currently exists, and allow for more clear cut decisions need to be made on the basis of having this newfound source of data to draw from.

Network Connectivity & Smart Farming - Bringing Your Farm Online

One of the major components that differentiates a farm from a ‘smart farm’ is its level of connectivity. More specifically, the IoT Networks utilised by a farming operation to bring it online.

Connectivity is essential for a smart farm, as it facilitates the ‘conversation’ between on-farm sensors and the respective software used for reporting. Without a network (or networks) to connect to, sensors are fundamentally useless, which is why it’s so vital to have a clear understanding of your reporting needs before selecting a network. This relationship between sensor and network falls directly under the umbrella of IoT and its numerous agricultural use cases.

With so many network options available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. We’re here to demystify the idea that topics such as network connectivity and IoT in agriculture need to be complex. To grasp the importance of network connectivity for a smart farm, we like to use an easy-to-follow example of a mobile phone.

Most mobile phones have 3 key ways to connect: Bluetooth, Cellular, and WiFi, and although similar, each have different functions and capabilities. Think about what you do with each of these connectivity options on your phone. For example, with Bluetooth you might connect to a pair of headphones, with cellular you might make a call or send a text, whereas with Wi-Fi you may stream a movie on Netflix.

Think of the WiFi example just given. At home your mobile phone may be connected to your wifi modem and can easily stream a movie on Netflix. However, what happens when you start to walk down your driveway? Your signal strength starts to drop, eventually you’ll lose connection, and more than likely your cellular reception will take over. The cellular reception can certainly do the job of streaming, although it might not be as fast, and as a result may in fact drain your phone’s battery life. So, the key thing we've learnt here is that although, yes, they both can potentially do the same thing, one is more effective and more efficient in this scenario than the other.

A similar train of thought can be followed when discussing the network connectivity options available to farmers for their farming operation. Essentially, the network (or networks) you are to choose for your farm should depend on a few key factors, most notably, what type of sensors you will be utilising on your farm. Different types of sensors may require different networks (think back to the cellular versus WiFi mobile phone example) due to a variety of things, ranging from how frequently you need reporting, to the sheer size of data being reported by any given sensor.

Creating a Smart Farm with INCYT

At INCYT we understand that a farm is an ecosystem, and no one is the same. We've worked closely with Farmers across every industry vertical to discover what applications they want and need, and have built a platform where all that information can be seen, stored, and accessed on the go - no matter where you are. We also acknowledge that one of the hardest things to do is to start. Their are certain questions you might not yet have answers to, and that’s okay. Because we are here to help. We offer farmers, like yourself, services such as 1-on-1 training sessions with our smart agriculture experts, through to tailor-made smart farm design, with the ultimate goal of giving you the piece of mind knowing your smart farm operation is set up and functioning to its full potential.

We hope you have found this article on smart farming resourceful. To stay up to date with INCYT, AgTech news, and industry announcements, head over to our social channels and follow us to stay informed.

About the author
Cameron Roy

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