01 Jan 2024

What is IOT and what does it mean for farmers?

Cameron Roy
01 Jan 2024

IoT or the ‘Internet of Things’, relates to the expansion of the internet and its power beyond well-known computing devices such as smartphones and laptops. In short, IoT is an interconnected network of physical devices or objects that have the ability to record and transmit data across a given network.

Yes, all these ‘tech terms’ may sound overwhelming at first, but we’re here to help demystify IoT.  Here’s the key stuff you need to know when it comes to IoT.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things is leading the way in technological advancement in the majority of industries, including agriculture. When we talk about IoT, it’s easy to get overwhelmed but really it just means internet connected devices like an Apple SmartWatch or bluetooth connected headphones. That being said, as with many technological advancements, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible. In the same way that the first mobile phones now seem positively medieval when compared the iPhones and Android devices of today, there are exciting new use cases and applications being developed all the time using IoT Technologies.

With the growth of IoT in Agriculture, terms such as and ‘Smart Farming’ have also popped up and act as umbrella terms for a number of the new technologies out there. Whilst there is a real range of different software programs and devices available and it can be overwhelming, we’re going to make it simple for you

When we think about being connected to the internet, the first thing that often comes to mind is our computer, phone, or tablet. More or less, the very device you’re reading this article on. What do all of these devices have in common? They can send and receive information. Having the ability to send and receive information is a massive advantage, as it provides the user with data not just from a single point, but potentially an infinite amount of sources. This is what makes a device a ‘smart’ device.

Take your smartphone for example. You can open the ‘Weather’ app on your phone and find the temperature, humidity, and rainfall of just about any major city around the globe. Not because your phone has an extensive thermometer, or is a super computer, but because that information is stored and accessible somewhere within a given network and your phone can receive that information.

How does IoT work?

To gain a deeper understanding of IoT, it’s important to grasp the concept that the ‘Things’ component of the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ can comprise of just about any physical object or device. The purpose of this object or device is to detect or sense a given variable, for example, in Ag you can get sensors that collect data on temperature, moisture, motion, light, and wind, just to name a few. In other industries sensors might measure the start and stop time of machinery, air compounds, location and speed of a moving object.

When paired to a device with a wireless connection such as a telemetry device, the sensors are able to transmit data to ‘the cloud’, where it is processed and formatted into a useful reading in the form of graphs, dashboards or written reports. These reports are usually accessible through a software program or ‘App’ on your phone or laptop. The idea of connecting devices via the internet and processing data into readable formats in this way allows us to access information that was previously unavailable to us through standard observation or could only be collected through difficult and/or time consuming manual processes.

IoT and how it's changing farming

Modern day Farmers face a highly competitive landscape and the need to mitigate increasing climate variability.  As a result, they are often forced to make judgement-call decisions on a daily basis. When someone's livelihood is on the line, it’s crucial that these decisions are based upon objective data in order to have the greatest chance of success, which is why IoT is becoming so crucial to the agricultural industry.

With the development of IoT products and ecosystems such as INCYT, farmers now have access to technologies designed and curated just for them. By applying the same principles of IoT mentioned above, the agricultural industry has begun to access technology in a real way to help overcome the challenges posed by climate change, increased consumer demand and growing production costs.

Now we have sensors that have been developed specifically with farmers in mind, allowing producers to detect key ‘on farm’ data such as: soil moisture content, air quality, microclimate temperature & humidity, and motion detection for machinery such as sprayers or irrigators. These devices can be installed across a farm in order to provide accurate and real-time data to a farmer, no matter where they are on property or 1000kms away. Ultimately, this technology allows farmers to make the right decisions, with the right information, at the right time.

The goal of IoT in the agricultural industry isn’t to de-skill or make farmer’s experience and expertise redundant, but to assist them in creating the most efficient and profitable operation possible. A good example of this is in the installation of water level monitoring systems. How much time does it take to read and record the level of water of each water tank across a farm on a regular basis? If you’re farmer reading this, we’re guessing your answer was ‘ too much time’. This is a manual task that requires a potentially crucial amount of time, time that could be better spent elsewhere in a day where there’s 100 different things to do. INCYT water level monitoring sensor kits such as the Ultrasonic sensor or Hydrostatic sensor, allow you to remotely record the level of water and receive this information wherever you are through an easy to use app. Not only are you able to save time manually checking, but can act accordingly when an issue arises (such as a leak) or plan more efficiently. This is just one example that could be scaled across a small or large operation.

About the author
Cameron Roy

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