Smart farming Q&A: “Farmers are in-the-know about their assets”, says ABI Research
Two million farms and 36 million cattle will be connected to the internet by low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks, and other technologies, by 2024. This is the calculation from analyst house ABI Research, in a new report that considers the opportunity for internet-of-things (IoT) technologies in field crops, tree crops, and livestock.
For field and tree crops, the primary driver for connectivity is to irrigate sufficiently and efficienctly at the same time, align with government regulation on water usage. For livestock, it is about collecting data relating to the health of animals, including birthing activities, as well as knowledge of their whereabouts.
Here, Enterprise IoT Insights catches up with the report’s author, Harriet Sumnall, research analyst at the firm, to discuss in general terms the technological transformation and disruption of the agriculture space. Note, Sumnall is also involved in a new report from Enterprise IoT Insights called Connecting Agriculture – the promise of smart farming and the challenge of connectivity’, which looks at development of IoT technologies in the farming and agricultural sectors. The report, free to download, can be found here.
How is the agricultural sector changing with new digital technologies?
“Using technology within the agricultural space is allowing farmers to use their time in a more efficient manner as they are not required to be on the farm at all times to ensure everything runs smoothly. The use of sensors for example, allows for data to be readily available for farmers on many different things that are monitored within the farm.
“Sensors within the livestock sector allow farmers to monitor factors such as ill health, fertility, location as well as calving. This means farmers are in-the know of what is happening with their assets. The sensors can track when is the optimum time to inseminate a cow so that they are more likely to have a more successful insemination, they also monitor movements to alert when a pregnant cow enters the calving process.
“Within the field crop and tree market, sensors are used for a majority of things but most significantly they are used to monitor soil moisture, so that farmers are not over irrigating their crops. There are many benefits to this as it enables the irrigation process to become automated. Not only this, the use of sensors for delicate crops can monitor the air temperature, therefore this can prevent loss of crop due to frost.”
What is the opportunity with new digital technologies?
“The new digital technologies will allow for automation of many processes that without would use a lot of labour resources. Farmers will be able to prioritise other activities and ensure that everything is running smoothly.
“The technologies give farmers the opportunities to maximise yields as well as see where their farm is preforming well or not so well, so that they can take the relevant actions.”
Can you put this change in the context of the sector’s history?
“Originally, farmers had to work in a more traditional manner, spending and using more on labour. The traditional farming methods means that working hours were considerably longer as farmers would have to be on the farm the majority of the time just in case something happened that wasn’t supposed to.
“The digitalisation of the agricultural space due to the use of IoT has transformed the way in which farmers now have the ability to work. It has enabled farmers to remotely be in control of their farms, which means they only need to go on site when required. The analytics of the data collected helps create a smarter method of thinking and better decisions will be made in regard to the running of the farm.”
Which technology is most transformative for the sector – sensors, connectivity, data and analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation?
“They are all rather valuable as they are all significant parts to the ecosystem. The sensors would not be able to work without the connectivity elements, and without these elements the analytics would have no data to analyse. AI, automation and robotics all work well together too, so it would be difficult to choose one that holds more value.”
A new editorial report from Enterprise IoT Insights, called Connecting Agriculture – the promise of smart farming and the challenge of connectivity’, ooks at development of IoT technologies in the farming and agricultural sectors. The report, free to download, can be found here. It is the second in the new Making Industry Smarter report series from Enterprise IoT Insights. For a full schedule of editorial reports, see back page of the Connecting Agriculture report.