Agriculture is no stranger to disruptive technologies. In a warming world that will increasingly experience food shortages, the ability to use technologies like IoT to sustainably grow more food faster is incredibly important.
But as long as fundamental thinking remains unchanged, disruptive technologies like IoT cannot completely solve problems in the global food chain. We need forward-thinkers and early adopters to start paving the way until new innovations become the industry standard.
Like AI and blockchain technology, IoT is a major trend that is fundamentally changing modern food production. IoT uses the internet to connect smart objects across a network to allow for precision monitoring, says Alexander Lewis, media relations expert, Paessler AG.
In agriculture, IoT makes use of sensors and processors in fields, vineyards, orchards, and barns to monitor variations in agricultural environments. As climate change increases at a rapid rate, farmers will increasingly need to be responsive in order to minimise damage to crops and livestock.
Poor irrigation destroys farmland
Every three years, we lose an area of fertile soil the size of Germany to desertification. But how? Thanks to earth’s fast-changing climate, incorrect irrigation practices — particularly in hot climates — are leading to the loss of fertile soils at an alarming rate.
At the same time, we know the human population is quickly growing. By the year 2050, there could be as many as 10 billion humans to feed across our planet. To compound the problem, more people in developing countries like China are consuming energy-intensive foods like meat and dairy products.
Agricultural production must grow by two-thirds by 2050 to keep up with those demands. In particular, water, fertile soils, and biodiversity must be preserved and protected more intelligently. By many standards, the current state of agriculture and farming worldwide is nowhere close to where it needs to be.
If this disastrous trend continues as it is today, yields will decrease by up to 12% over the next 25 years. Hunger will be an even bigger issue for specific population groups than it is today. To reverse these trends, we must rely on innovative ways to grow food.
IoT enables ethical farming
Hydroponics is the art of growing plants in water instead of soil. The concept, originally called “aquaculture”, was developed in 1930 by a professor at UC Berkeley named Dr. W. E. Gericke. But this method of cultivating food has existed much, much longer.
The benefits of hydroponics:
- Water conservation (e.g. the amount of lettuce in the average salad requires 2L of water with hydroponics vs. 20-30L of water in traditional agriculture)
- Better nutrient control and ability to explore genetic potential of plants
- Significantly improved quality and yield
- Shorter growth cycles for certain varieties
- More efficient use of space
- Considerable savings
- No herbicides or fertilisers required
IoT monitoring is crucial for the success of hydroponics, especially water quality, conductivity, pH level, and nutrient levels, as well as artificial lighting. Hydroponics is a smart agricultural process that has the potential to stave off hunger as the world’s population continues to boom.
But smart agriculture itself cannot lead the charge toward truly sustainable agricultural development. As always, the potential good of a technology lies in the hands of those who wield it. It’s up to us to be the change we need to preserve our planet.
Agricultural IoT in action: The technological vineyard
As with most innovations, there tend to be early adopters. In the case of agricultural IoT, smart vineyards are paving the way for better wine thanks to more fertile soil.
An increasing number of winegrowers rely on sensors distributed throughout the vineyards to protect their plants against the effects of climate change. Winegrowers send environmental data, drone images, and information about the composition of the leaves to cloud platforms.
The recorded data offers a comprehensive picture that leads to more eco-friendly farming. Vineyard owners can monitor and understand what’s happening in their soil better than ever before. This modular solution streamlines current farming processes by providing farmers with predictive analytics. When vintners know exactly what’s going on in their vineyards, they are able to water more efficiently, use fertilisers and herbicides sparingly, and address issues before they destroy an entire crop.
Keeping our crops safe — now that’s something to toast to.
The author of this blog is Alexander Lewis, media relations expert, Paessler AG