Jonathan Seelig is co-founder and executive chairman of Ridge† He was previously a co-founder of Akamai.
With the world population projected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050, a corresponding 70% increase calories produced will be needed to feed everyone, while the supply side faces constraints based on land, agriculture and cost. Population growth will also put pressure on the world’s water supply, and some experts estimate that 57% of the world’s population will live in water-scarce areas by 2050. To make matters worse, round 25% of the world’s arable land demoted and requires significant recovery before it can produce crops at maximum efficiency. Not to mention climate change and the increasing number of natural disasters, all of which are negatively impacting the global food supply.
How can global agriculture cope with increasing environmental challenges?
Technological advances related to the Internet of Things (IoT), for example AI and drones, could provide part of the solution for farms looking to save resources and money. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize agriculture to keep food on the table for generations to come.
There are many opportunities for emerging technologies to influence the way food is grown; let’s look at five.
1. Crop monitoring
Farms can use IoT technology to track their crops. Sensors in each field can monitor the soil and collect data on temperature, humidity and fertility. They can also detect weed growth, water levels, and pest and animal invasion. Farms can better understand the growth of their crops and monitor potential threats.
2. Weather sensors
Agriculture is always at the mercy of the weather. Previously, farms had to rely on weather reports from the nearest airport or city, which did not provide a sufficiently accurate reading. With hyperlocal weather sensors, powered by edge IoT technology, farms can eliminate climate surprises and plan accordingly. Detailed knowledge of the local weather allows farmers to sharpen their growing strategies and increase their crop yields.
3. Livestock data
It is of great value to livestock or dairy farms to have specific data about each of their animals. Wearable smart technology for animals captures a wide range of such data. For example, IoT devices can track reproductive cycles and health and nutrition levels by tracking activity, food consumption, body temperature and more. The better the data, the healthier the herd.
4. Autonomous Farm Machinery
Autonomous agricultural technology can have a major effect on the human labor needs of farms. Machines such as self-propelled tractors, robotic seed drills and agricultural drones can save individual farmers countless labor hours, eliminate human errors and help solve global agricultural labor shortages† These machines can ultimately save resources and reduce human labor, while increasing the overall yield.
5. Smart Infrastructure
To optimize the whole farming process, not only crops and livestock need to be checked, but also storage! Infrastructure solutions such as smart silos and smart greenhouses can be important tools. Smart silos can detect and communicate the amount of product inside, ensuring product freshness. Meanwhile, smart greenhouses can automatically optimize humidity, temperature, lighting and soil conditions. These solutions make the farming process more efficient and environmentally friendly.
How does the cloud fit in with smart farming?
Cloud-enabled IoT devices powering the smart farming industry are always active and logging, thus producing massive amounts of data. This data has to be stored somewhere, and local sensors don’t have the space for it. The cloud’s storage and powerful performance capabilities make it the ideal match for IoT devices in agriculture. Edge clouds enable farmers to collect and analyze the data from their IoT devices so they can make informed decisions about their crops over the long term.
Localized cloud platforms can support massively distributed workloads, such as smart sensors on a farm. By using edge cloud computing, farms can fully embrace technology that will allow them to use time and resources more efficiently, and most importantly, be able to produce more food for our growing population.