With predictions of significant population growth and the impending demands on Australian farmers to increase their production in order to meet Australia’s needs as well as export needs, the importance of utilising new technologies to make smarter decisions and allocate farming resources efficiently is of the highest priority.
A large part of these advances will be achieved by the development of what’s known as the Internet of Things (IoT), that is, devices that are able to connect to the internet. According to Andrea Koch from the Internet of Things Alliance Australia, the number of internet connected devices is expected to grow up to 50 billion by 2020. Devices that have already been connected include everything from smart tv’s to toasters that enable you to not only “print” (the heat pattern design) any design, but also to send printable toast messages to your friends connected toasters.
According to Andrea Koch from the Internet of Things Alliance Australia, the number of internet connected devices is expected to grow up to 50 billion by 2020.
For the agricultural sector the developing IoT devices are going to be far more useful than toasters. These devices include everything from sensors on self-driving tractors that are able to collect plant and soil data, to drones and farm software and they will be key to meeting the increased food demand. In an ideal “smart farm”, self-driving or automated devices that are fitted with sensors would collect data from places like the soil, plants, and crop yields. This data would be sent to cloud-based systems that then enable farmers to make area-specific decisions on irrigation, fertiliser, and the best time to harvest rather than continuing to cover areas in a blanket-type approach.
The benefits of specific area decisions are directly related to profitability. While the current cost of sensors and devices are comparatively high, the development of better and more affordable technology will soon mean that incorporating internet connected devices into the farming industry will be a significant cost-saving decision. Being able to patch-treat soil or crops with fertilizer or insecticides for instance will reduce wasted resources, increase soil quality for better on-going yield, and reduce the cost to the environment from run-off. As a further example, the ability to track the exact best time to harvest or predict inclement weather more efficiently will increase saleable profits and reduce the risk of crop-loss due to issues such as frost.
While none of us can really know what the future holds we know it will be technology and internet driven, and it’s clear that we must view the availability of internet connected devices as an important part of farming machinery for the profitability of agricultural and horticultural businesses.
Interested in how big data will affect farming? See our article here.