The Growth of IoT in Agriculture

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One of the oldest human trades is farming. Since the dawn of civilization, a need for regular, stable food production has been a staple of society. Today, agriculture is responsible for over $130 billion of our gross GDP in America. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to revolutionize our world, implementing connected solutions in industries as vital as farming allow us to leverage the full power of IoT in an economically impactful manner. 

In order to realize the full potential of IoT in any industry, there are five high level steps that must be incorporated into your process:

  • Inject
  • Connect
  • Collect
  • Dissect
  • Direct

For starters, you need to inject the sensors into the “things”.  Having the necessary components built into your object is what allows you to connect your “thing” to a network, rendering it functional and beneficial.  You can then begin to collect the data produced by these sensors, compiling a variety of reference points that can be dissected and analyzed.  Then you can direct the use of that information, being smarter about how you produce something.

So how can this impact agriculture? For one thing, it expands the potential for efficiency. One example of this is the Rowbot. Rowbot is an automated vehicle designed to move between rows of crops (specifically corn) and apply fertilizer tailored to the crops needs, inter-seed cover crops and collect data around plant diagnostics to better inform current and future farming practices.  Apart from the obvious benefits of the tailored care and data collection, the automation of this process allows for round the clock crop care, delivery a higher quality product more efficiently.

Repurposing existing technology in farming is another way to foster this innovation. Temperature sensors, initially used to only monitor the health of cows to gauge if they were ill, are now being used to optimize dairy production.  Upon further analysis of the data produced by these sensors, it was discovered that at a certain body temperature cows produce about 10% more milk.  Using this data, farmers have begun to monitor their cattle, milking at the opportune time to increase yield.   

Agriculture today has evolved beyond simply standard produce to include alternative energy production and collection.  A single wind turbine has over 400 data points that transmit never information over 60 times per second.  Collecting this data informs not only the use and care of the existing turbines, but helps predict the most beneficial placement of new turbines, how many new turbines should be activated, and future energy yield.    

Each of these projects implemented sensors or software into an existing system, connected it to the power of the internet of things, collected and analyzed the data and used that information to drastically improve their production process.  This is how the Internet of Things is impacting biosciences, how will it affect your industry? 

John McDonald is the CEO of ClearObject, Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing IT company in Indiana for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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