The rise of the ‘digital agricultural age’ has seen the emergence of a range of new technologies in the context of ‘smart farming’. This relates to the use of ‘IoT agriculture’ (‘Internet of Things agriculture’) to optimise farm management and performance via data collection and visualisation.
IoT agriculture can be an overwhelming space. Relating available farm IoT applications to specific agricultural sectors and individual farm situations is vital to contextualise the benefits of different applications and determine which are most useful for individual farmers. Smart farming IoT solutions are designed to collect real-time data for monitoring, visualising and managing as part of the ‘precision agriculture’ concept.
Farm IoT applications provide micro and macro-level insights for farmers. Micro level applications involve collection of real-time farm-specific data via sensors attached to internet-connected devices on the property. Macro-level applications involve taking farm-specific data insights and contextualising them against the other variables such as climate, agricultural markets and upstream operations within the agricultural supply chain.
Weather stations and farm machinery can be equipped with sensors and devices to enable collection of data across a range of variables. This data can be collected and transformed into useful information when combined with internet connectivity. Insights can be visualised and transformed through data analytics and management specific algorithms on a digital platform that farmers can access to inform critical management decisions. Farm IoT solutions can be used for real time monitoring of variables such as temperature, humidity, light and soil moisture. Farm IoT can be used to automate processes such as irrigation and harvesting to improve efficiency and hence reduce labour costs. Farm IoT also allows for mapping and imaging of entire properties using drone technology. This can allow for thermal mapping, visualisation of grazing intensity and tracking of herd movements. Farm IoT data insights are designed to allow for more precise and informed decision making . This can include the use and application of chemical inputs, whereby farmers can reduce waste and cut costs by knowing which part of their properties require chemical application and how much needs to be applied.
Industries around the world are all moving towards more digitised and data driven landscapes to improve efficiency. The collection and storage of farm data will become increasingly relevant as the agricultural industry move towards implementing blockchain models in order to increase traceability and accountability throughout the supply chains. For the Australian agricultural industry, the ability to mitigate risk is invaluable. Australian farmers face some of the toughest conditions in the world, be it weather volatility, soil health or water availability. Having the tools to understand and visualise farm operations across multiple variables is vital. The ability to take farm data and transform it into meaningful information that can inform decision making will become a necessity.