India ranks second on-farm outputs worldwide and around 42% of India’s population is employed in the agriculture sector. A sector that has such a vast impact on the country, just depending on climatic conditions and manual methods of farming seems a little outdated and with the thriving world population, a change in the system is required now, more than ever. This is why we think sensors in the agriculture business should be used more widely with an introduction to smart agriculture.
What is smart agriculture?
There are many ways to introduce technology to agriculture, but when we make use of wireless sensor networks in agricultural fields, it is known as smart agriculture. The usage of sensors to collect environmental and machine metrics to provide them to the farmers so that they can make informed decisions to improve every aspect of their work, be it livestock or crop farming. The ultimate goal is to increase the quality and quantity of the crops while reducing waste and optimizing the human labour that is used.
Why should we be using sensors in agriculture anyway?
One word, data. The biggest advantage that these sensors have is the huge amount of data that they can collect. Starting from the weather conditions to the soil quality to the crop’s growth process, collecting the relevant data can be a game-changer. No doubt, the farmers know best about the crops and their lands but sometimes the problems can be hidden and unpredictable and that is where these sensors help.
These sensors monitor the whole system 24×7 to provide the farmers with the necessary data which helps them to make informed decisions that are going to help them in better cost management, waste reduction, and water conservation due to their increased control over production which is eventually going to help them flourish their agriculture business and is going to result in higher revenues.
The UN projects that the world’s population will reach about 9.7 billion by 2050, which will cause global agriculture production to rise by 69% from 2010 to 2050. To meet this growing demand farmers will have to take the help of IoT solutions that can increase their productivity. IoT is all set to push the future of agriculture to the next level. IoT implementation has already become common for farmers in many countries and will soon become a standard practice in India too.
Now that we know sensors are highly useful for the agriculture business, let us take a look at some of the useful sensors.
Sensors to monitor the climate conditions
As the weather is one of the few parameters not in our control, weather stations are probably the most popular smart agriculture gadgets. Weather stations combined with temperature and humidity sensors play an essential role in smart agriculture to provide ambient condition monitoring. These provided measurements can be used to map climatic conditions to choose the appropriate crops. Weather Can also be forecasted directly by integrating APIs into the sensor system Gateway so that precautionary measures can be taken against any undesirable climate conditions.
Sensors to measure soil properties
Another very popular and important kind of sensor is needed to know about the properties of the soil. Various aspects of the soil can be measured by various sensors, namely-
- Optical sensors- These sensors use light to measure soil properties and have been developed to determine the clay, organic matter, and moisture content of the soil.
- Electrochemical sensors– These sensors provide information about the content of O2, CO2, and other essential gases present along with pH and soil nutrient levels. Sensor electrodes penetrate into the soil to detect specific ions in the soil. Determining essential nutrients can provide the best suitable conditions for the crops to grow.
- Dielectric sensors- These sensors assess the moisture content in the soil. The crops can be better irrigated once we know the moisture in the soil. This leads to better water management. Dielectric sensors can also be used to determine the pH of the soil.
Sensors for pesticides
While pesticides are necessary for keeping the crops pest-free, putting in the right amount is extremely important. Putting an extra amount of pesticides can be harmful to the plants and can contaminate the soil and the water. Furthermore, with repeated use of excess pesticides, the insects and bugs can become resistant to them which will only force the farmers to use heavier pesticides.
Image capturing sensors have proven to be cheap but at the same time a very efficient method of pest detection. Based on the images the farmers determine the area of the infestation and can take steps to remove them by spraying pesticides in the specific areas.
Gas sensors are another popular way to detect pests. Plants release specific volatile gases when stressed. The chemical compounds released differ for each cause of stress. Hence, the compounds that are released in the case of a pest attack can be studied beforehand and can be used to identify such attacks.
Sensors for Cattle tracking and Traceability
Just like sensors used for monitoring the soil, there are devices that can be used to monitor livestock. IoT sensors attached to animals can provide information about their health, well-being, and physical location. GPS satellites are used to determine latitude, longitude, and altitude. Additionally, geofencing is incorporated by the caretakers to keep track of their livestock. It is a location-based service that sends alerts when an animal leaves their designated area. This also reduces the cost of staff required.
Data collected from all the different agricultural sensors are to be then analyzed and visualized to serve different purposes. These data are sent to the IoT Dashboard which collects the data in real-time and converts them into human-readable form. Data collected in real-time helps farmers to make informed decisions.
Some features of the Smart agriculture System are
Automatic irrigation of soil
With a lack of fresh water, it is important to use the water provided to use wisely. Putting sensors to detect the moisture in the soil is going to use the water effectively and result in a better yield of crops. This system consists of a water pump that sprinkles water based on the data provided by the sensor about moisture, temperature, and humidity. It helps in saving water as well.
Soil nutrients data
Soil provides the nutrients required for crop growth. Chemical and physical properties of the soil such as moisture content, temperature, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content heavily affect the yield of the crop. In case of deficiency of these nutrients, the farmers put in fertilizers, and many times they end up putting more or less than required. Hence, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium sensors are used to monitor the soil health so that the farmers can put fertilizers whenever required, and in the right amount.
Drones are equipped with sensors and cameras for imaging, mapping, and surveying purposes. There are ground-based and aerial drones. Ground-based drones are bots that survey the field on wheels. On the other hand, aerial drones are flying robots that are either remotely controlled or can fly automatically through software-controlled flight plans. Insights about crop health, irrigation, spraying, planting, soil, and field can be drawn from the data collected from the drones. After the drones survey and collect the data, they are taken to a nearby lab to be analyzed.
Greenhouse farming helps enhance the growth of vegetables and fruits. Greenhouses control the environmental parameters through manual intervention. This leads to production loss, energy loss, and more labour costs with less effectiveness. A smart greenhouse that is built with the help of IoT intelligently monitors as well as controls the climate, eliminating the need for manual intervention. Different sensors are used to measure the environmental parameters and the environment of the greenhouse is controlled accordingly.
Crop prediction according to the weather, soil requirements, etc is very important for the farmer to decide future plans regarding the production of crops. To predict the production rate of the crop sensors collect information regarding the soil, temperature, pressure, rainfall, and humidity All of this data is collected on a dashboard and is analyzed for the farmer to make an informed decision about which crop to produce.
In conclusion, we would like to say, technology has benefited many sectors in India, and it is high time the agriculture business benefits from it too with the help of the sensors used in agriculture and smart farming.
Implementing IoT in the agriculture business can bring an extremely positive change. If you are looking to implement such farming solutions then look no further, we at PsiBorg Technologies can bring about the change you want.
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