Smart Farmers: The future of agriculture with 'Internet of Things'
Another failed monsoon, another drought hit winter ahead for our country. For a vast and populous country like ours, with ambitions to grow as an economic powerhouse in the flat world, it is a bit shameful that a vast majority of its people still depend on the south west monsoon as its primary source of food and income. Crops fail, and thus demand exceed supply, which in turn gets the prices to soar. As techies, we might crib about the rise in prices but our steady income helps negate them for the time being. But for the 600 million farmers scattered over the country, their whole livelihood is in danger.
How can this situation be prevented? Can information technology help avert drought like disasters and help sustain our country's economy? Internet of Things, a key new buzzword in the realm of emerging technologies, might have a say or two in this matter.
Smartness comes with optimization
One thing any farmer would think of is to maximize his
harvest with minimizing his expenditure. How can we optimize a season long
A 24 hour, 365 day, comprehensive environmental and growth parameter monitoring solution could be the answer to this. With sensors at the ground level sending instantaneous data regarding humidity, temperature, light and the many characteristics of soil such as pH, moisture content, fertilizer content etc., one can monitor whether a plantation is growing with its ideal growth conditions. When any parameters go awry, for example, moisture content in soil goes down beyond a set limit, alerts can be raised to the farmer and he can be guided as to exactly how much irrigation is needed and where.
Resource optimization, process optimization, business optimization; all in one go, at your fingertips, powered by meaningful data and the insights surrounding them.
Smartness comes with flexibility
Consider you had a piece of land and wanted to cultivate a cash crop as an alternative source of income; consider it your first foray into life as a farmer. You however, do not have any idea on what to cultivate, how to cultivate and how to monitor it. In this case, you would need a tool which can answer these queries backed up by instantaneous and accurate data.
A comprehensive plant management and monitoring system complete with databases, sensors and web based dashboard fits the bill here. Plant databases can be made use of to select the best growing crop in relation to the climate and soil conditions, relayed back by sensors deployed at ground zero. Once a crop is selected, its ideal range of growth parameters could be used as the threshold for monitoring it. Alternatively, one can change the crop (if it's not needed any more) as soon as environmental and soil parameters are not conducive any more.
Smartness comes with predictability
The common factor in all stories where crops fail is that the farmer couldn't predict it at the sowing or growing period, until he realizes it's too late. Can the farmer predict the future so that he can take corrective action if necessary?
Our continuous ground level parameter monitoring solution, together with crop databases and accurate weather predictions could actually make this possible. Continuous monitoring of moisture content and pH in the soil can be used to calculate how many days the sown crops would survive without irrigation. This data with accurate weather reports would give the farmer a better idea as to whether he needs to change the crop or explore other sources of irrigation.
Internet of Things has a huge potential in the agriculture field, particularly with the water stress and weather changes predicted in the near future. It gives plants a tongue to speak to us, complain to us when it needs resources to grow; also it serves as an ear to the farmers, telling them what to change/add to get optimum growth for the plantation. Its potential is only limited by imagination; we can expect farmers to be very 'smart' in the near future.