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February 5, 2016

Why 'Smart' Farming Is Taking Off

Posted by Prasad Joshi (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:50 AM

ASEAN: Internet of things for smart farming [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPK5ZTwRaZE]

Here's a fact: Today, people live longer than before, thanks to medical advancements. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that earth's population will grow to 9.6 billion people by the year 2050. Therefore, food production must increase by 70% to meet the needs of this increasing populace. But, most farms are not equipped to meet this growing demand.

So, what ails them? For starters, there's a limited supply of fresh water for irrigation, diminishing arable land, slow productivity, and skyrocketing energy costs. Moreover, farmers are in constant short supply of farm laborers due to urbanization. Variability in the climate change, and the economic losses attributed to it, just add on to the already ailing industry.

The good news is that there's help at hand. Smart farming solutions, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), can give farmers insights needed to get more out of less. IoT-enabled solutions in smart or precision farming can equip fields with sensors to monitor and predict conditions, giving farmers more control over their operations. IoT coupled with GPS and Big Data can bring transformational change in the way agricultural operations and decision systems work today. IoT can bring the notion of connected farms to life by connecting various field operations, making the farm intelligent to sense and communicate climatic, environmental and other operational practices and risks. This is the first step in a responsive supply chain that helps grow greater quantities of healthier crops, while using fewer resources.

This about application of smart technologies when it comes to produce storage. A large-scale fruit farm in Arizona uses a smart tool to protect harvested fruit from frost during winter nights. Smartphones help them track and monitor critical low temperatures via weather stations. A sharp drop in temperature (less than the desired) triggers frost alerts, as well as location information to help identify the wind machines for activation to protect against frost. Thanks to this, during one severe freeze, the farm was able to minimize frost damage to only 20 percent. Neighboring fields reportedly lost 80 percent of their crops. Moreover, control technology helped a large walnut farm to manage the moisture level in its bins. Walnuts decay quickly when holding over eight percent moisture. Less than optimal drying can cause the walnuts to rot or mold.

Smart farming solutions can really make a difference in the wine industry. In addition to farming challenges, wineries also need to comply with strict regulations and quality control standards when supplying to international markets. We, at Infosys, have implemented solutions that track powdery mildew, monitor conditions in the vineyard that cause such diseases and use image analytics to point areas of infestation. Use of predictive models allows us to forecast the impact on wine yield from the vineyard.

A large number of countries are essentially agrarian societies. Smart farming solutions can optimize farming for many of them, but it needs government support to fully take off. Recently, the Malaysian government announced a national IoT plan with a target to increase farming productivity by 20% in the next five years. By 2020, agriculture is expected to contribute US$ 320 million to the Malaysian economy, with support from smart farming tools. With benefits such as these, can the rest of the world be far behind?

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