If we assess the landscape today in the agricultural industry, we’ll face some pretty strong facts. For starters, the world population will reach an approximate of 9 billion by 2050, and yet there is only 4% of the earth’s surface, which is available for farming. Not only is this, but the current global agricultural system, currently being pressurized to increase the food supply by 8 billion in 2023. At this rate, it is expected to surpass 10 billion people in the next 40 years. This gives us an immediate call to maximize our food production. Well, the good news is that technology has spread its wings in the Agri-driven sectors too, due to which farmers and agronomists can leverage AI-driven solutions to improve their crop yield and drive the business value.
Precision agriculture, satellite farming, or specific crop management, is a farming management system based on the use of modern technologies which observes, measures, and responds to inter and intra-field variability in crops at every stage of work. Farming is a very visual task, it’s about using your eyes and thinking how a farmer would assess the situation based on his experience and based on that, assess what they should do. This is where we can enable data and technology to step in and navigate the decisions at hand, based on insights which are provided by the data.
Even though population explosion remains the prime reason to introduce AI in agriculture, the advent of COVID-19 has too made the agricultural landscape vulnerable and made us question the sustainability of global food demands. How can we solve it? The answer is simple, we need to achieve efficiency; generating more with less. The agricultural industry needs to make the public aware of the world’s requirement towards an improved stewardship of the global environment, which includes air, soil, water and climate. In agriculture, such stewardship refers to sustainable practices that are nature-positive or regenerative, no depleting and non-destructive to the ecosystem.
With the help of IoT, we can convert the conventional agricultural industry into a nature-positive precision agriculture. Using technological advancements, we can have proper applications that can reduce crop risk, improve crop production yields and preserves resources better than before.
1. Agricultural organizations which are focused on outdoor farming can apply IoT technology to optimize their production using automation in many ways. Such as using equipment which are networked with wireless communications and has GPS capabilities and can precisely and accurately control where seeds are planted. This practice is called variable-rate seeding. Studies have shown that variable-rate seeding significantly improves crop yield per acre and improves planting efficiency by minimizing seed waste.
2. Another use of IoT can be done by electronic mapping. An agricultural space combined with historical data from soil sensors, drone cameras and mobile farm equipment GPS to inform seasonal crop selection and rotation. Weather and real-time soil sensor data also inform water management. Farms can use multiple methods for watering -- but research has shown that precision water delivery, such as automated trickle or subsurface methods, works best. Precision water delivery reduces evaporation, improves soil moisture content and delivers water most effectively in response to real-time weather conditions. Farmers can also use data from sensors in the ground to develop a model of soil fertility in reaction to different crops and conditions over time. The said model can include fertilizers and soil bacteria management for improved nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium uptake, which helps in maintaining the soil’s health.
The use of automation is advantageous over manual equipment, as it optimizes fuel use, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel optimization is essential because fossil fuel still powers the majority of farm equipment. Some automated tractors can manage the engine's rpm to most effectively work the field -- even with changing slopes and rougher terrain -- further improving fuel efficiency.
3. Automated drones and sensing equipment can monitor crops in real time, using available data to help identify changing conditions for the supply chain. Software with AI-based monitoring of drone footage can positively identify pests and disease, reducing crop risk and helping to inform a fast response. Agricultural organizations can use data analytics from visual drone data and other farming equipment cameras to assess production in terms of growth rate, estimated wet weight, dry weight and other data critical to improving the efficiency of downstream distribution chains.
4. Unlike traditional greenhouses that rely on the sun for energy, modern indoor farming uses IoT technology to produce agriculture at a fraction of the space and resources used by conventional outdoor methods. Indoor farms use artificial light from LEDs for lighting optimization and precise photoperiod control, a practice that can ensure a crop gets the right colour spectrum of light and the right amount of light in a day at the right intensity to maximize crop yield over short time periods.
With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the use of advanced analytics by farmers, the global precision farming market size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.1% from 2021 to 2028. The market size stood at a value of USD 6.00 billion in 2020. Though outbreak of COVID-19 adversely affected the precision farming market with several manufacturing units across China, India, European countries, Japan, and the U.S. being temporarily shut down, the North American market still had the largest market share.
In developing countries like India, Precision Farming has numerous opportunities for farmers to identify better high yielding location specific crops. Precision Agriculture may provide a platform for industrial corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity by helping the rural poor to improve their livelihood through high-tech farming. The government of India can facilitate in this process by giving soft loans to the industry so that they get encouraged and engaged themselves in agriculture and PA activities. With an efficient PA, it can also help in bringing next green revolution in India.
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