Data-driven agriculture has the potential to transform the UK’s farming sector.
The UK’s population is expected to exceed 70 million people by 2031. To keep up with this growing demand for food, British farmers will need to enhance their farming methods and optimise efficiencies. One way this is already being achieved is by smart farming, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system used to help autonomous machines make accurate decisions. This technology does not require human-to-human nor human-to-computer interaction and is done using interrelated devices and machines with the ability to transfer data over a network.
Put simply, smart farming is the use of digital technology to improve farming efforts. In other words, it is the use of internet-connected sensors, cameras, and other devices by farmers to gain a holistic view of their farm, adapt to changes, and adjust operations to improve their results.
What are the main benefits of using IoT in farming?
Data on weather conditions and the health condition of cattle and crops can be stored in one easily accessible place. Farmers can then check and analyse the data to make better decisions and predict what situations may arise in the future.
For example, a farmer can install a sensor on a tractor or piece of equipment. The sensor collects data over time and will send a warning once a part is about to wear out, allowing farmers to avoid costly lapses in operations. To put it another way, IoT gives farmers visibility they didn’t possess before.
There are various examples of IoT technology that can be used according to the needs of a particular area. Some of these include monitoring climate conditions, greenhouse automation, crop monitoring, drones and livestock GPS tracking.
Monitoring climate conditions
Weather stations that are equipped with smart sensors can collect data on weather conditions and send this information to the farmer. This information can then be analysed by special software, providing the farmer with a detailed forecast that can assist in avoiding crop losses.
Greenhouse automation refers to an installed system with multiple sensors. These systems allow farmers to monitor the conditions and parameters within a greenhouse, giving them the ability to automatically adjust equipment to provide the most appropriate condition for each greenhouse.
Similar to monitoring climate conditions, sensors for crop monitoring collect a wealth of data on crop health, humidity, precipitation, temperature, and other parameters. Access to this information allows farmers to immediately identify any deviations, enabling them to take the appropriate action. Sensors also help farmers determine when the best moment is to plant and harvest crops.
John Deere, one of the biggest names in farming equipment, is one example of a company that has begun connecting its tractors to the Internet. This method has allowed them to display data about farmers’ crop yields.
Drones have become incredibly useful for agriculture as they can distribute various pesticides, spray ailing crops with inputs such as minerals and fertilisers, or stream video footage to let farmers see what is going on in real-time. Drones also allow farmers to monitor how far along crops are in their respective growth periods.
Livestock GPS tracking
The application of IoT in livestock GPS tracking has helped to revolutionise the farming sector by giving farmers remote, real-time visibility on their livestock at all times.
Smart tags on cattle collars send out a signal every 15 minutes, allowing farmers to remotely monitor the location of their cattle at any time, from anywhere. The signal is sent straight to a livestock management dashboard.This dashboard allows farmers to set up specific geofences and alerts, notifying them if their livestock moves out of a designated area.
Cattle collars are particularly useful when considering livestock cattle theft is currently the third most costly crime for the UK’s farming sector. Not only does this kind of crime cause untold suffering to animals as well as financial damage, but it also causes anxiety for farmers who have built up their herds over many years. Many cattle farmers have large herds in their care, which means that they’re only able to detect missing cows after days have passed.With tight profit margins, finding out too late about missing cattle can be financially devastating.
Using livestock GPS tracking, farmers can save both time and money:
- Locate individual animals in real-time.
- Identify preferred grazing areas, allowing farmers to adopt management regimes accordingly.
- The stored data also helps farmers study a herd’s social interaction and their contact with other animals.
- Reduce gathering times.
- Help identify sick animals
- Shed light on grazing habits.
Farming for the future
Farmers who use digital technology are able to gain a competitive advantage and create economically viable, sustainable and more environmentally-friendly businesses.
About Smarter Technologies
Smarter Technologies works with farmers to create bespoke farming solutions. From livestock security to asset tracking monitoring and recovery, our Orion Data Network system feeds back real-time data on the location, health and security of your livestock and other valuable assets.