Smart Farming: Shaping the Future of Agriculture
Farming, in general, has witnessed many changes from time to time and yet again it has entered a new era of digital revolution, which will reshape the future offarming enabling more sustainable and productive agriculture. Smart farming or smart agriculture is more than just a fancy buzzword.It involves the usage of highly advanced technologies and connected devices to automate farming allowing farmers to make correct decisions to obtain high-quality yields. Apart from improved crop yield, smart farming practices offer following benefits:
- Remote Monitoring of Crops and Field
- Better Irrigation Management
- Improved Livestock Farming
- Real-time Data regarding Soil Quality, Temperature, Humidity, and so on
- Reduced Operational Costs
- Lowered Environmental Footprint
- Accurate Field Evaluation
- Improved Inventory Management
Popular Trends in Smart Farming
Precision Agriculture: Precision farminginvolves the usage of Decision Support System (DSS) for farm or field management. It uses specialized equipment and software &IT solutions to obtain real-time data regarding air, soil, and crops along with other necessary data such as equipment availability, approximate labor costs, local weather forecasts, etc.
Agricultural Robots and Automation: The usage of robotics, along with AI techniques, in all stages of farming helps automate various lengthy, slow, repetitive tasks allowing farmers to focus more on increasing the crop yield. Major uses of agricultural robotsinclude harvesting & picking, autonomous mowing, seeding, spraying, pruning, etc., and sorting & packing.These robots are slated to witness a surge in demand over the coming years, with their market value reaching USD 8.82 billion by 2025, states Grand View Research.
Global Positioning System or GPS: A GPS system can help farmers in many ways such as it can help locate the exact position of the field. It can also help track the location of livestock or farm animals on a large field through a GPS transmitter attached to the collars of the animals. A GPS solution, along with a mapping software, can also be used for collecting soil samples across a large area. It can be used for tracking certain locations;say, areas with insect problems and help cropdusters target the problematic areas. This, in turn, helps save fuel, time, and unnecessary exposure to chemicals.
Sensing Devices: Sensing devices for smart farming include water sensors, soil sensors, climate sensors, Radio Frequency Technology or RFID tags and readers, and LED grow lights. These of sensors are usually set on a moving machine andcollect real-time data to help evaluate the health of the crops, as well as soil, such as nutrients, moisture content, compaction, crop diseases, etc.
Automated Steering: Autonomous steering reduces human error and automates certain driving tasks including overhead turning, auto-steering, and so on.
Genetically Modified Crops (GMCs): Scientists are trying to create a long-term crop solution by modifying genetics of crops in order to provide farmers with products that produce more without having to be dependent on pesticidesand other similar chemicals.
Computer-based Applications: Computer based applications can help create accurate field and yield maps, farm plans, etc. This allows for more accurate input applications such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, thereby helping in producing maximum yield while reducing the overall expenses.
Variable Rate Technology (VRT): This technology enables the variable application of inputs allowing farmers to monitor and control the input amounts they apply in specific locations. A controller, computer, software program, and Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) are the key components of the VRT.
Filling the Demand-Supply Gap with Smart Farming
With the declining area of arable lands and growing population across the globe, the demand for food is going to increase constantly, which cannot be fulfilled by traditional farming methods as they pose several challenges like high labor costs, inability to cope with climate change, etc. Thus, farmers in this digital era are taking help of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Internet-of-Things, big data, and machine learning technologies to improve crop yield without hampering the quality. Due to this, smart farming would witness a huge demand and numerous growth opportunities over the coming years.
Moreover, funding programs from various government and private firms such as DeLaval International AB and CropMetrics LLC, smart farming will witness much more innovative advancement in the years to come. One of such recent examplesincludes the Hands Free Hectare program supported by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).In this program, expert researchers in UK were successful in growing the first ever crop using nothing but fully automated farming solutions such as sensors, drones, driverless tractors, etc. The main objective of this projected was to have no human operators or any agronomist on the 1-hectare field.
Smart farming can make agriculture more efficient and productive in a cost-effective manner for the farmersacross the globe while reducing the environmental footprint of farming, for example, through optimization of inputs and treatments or more effective usage of water. Although, use of technology in farming is a new concept, it will surely offer a way toward more sustainable agriculture.
The Economic Times