India is a diverse and global agricultural powerhouse with its agrarian culture and varied regional climate significantly contributing to the global food basket. In FY20 (till January 2020), exports of agricultural and processed food products totalled US$ 28.94 billion (Source:APEDA). Indian agricultural/horticultural and processed foods are exported to more than 100 countries, chief among them being the Middle East, Southeast Asia, SAARC countries, the EU and the US. India’s food security depends on producing cereal crops, as well as increasing the production of fruits, vegetables and milk to meet the demands of a growing population with rising incomes as well as to grow revenue from agricultural exports. This can be achieved only with an accelerated pace of transformation for a productive, competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural sector in India. Technology is already playing a significant role in this transformation with many benefits delivered by application of the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT innovations for small agricultural operations can significantly increase profit margins by minimizing the need for manual labour with automation, expediting machinery commands with remote and real-time monitoring, and allowing farmers to utilize resources more efficiently with preventative maintenance and environmental prediction. Mass embracement of these technology advancements in agriculture will allow small land holding farmers to manage more acreage, provide higher potential for profit, and higher yields on the upfront investments.
Following are five areas of innovation in farming technology that demonstrate how IoT is reshaping the agricultural landscape –
Environment and Micro-Climate Tracking
IoT is transforming traditional semi-automated weather stations into wireless units that give core climate framework information and give exact micro-climate data. These weather monitoring units alert farmers through an application on their phone or data center when acute risks, such as damaging frosts and heat waves, arise in areas local to their farms.
Real-Time Asset Monitoring
With assets distributed over several acres of land, travel, labour, and time; expenses can be cut by diminishing cross-property excursions to investigate fluid, fuel, feed tanks, ponds, and comparable resources. IoT monitoring technology does precisely that, permitting farmers to continuously track resource usage rates and improve delivery truck schedules to have the perfect measure of fuel, water, or feed available consistently.
Preventative maintenance is a strong suit of IoT technology. It is accomplished by equipping machineries, such as mining pumps, generators, and wind machines, with embedded IoT sensors. The technology alerts farmers in real-time when potential failures arise, eliminating the requirement for in-depth, hands-on diagnosis. Preventative maintenance for agricultural machinery can minimize unexpected costs and machine downtime due to progressive damages caused by overlooked issues leading to machine failure.
Remote Equipment Controls
Like monitoring assets, remote equipment can be controlled from centralized data centers, and even smartphones and wireless devices, to reduce travel time and costs. Remote power throttling can minimize electricity usage on equipment like generators, wind machines, pumps and valves located throughout the property. Equipment can be powered on or off at any time of the day from anywhere to expedite work cycles. Remote monitoring technology can also optimize refuelling schedules by measuring the exact run times for a given quantity of fuel and preventing pump issues from dry running. Technology can also help prevent expensive equipment theft with location tracking of each valuable asset, especially immobilising movable equipment such as tractors in case of a theft.
Perhaps one of the most interesting IoT applications for agriculture is cattle tracking. Cattle movement can be tracked with network-connected collars and knowing their exact locations can prevent cattle loss or theft. Fertility tracking can ensure that each cow’s small window of fertility time can be accounted for to optimize breeding opportunities. Furthermore, eating patterns and health-related activities can be monitored with a leg- or neck-mounted sensor to identify and monitor health issues efficiently.
Machine automation is not a new concept, as agriculturalists consistently have found ways to automate their equipment through IoT powered driverless machines bring automation to the next level. First, there is a slice in the costs required to pay laborers to man farm machines like tractors, seed drills, cultivators, and tillers, though the benefits of driverless machines do not stop with labour reductions. Driverless machines become far more compact and lightweight when AC units, seating, and the entire cab sections are removed. Less power is required to run the smaller machines.
Many farming equipment pieces started as compact devices that one person could quickly handle in their inception. To cut back on labour costs and time, these machines were engineered to become bigger to execute several iterations of a repetitive task in one fell swoop, like a tractor that can till five rows at once. In cases such as this, however, failure in one large machine results in significant downtime. Returning to larger quantities of smaller, unmanned units addresses both concerns by providing the positive impact of minimizing laborers and reducing the massive loss of production time due to outages in larger machines. Furthermore, machines, like seeding units, are superior when smaller less weight means fewer soil compaction issues that cause yield reductions.
Live Technology Use-cases in Agriculture from across the World
For agriculture to become profitable, farmers need to improve their existing practices and adopt technology for sustainable water management, food production and environmental monitoring. Ranch Systems has designed weather stations and several other IoT agricultural products, including wireless network-connected soil probes. By continuously receiving updates regarding soil conditions, farmers can keep a close eye on water usage with these probes and conserve nutrient-rich soil by irrigating according to definitive soil condition readings. Such precise maintenance can reduce plant stress and increase root systems’ growth by keeping moisture levels consistent. Similar environmental equipment can monitor local disease and pest threats to curb any excessive use of pesticides.
Tractors form an integral part of farm mechanization and have a crucial role to play in increasing agricultural productivity. In India, less than 30 percent of farmers use the necessary equipment that facilitates productive and profitable work. Farmers can barely afford high-cap equipment and often take loans to buy them. This often adds onto the financial burden in a bad crop yield season. Also, small farmers often lack knowledge about modern farming practices or struggle to finance farm operations. Hello Tractor brought the concept of ‘Uberisation of Tractor’s to life! Hello Tractor has deployed the Aeris Mobility Platform for tractor tracking, utilization time and simplified billing, based on time in the field and area covered, enabling them to adopt the pay-as-you-use model for small holding farmers to use tractors with innovative commercial models. Hello Tractor’s innovative use of IoT simplifies complex data to ensure transparency, profitability, and accountability across the ecosystem of farmers, tractor owners, tractor dealers, original equipment manufacturers, banks, and governments. The Tractor Owner App includes tools such as, service request management, tractor and fleet management, operator performance, and activity tracking. Using the technology to their advantage, the farmers can plant 40 times faster at one-third the cost. The digital IoT platform is making it easy and profitable for tractor owners to monetize their machines as business assets whilst improving the livelihood of rural farmers.
Cultivating the Future of Our Farms with Aeris Technology
India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022. The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased agricultural infrastructure investment such as irrigation facilities, warehousing and cold storage.
There is vast potential for IoT applications in agriculture to increase productivity not only for the large landholding agriculture business giants but also for family-owned farms and small landholding farmers in the country. Aeris technology is already delivering multiple benefits in the field of agriculture. We work very closely with our clients and help them leverage our partnerships in the Agri-tech ecosystem. This also helps us build the right fit, affordable solutions for the agricultural sector across the globe.