By Stephanie Bergeron Kinch, Wi-Fi NOW Staff Writer
The Internet of Things (IoT) is paving the way for a new agricultural revolution – and Wi-Fi will make it affordable to farmers everywhere.
Countries all over the world are under pressure to ramp up farming: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food production must increase by 70 percent to meet the demands of a global population that is likely to reach 9.8 billion by 2050.
This demand has in turn created a push towards what the World Bank calls “Agriculture 2.0,” an agricultural technology revolution aimed at using IoT and data analytics to render crop production more precise and reliable.
Much like the manufacturing industry’s Industry 4.0, the agriculture industry is increasingly adopting IoT technology for smarter farming. According to a report from Business Insider, IoT device installations in the agriculture world are expected to increase from 30 million in 2015 to 75 million in 2020. And Wi-Fi could be exactly the right technology to make agricultural IoT happen.
A sensing solution
Australia-based agnov8 has been creating solutions like these for the past four years. Take berry farms, for example: Berries are very water-sensitive, so farms often have someone physically monitoring water levels four times per day. Sensors could monitor them every 15 minutes, and once a database is established, AI can identify patterns and determine when plants need to be watered.
Agnov8’s range of sensors are tailor-made for the agricultural industry and can be used for a variety of applications like weather sensing, greenhouse monitoring, soil and substrate monitoring, water quality checks, and water storage levels. The company has partnered with Ruckus Networks to create a Wi-Fi-based IoT solution that delivers reliable data connections via line-of-sight or mesh networks.
Agnov8’s CEO Andrew Cameron says that the company’s sensor, software, and rugged tablet solutions help take the guesswork out of farming by allowing data-based decision-making.
“In Australia, we are facing many years of drought, and farmers are going to have to learn to work with that,” he says. “That involves looking at data and making decisions about where and when to plant crops. It doesn’t have to be a coin toss anymore. It’s data-based.”
The Wi-Fi advantage
Cameron says that Wi-Fi has a competitive advantage over LTE and 4G networks because it is more economically feasible to maintain and operate once it is installed. Farmers can check data and conditions on their smartphones and tablets, and the system is compatible with other Wi-Fi-enabled technology. Wi-Fi works especially well for smaller farms, he says.
“We were the first people to go out and use Wi-Fi in the field,” he says. “For us, Wi-Fi is a cheap alternative that allows farmers to move data around effectively.”
But Cameron also says that technology adaptation in agriculture is a challenge. People in agriculture are often not particularly tech-minded. This is the industry that didn’t give up horse plowing until the late 1940s in the US, long after mass production of automobiles was well established.
“We aim to make IoT technology understandable for people who are intrinsically working on the farm and are normally outside getting their hands dirty,” he says. “Once we engage them and help them understand that there is nothing to fear, then they’re in.”