IoT is helping farmers run their farms from a smartphone -- here's how

Pivot Irrigation. Source: Getty.

Farmers are now using the Internet of Things (IoT) to work remotely from a laptop, tablet or smartphone. It’s helping to create more sustainable farming methods, control farming strategy, and even give some time back to the farmers.

Through automated monitoring of trends in weather, local water levels and soil moisture, it offers farmers visibility into the real-time performance of their irrigation to improve strategy. The insights are laid out in a visual dashboard, called SCADAfarm (supervisory control and data acquisition), a bespoke platform built on Schneider Electric’s Ecostruxure architecture and Microsoft Azure technologies.

Using unprecedented data feedback, they’re able to turn the water on and off, adjust pressure, and set pivot speeds and direction by using a simple app, and it can all be tracked for programming over time. It even has its own built-in resource that “learns” what actions to take in case of a network outage.

Long term, the technology can reduce water wastage and improve the irrigation efficiency, thus delivering financial benefits to farmers.

How it’s being used

For New Zealand water management and irrigation specialist, WaterForce, the SCADAfarm technology has enabled development of an entirely new product line and market opportunity.

The insights help WaterForce customers make educated decisions around where and when resources, such as irrigation, are needed now. For example, where technology is used to adjust irrigation based on high wind levels that disrupt the flow and timing for irrigation.

Where a farm is based, whether or not it sources water from a dam or river, and whether the farm is built for a cattle station or crop farming, are all dictating the way farmers are using this technology.

In Australia, where drought conditions are currently putting increased strain on the agriculture sector, the technology enables farmers to be more conservative with their water usage and helps reduce business-wide costs in consumption. NSW was officially declared 100% in drought following an announcement from the Department of Primary Industries in early August. Use of IoT-enabled technologies such as the SCADAfarm app can assist by automatically checking soil moisture and adjusting watering depth to prevent losses of a scarce resource. It can also be programmed to ensure compliance with government licencing terms.

The future of agribusiness demands innovation

According to the United Nations, food production will need to grow by as much as 70% by 2050 in order to feed the 9.7 billion people that are expected to be living on the planet by then. To address this challenge, not only will more food need to be grown and produced, but industry supply chains will need to consider rapidly onboarding technology to improve efficiencies.

By 2020 the number of IoT connected devices globally is expected to be 30 billion, and this is forecast to grow to 100 billion by 2025. Schneider’s technology is capable of controlling complex processes as well as simple machinery with the ability to integrate predictive data insights across all industrial infrastructure. The growth opportunities through industrial IoT devices aren’t limited to irrigation, but could see widespread change in agribusiness.

Schneider Electric is the global specialist in energy management and automation. They develop connected technologies and solutions to manage energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable.
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