IoT in agriculture, from oysters to apples

The global population is growing fast and by 2050 it is expected to exceed 9 billion. The agriculture industry needs to produce more food to meet the needs of a bigger population. But land and water resources are finite. The good news? The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a massive opportunity to make this task easier.

Bosch Australia customer The Yield knew how to revolutionize the way growers operate. First, it developed an IoT system to reduce the impact of costly oyster harvest closures in the aquaculture. Connecting oyster farms with Bosch IoT device management software decreased unnecessary harvest closures by 30 per cent. As a result, this could save Australian oyster growers an estimated AUD $ 21 million a year.

Following this success, the AgTech company extended IoT from aquaculture to agriculture. In October 2017 it launched Sensing+™ for Agriculture, a tailor-made solution for irrigated crops: from apples and wine grapes to carrots, potatoes and leafy greens. In this case, The Yield is hosting back-end architecture on the cloud for greater flexibility and ease of use.

man cutting grapes Source: ©istock/kaisersosa67

A unique microclimate sensing solution

With a new generation of younger farmers taking the reins, agriculture businesses want smart systems to improve produce management. The Yield gives them an IoT technology to observe complex physical environments, relieving the burden of daily crop checks.

Usually, when you manage a farm, you are never off the clock. Even when farmers aren’t physically outside tending to crops, they are observing weather patterns, obsessively checking for signs of frost or damage and calculating the best time to protect, feed or water. The new microclimate sensing system makes these mental gymnastics a thing of the past by combining real-time microclimate data with powerful analytics and forecasting. This allows farmers to remove the guesswork and start making decisions based on real data.

To help Sensing+™ collect microclimate data for analysis, Bosch worked with The Yield to develop the Farm Area Network™ (FAN). This includes:

  1. Microclimate sensors (tracking solar radiation, wind speed, rainfall, soil moisture, leaf wetness, etc.)
  2. Sensor nodes that collect data from the sensors. These are solar-powered and use the long-range and mesh network communication protocol 6LowPAN.
  3. A central on-farm gateway which communicates with the sensor nodes.
  4. ProSyst Gateway Software. This is the intelligence behind the gateway. Alongside other important functions, it establishes secure communication with the Bosch IoT Remote Manager.

“The best thing about our collaboration with Bosch is that though it’s a large engineering and technology solution provider of global scale, it understands the pressures on a young, fast-moving start-up business. It is flexible and fast to respond.”

Ros Harvey, Managing Director and Founder, The Yield

One tool to rule them all

To successfully deploy and operate their IoT solution globally, it is crucial that The Yield included a device management platform. Therefore, they chose the Bosch IoT Remote Manager as a feature-rich solution to address device management throughout the whole device life cycle. It enables them to easily deploy, configure, monitor and update their gateways and sensors remotely.

The Bosch IoT Remote Manager is available “as a service” in various cloud hosting environments including the Bosch IoT Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and SAP. The Yield microclimate sensing solution marks the first deployment of the Bosch IoT Remote Manager on Microsoft Azure, adding Microsoft cloud to the list. Such a variety of cloud options gives customers flexibility to deploy the Bosch device management tool all over the world to meet their particular preferences and local government requirements for hosting.

“The Bosch team has been terrific in making sure that we hit our product milestones, and hit them on time.”

Ros Harvey, Managing Director and Founder, The Yield

woman harvesting at apples plantation, using digital tablet Source: ©iStock/Vesna Andjic

Turning data into actionable insights

By combining the live microclimate data with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, The Yield solution provides a 7-day forecast that tells growers all the information they need to know. How much rainfall did they receive? How much water will evaporate in the next day? When is the optimal time to water or protect their crops?

There’s a reason that there’s an X-men character called Storm that can harness lightning, wind and rain to do her bidding. While no technology makes this sort of superpower possible (yet), the right data gives farmers the next best thing: they can prepare for what is coming. “If I can measure it, I can manage it”, says The Yield customer Matt Pooley, Viticulturist at Pooley Wines.

Obviously, crops grow better and faster with the ideal amount of water. Having an accurate indication of how much water each field needs also reduces over spraying. One customer estimates that the system reduces water usage by up to 30 per cent. And in Australia, where months can pass without any rainfall and the population is currently experiencing the hottest start to Spring in history, this is more important than ever. Additionally, the water content of fresh produce like lettuce at the time of harvest determines how long it lasts on supermarket shelves.

Keeping crops out of danger

While regular maintenance is crucial for a successful yield of crops, responding quickly to weather changes is key to protecting them from damage. The Bosch IoT Remote Manager enabled The Yield to set up specific rules that notify farmers of critical events like frost. Rather than relying on weather apps that pull data from 50km away, and checking every few hours for signs of damage, farmers are notified when frost is an imminent problem. As a result, they can immediately take steps to protect crops from damage. This lets them eliminate costly ‘just in case’ measures that are rendered useless when the worst-case scenario doesn’t occur.

A forward-thinking approach

For many agricultural businesses, an IoT ecosystem is a brand-new way of approaching day-to-day operations. Armed with real-time data and the ability to instantly check the status of multiple crops or fields, the industry begins to transform the way it makes decisions. Ultimately, this means fewer crops lost, less water and produce wasted, and a greater yield. So, with the help of modern technologies, such as IoT, we have a better chance to feed the world.

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How Will Digitization Effectively Transform Agriculture?

“If you eat, you’re in agriculture.”

That old adage is more true today than ever before. It’s expected that by 2050 our world population will approach 10 billion. That’s double what it was only thirty years ago in 1987. Increased land, water, and resource use for the growing population competes directly with farming needs to feed that population. It’s fortunate that digitization is helping to connect agricultural concerns around the world. But what will the future of farming look like?

How will digitalization effectively transform agriculture?

Though robotic farming may seem far-fetched, it’s here today. Much like yesteryear’s use of satellites for precision agriculture, the additional data provided through the Internet of Things (IoT) allows us to grow more food with fewer resources on less land. With analytics, a farmer in Kenya uses a drone to release beneficial insects in a problem patch. A Kansas wheat farmer helps keep the water table pure by only fertilizing areas in need. Yields are boosted without waste through very specific irrigation management. Total corn production savings can reach 4.5% with yield mapping, 2.4% with GPS soil mapping and 2.7% with guidance systems. Here are some recent innovations we’ve helped bring to life.

What does palm oil’s future look like?

Planting a palm oil plantation requires strong long-term planning. But what does the future hold for this important crop? As palm oil’s popularity has grown, so have the industries it services. Biofuels, cosmetics, and other industries are all impacted by palm oil production in addition to its traditional uses in food. Fortunately, there’s a strong push to improve sustainability in the palm oil industry.

Most palm oil production in the past has been based on overall yields. But tomorrow’s plantation can determine production by every plant. IoT technology allows tracking the exact growing conditions of the palm tree. This means its exact needs are met to maximize yield and minimize waste. But how does this happen?

Aerial photos play a vital role in this process. Drones, planes, and satellites provide imagery to help producers make smart decisions in oil palm plantation management. Sensors provide climate, soil condition, and other data. This collection of data and strong analytics options let the producer manage stressed areas while boosting production in other parts of the plantation.

This process is being moved forward through collaboration across multiple sectors. Research, genetics, machinery, inputs, and the farmer all work hand-in-hand to provide more palm oil with less waste and a more sustainable environmental impact.

The future is sweet with sugarcane production

Though it’s still one of the world’s top sweeteners, sugarcane has also branched out recently into the biofuel and electrical production sectors. A single ton of sugarcane produces 120 kilograms of sugar, 85 liters of ethanol and 25 kilowatt-hours of electricity. But the tropical origins of the plant means it’s always been planted in developing countries with plenty of land and labor. That made it a cheap crop to grow.

Today’s population growth is limiting sugarcane production. This means more care must be taken in crop techniques and inputs to provide maximum results on minimal land. To complicate matters even further, the land it is raised on is often very different. This requires different approaches to achieve these results.

Different climates require the use of different techniques and methods. Ratoon planting allows the crop to be grown from the prior year’s plant stubble. But the number of years can vary greatly. Production-leading Brazil replants new cane every 5 or 6 years. As second-highest producer, India’s climate demands planting new cane every two or three years.

Hand harvesting uses manpower and a sharp hand-tool while providing 500 kg per hour, with rising labor rates making this practice less profitable than in the past. Mechanizing the process allows manual labor to be focused in different area as a single harvester will handle 100 tons of sugarcane per hour. Except for on steep slopes, mechanical harvesting provides a more ecologically sound approach. Satellite-based tractor navigation uses permanent wheel tracks to maximize production while minimizing wasted time and fuel.

Combining sustainable farming practices with economical technological advancement allows us to grow as a people and as a planet. Smarter crop rotation, precision pesticide and fertilizer application, yield mapping and weed sensors are only a few of the advancements farmers will see in the years to come. IoT technology is expected to see a 20% annual compounded growth from 2015 to 2020. New agricultural business models are expected to see a 15%–25% growth in revenue above the industry average.

Farms that add IoT capabilities, Big Data analytics, and similar connected agriculture tools are making strong strides. Imagine yields 10%–20% higher than in the past. They’re also seeing an average increase in profits of 18%. Some farms have seen profit increases of up to 76%.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

The precision agriculture market to reach € 4.2 billion worldwide in 2021

The precision agriculture market to reach € 4.2 billion worldwide in 2021

The precision agriculture market to reach € 4.2 billion worldwide in 2021

According to a new research report from the M2M/IoT analyst firm Berg Insight, the global market for precision agriculture solutions is forecasted to grow from € 2.2 billion in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6 percent to reach about € 4.2 billion in 2021.

A set of technologies are applied in precision farming practices, which are aimed at managing variations in the field to maximise yield, raise productivity and reduce consumption of agricultural inputs. While solutions such as auto-guidance and machine monitoring and control via on-board displays today are mainstream technologies in the agricultural industry, telematics and Variable Rate Technology (VRT) are still in the early stages of adoption. Interoperability between hardware and software solutions remains a challenge, although standardisation initiatives led by organisations such as Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation and AgGateway make progress.

Most major agricultural equipment manufacturers have today initiatives related to precision agriculture although strategies vary markedly. Leading vendors of precision agriculture solutions include the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment Deere & Company, followed by the US-based precision technology vendors Trimble, Topcon Positioning Systems, Raven Industries and Ag Leader Technology. Hexagon further holds a strong position in the positioning segment through its subsidiary NovAtel. Major providers that specialise in data-oriented applications and agronomic services are the Monsanto subsidiary The Climate Corporation, Canada-based Farmers Edge and the newly formed DowDuPont with its Encirca services. A group of companies have furthermore emerged as leaders on the nascent market for in-field sensor systems. These include Davis Instruments, Pessl Instruments with its METOS brand, Semios, Hortau, AquaSpy and CropX.

Fredrik Stålbrand, IoT Analyst, Berg Insight, said:

“The traditional industry boundaries within the agricultural sector are slowly beginning to blur as agricultural equipment and precision farming solutions are becoming parts of broader systems.”

chart: installed base of active wireless devices in agricultural production (World 2016-2021)Partnerships and consolidation among agricultural equipment manufacturers and precision technology companies marked the theme of the last decade, but alliances are now expanding in scope among OEMs, input producers, software companies and agronomic services providers. “The market is today evolving into a thicket of interlocking relationships that create complex competitive dynamics. Investments in APIs along with open IT architectures will be key to support the level of flexibility needed in the digital ecosystem that is emerging within the agricultural industry”, concluded Mr. Stålbrand.

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IoT Business News

The installed base of wireless IoT devices in agriculture reached 17.0 million in 2016

The installed base of wireless IoT devices in agriculture reached 17.0 million in 2016

The installed base of wireless IoT devices in agriculture reached 17.0 million in 2016

According to a new research report from the M2M/IoT analyst firm Berg Insight, the installed base of wireless IoT devices in agricultural production worldwide reached 17.0 million connections in 2016.

The number of wireless connections is forecasted to grow at compound annual growth rate of 10.0 percent to reach 27.4 million in 2021.

There is a broad range of wireless technologies used in agricultural production with different characteristics and use cases. 802.15.4-based standards comprise the most employed wireless technology due to its wide adoption in dairy cow monitoring applications. The main application areas for cellular communication are machine telematics and remote monitoring via in-field sensor systems. Cellular connections amounted to 0.8 million at the end of 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30.2 percent to reach 3.1 million in 2021. LPWA technologies are expected to achieve the highest growth rate and realise a significant market position in the remote monitoring and control segment.

Berg Insight’s outlook for the agricultural technology market is positive as agricultural production remains greatly underpenetrated by wireless IoT solutions. Manufacturers of farm and dairy equipment have traditionally chosen to partner with smaller and specialised players but increasingly focus on developing proprietary technologies. In the crop production sector, a group of companies have emerged as leaders on the market for precision agriculture solutions. Major providers include Deere & Company, Trimble, Topcon Positioning Systems and Raven Industries. Other significant vendors include AGCO, Ag Leader Technology, DICKEY-john and Hexagon. In the milk production sector, the world’s largest dairy equipment vendor DeLaval offers its in-house developed activity monitoring system along with its milking and dairy farming infrastructure solutions. Important providers of sensor systems for dairy cow monitoring furthermore include Netherlands-based Nedap and The Allflex Group subsidiary SCR which both sell their systems to a number of leading dairy equipment manufacturers and genetics companies.

Fredrik Stålbrand, IoT Analyst, Berg Insight, said:
chart: installed base of active wireless devices in agricultural production (World 2016-2021)

“Leading providers are now investing in technical platforms capable of supporting integration with third-party hardware and software solutions as agricultural equipment are becoming parts of broader systems.”

The increasingly complex technological environment that farmers operate in also demands dealers to offer a greater extent of services to integrate and support the range of technologies that are utilised in advanced production systems. “As interoperability between systems remains as a challenge, the need for services and technical support from local dealers is likely to increase with continued adoption of precision farming solutions, in-field sensor systems and animal monitoring technologies”, concluded Mr. Stålbrand.

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IoT Business News

Kerlink Partners with Libatel to Bring Smart Agriculture

Kerlink and Libatel have announced the first IoT LoRaWAN smart agriculture project in Lebanon. The pilot project at Domain Chateau Kefraya, which began this summer, is generating data and information about the vineyard’s terroir, which includes topography, soil conditions, climate and sunlight that give wine grapes their distinctive character.

At the project’s conclusion this November, the chateau will use the information to optimize wine-parcel classification over its 300 hectares of vineyards. Data coming from the vineyards is monitored, such as the maturity of the different types of grapes. Under the smart agriculture, chateau is able to allocate in anticipation the different parcels to the different productions, and especially selects the best grapes for high-end and renamed wine.

The customized LoRaWAN network deployment comprising of Kerlink Wirnet Station technology, is a proof-of-concept project involving Libatel and Ogero Telecom. This will be part of Libatel’s bid to support Ogero’s deployment of a nationwide IoT network in Lebanon. Libatel, which is managing network operation and maintenance, data collection and software development, provided a dashboard tailored to the specific needs of Chateau Kefraya. The collected data is accessible from a computer or smartphone on a platform designed by the company.

LoRaWAN is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) solution for wireless, bidirectional and secure connectivity of battery-powered devices in local, regional or national networks. The technology also enables device native geolocation using the radio network and geolocation-ready LoRaWAN gateways, like other references available in Kerlink’s portfolio.   Read more…

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Internet Of Things | IoT India