Industry Insights

Crop Health Management with IoT-Enabled Precision Agriculture

By implementing IoT Systems, farmers can efficiently maximize their yields and profits.

Michelle Kammerman

When you consider the compounded effects of climate change, population growth, and an increased demand in food supply, the need for an efficient agriculture system is at an all-time high. The devastating effects of food insecurity as a result of ineffective commercial agriculture are inevitable. That is, unless you enable precision agriculture. IoT-enabled crop health management is a game-changer to alleviate the pain points of traditional agriculture.

Pain Points of Traditional Crop Health Management

Farmers face a multitude of challenges including excessive physical labor, inaccurate weather and water measurements, imprecise planting time calculations, and incurable crop disease.

Excessive Physical Labor

Manual crop health management can be extremely costly in both time and energy. Traditional forms of crop maintenance can involve tedious hours of back-breaking work as farmers physically check each individual leaf, stem, and branch for signs of disease or damage.

Inaccurate Weather and Water Measurements

90 percent of all crop losses are due to weather. Relying on the local weather channel is problematic enough you’re only risking your own comfort and the dryness of your clothes. 

But imagine farmers singularly relying on this information to decide on the right time to water 300 acres of corn fields - not only is failure on this scale wasteful, it can be incredibly expensive. For example, imagine watering 300 acres of fields just before a rainfall.

Imprecise Planting Time Calculations

There can be a lot of inaccurate inferences made around optimal planting and harvesting time of crops. When trying to take into account all potential external factors such as labor supply, climate, soil type, farm size, crop rotations and crop disease, there’s a lot of room for error. The sheer number of variables often results in suboptimal planting and harvesting schedules.

Incurable Crop Disease

Plant disease can originate from fungal, bacterial and viral organisms. These organisms can spread from an infected plant to a healthy plant making these contagions a threat to entire crop yields. Antibiotics can prevent crop disease, however, they cannot treat an already infected plant, making this plant unharvestable. Ultimately, crop disease can result in potentially massive losses for farmers.

What is Precision Agriculture? 

Precision Agriculture is IoT-enabled crop health management that takes all of the guesswork out of farming while increasing efficiency and output. Data-driven corrective action can solve traditional pain points of agriculture and make surplus crop yields more attainable for farmers, thus establishing greater food security for individuals.

IBM estimates that IoT will enable farmers to increase food production by 70 percent by the year 2050. Smart Farming with IoT-enabled crop health management is the future of the Agriculture Industry.

How does IoT–enabled Crop Health Management Work?

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) drive the performance of precision agriculture. These networks consist of small smart sensors that constantly test external stimuli and can communicate real-time data across short distances through wireless links. Intelligent use and analysis of these high volume data sets, enables farmers to make quick decisions with long term benefits. Additionally, these IoT-enabled sensors have low maintenance costs because of a quick set up time and long-term battery life. 

Soil Sensors

Soil moisture and temperature sensors provide critical insights for farmers that can be directly implemented in irrigation practices. These sensors measure things like volumetric water content, permittivity, electrical conductivity, and temperature.

Air Quality Sensors

Automated systems of air temperature and odor sensors can provide crop disease detection, treatment, and prevention. Air quality sensors can also test and monitor Co2 levels.

Leaf Wetness Sensors

Leaf wetness sensors mimic real leaves and allow for trace amounts of water or ice on a leaf’s surface to be detected. 

Weather Sensors

Light intensity, wind, rainfall and humidity can all be tested with IoT weather sensors. IoT Weather modeling can predict rainfall to limit water waste through advanced irrigation systems. This data collection can also prevent the added economic expense of over used irrigation systems and the environmental expense of water waste. Additionally, farmers can utilize real-time weather data to take immediate action on and offsite.

Benefits of Precision Agriculture

As previously mentioned, precision agriculture saves farmers time, money, and resources. However, planet earth also reaps the benefits of IoT with the added conservation benefits that increase environmental sustainability.

Reduced Carbon Emissions

Real-time sensor data eliminates excessive usage of tractors to reach sampling points. This advancement significantly reduces carbon emissions on farms.

Higher Quality of Safe Water and Air

IoT enabled water and fertilizer use can decrease distribution from anywhere between 20% and 40%, with no impact on yields. In most places, water pollution is mainly caused by fertilizer run-off. More efficient fertilization and irrigation systems that reduce this run-off significantly increase our water and air quality

Greater Food Supply & Security

Effective yield management enabled by precision agriculture directly increases food supply for a greater amount of individuals. Additionally, food companies can monitor the production and delivery life cycle to keep a closer eye on quality control. This increases transparency across the global food chain.  

Improved Risk Management

Rudimentary farming techniques leave a huge space for human error. Calculated decisions based on real-time data eliminate most risks involved in agriculture, in turn limiting resource waste.

The Future of Precision Agriculture and its Limitations

IoT sensor technologies provide pivotal data for farmers, having exponential effects on commercial agriculture. This advancement not only addresses the symptoms of climate change, but it also attempts to solve root causes with sustainable practices.

The impacts of precision agriculture data are massive. On a larger scale, this data can allow farmers to be strategic through the creation of whole farm profit models and maps, the integration of public data into models, and documentation of risk and uncertainties. These tools help farmers keep their bottom-line at top of mind and production levels met.

Although precision farming alleviates many problems throughout the agriculture industry and food supply chain, it lacks global accessibility. While it pays for itself long-term, it comes with large upfront costs that not all farmers can afford. Additionally, these IoT systems require farmers to be tech savvy and increase the complexity of their operations to involve hardware, software and connectivity providers. As the future of our planet’s food security hangs in the balance, greater accessibility to IoT is crucial. 

Michelle Kammerman

Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle is a Digital Marketing Manager at Leverege and IoT For All. She studied Strategic Communications and Entrepreneurship at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she had a rude awakening when she learned the harsh distinction between a cheese curd and a mozzarella stick. She loves helping others and feels very strongly about the power that IoT Solutions have to build a better tomorrow. In her spare time she enjoys tackling challenging recipes in the kitchen, building her photography portfolio, practicing yoga and laughing at herself over her renowned facepainting and balloon animal skills as a retired children’s entertainer.

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