8 min read

How embedded technologies are modernizing farms

Marek Gajewski

Director, Embedded Engineering

The agriculture industry is changing. New technologies are improving all stages of the food supply chain, from the farmer’s land to the consumer’s hands. Industry leaders are noticing the potential of technology to modernize agriculture as a whole as well. In Europe alone, between 70% and 80% of farming equipment being sold is incorporating precision agriculture technology in some way. The trend is now to make farming as accurate and as controlled as possible through precision techniques.

Thanks to smart farming initiatives, reports indicate that farmers have saved up to €8,700 per year and reduced greenhouse gases by 10%. Saving funds and reducing pollution are just a couple of the possible benefits of smart farms. Embedded technologies have the potential to help farmers through the use of sensors in their fields. These sensors allow farmers to predict future complications, effectively use pesticides, and save water, leading to higher quality crops.

Predictions become available thanks to embedded sensors

In order to build insight into the future, farmers need to gather relevant data. This data is collected from environmental factors such as rainfall, humidity, temperature, UV, light conditions, air quality parameters, pressure, and many other factors. Specialized environmental sensors are built to sense these different parameters, and then they send the most current data to the servers in the cloud. Algorithms assess the data and ensure accurate predictions.

For example, by assessing temperature and humidity in some areas of apple trees, the data can help farmers predict which diseases might
emerge based on weather conditions
, and know which chemicals can be used to fight the disease.

Pest control sensors that save time and money

The current method for detecting the level of pests in a given crop is through yellow sticky traps. These traps are yellow because the color attracts more insects, which then get stuck to the glue. Then, farmers measure how many insects are trapped after a certain period of time. This entire process can be automated through the use of video cameras with recognition software.

Furthermore, sensors placed strategically in crops can create digital maps that inform farmers on what kinds of pesticides need to be used in particular places instead of entire fields. Analyzing data and reducing pesticide use to specific areas can help farmers save money and time, and consumers can end up with healthier foods.

Water savings and knowing when to irrigate crops

How can farmers know if they are using enough or too much water? And, how can they understand which areas of their fields need to be watered more than others? Sensors which measure soil moisture and water drops on leaves have the ability to help farmers make educated decisions about how they irrigate crops.

What’s more, weather forecasts can be used to automatically turn on or turn off irrigation systems. If the forecast predicts rain, the watering schedule could be paused on its own, thus saving water. When there is no rainfall in the forecast for a while, irrigation systems can automatically be triggered.

IBM is working in Kenya to help farmers better manage water. Soil moisture sensors detect how much water plants need at any given moment, thus allowing farmers to irrigate their crops efficiently. They also use tank level sensors to understand how much water is left on the farm.

Farming is tough work, but the implementation of embedded technologies is helping save money and time, and it’s leading to better quality crops for farmers all around the world. Farmers who still rely heavily on manual processes and knowledge to harvest crops need to understand that working smarter is more within reach than they might realize.

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