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Smart farming: the IoT revolution and other trends

More production.
More attention to the environment.
Saving resources.
More skills.

These are the goals of the current revolution in agriculture. A change that has just begun but that, according to Boston Group Consulting, a global consulting firm, will take hold by transforming the farming by 2030 with new practices, habits and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies.

Below some major trends identified.

1 – PRECISION FARMING

Precision agriculture indicates a new way of managing crops with actions geared to real needs of the field (example: fertigation and irrigation only when it is needed and in the correct dosage).

The technologies available for practicing precision farming are different:

  • Maps and satellite imagery to support farmers’ decisions and drive agricultural machines in the field;
  • Drones equipped with GPS to fly over the hectares of land you intend to monitor;
  • IoT (Internet of Things) monitoring systems in the field to control the physio-pathological conditions of the plant and the micro-climatic values.

Few weeks ago the Franco-Israeli satellite Venus was launched into orbit for the monitoring of agricultural land from space. Purpose: to check the status of erosion, pollution, soil desertification and other climate change. The peculiarity of the satellite is the high resolution of the focal lens that will allow “to distinguish plants from a distance of about 5 meters, making possible the so-called precision agriculture useful for the planning of water, fertilizer and pesticide needs”.

Always from the sky, another support for the farmer: the drone. The drone allows you to “capture” a large area, flying autonomously thanks to GPS. The captured image can be processed on multispectral machines and indicate, for example, plant vigor at different points in the field. This makes it possible to create useful prescription maps to plan field operations such as defoliation, fertilization and irrigation.

Not only. Today there are advanced IoT (Internet of Things) Monitoring Systems that detect the values directly in the field such as temperature, soil moisture, tree growth, etc. These systems consist of wireless sensors that automatically detect data, then processed on the basis of specific algorithms to make predictions.
Monitoring systems equipped with wireless sensors are born from the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the new frontier of innovation, where every device acts automatically and is interconnected with other tools in order to accurately and in real time inform about the values that interest you. Not only that, these devices are “smart” also because they are scheduled to anticipate the onset of pathologies. Control and forecast, therefore, to guide the farmer’s decisions better.

Graph: how works the SAVE GRAPE advanced monitoring system for the vineyard

These technologies are today used not only by large farms, even smaller companies, as in Germany. Here, farmers have networked and invested in GPS-equipped equipment and intelligent systems that allow them to know the yield of their land accurately.

The integration of LoRa technology into monitoring systems allow to share investment. LoRa technology allows you to collect and transmit information from a network of sensor nodes located at long distances and in large areas that can belong to different owners.

2 – AUTOMATION

The adoption of technology will involve the automation of certain processes. Just think about irrigation: drip systems can be triggered automatically based on data from specific wireless sensors located in the field. These systems are inspired by the Internet of Things (IoT) and are intelligent tools in which sensors communicate with actuators without any manual intervention.
This type of automation needs fewer labor hours and therefore leads a lower costs.

3 – CONSOLIDATION

The planned trend is to consolidate farms by acquiring land and increasing their size even though not necessarily focusing them in the hands of a single owner. This “trend” is in action especially in Europe where small or medium-sized companies are present. In Germany, the size of companies increased by 229% on average since 1970 to 2010. At the same time, in France, the increase was 145%.
The reasons? The need to increase production, yield and revenue to better face investment in technology and machinery.

4 – PROFESSIONALISM

The degree of professionalism and skills will increase, above all, in large farms structured according to innovative business models. The need to adopt technologies will increase knowledge of the dynamics in the field and the real necessities of plants. Not only. The agricultural company will increasingly need figures capable of promoting the company and its products as marketing or computer experts. In addition, to meet the increasingly pressing food safety and quality requirements and to be so competitive, agronomists and technicians will become indispensable.

5 – SHORTAGE OF SKILLED WORKFORCE

It seems like a paradox: technology will reduce work on the field, but at present, in Italy (dati Cia – Agricoltori Italiani), generational change in companies is not enough to answer the employment demand in agriculture. The “generational replacement is under 7% and current employees over 60 is more than 50% … Projecting this occupational trend up to 2030 … the agriculture would miss about 150 thousand units”.





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