Technology is transforming the agriculture sector. All around Ireland, farmers are eyeing up developments in robotics, drones, and data analytics and identifying areas and processes where they can deploy these technologies. The result? A shift towards sustainable, smart farming with an emphasis on adaptability.
The Internet of Things (IoT) where devices, sensors, and equipment communicate with each other, is having a huge impact on the future of farming. IoT is a natural fit for the farming sector, allowing farmers to automate and streamline processes, as well as increase their sustainability efforts. Here are some examples:
Sensors to measure soil levels
Sensors are the workhorse of many technological solutions, allowing devices and equipment to communicate with a central hub. And they can be used everywhere, even buried in the ground. These sensors measure the nitrate levels of the soil and communicate that information in real-time using cellular or short-range communications. Soil’s nitrate levels can have an effect on how things grow; nitrates are vital, but if the levels are too high, they can have a detrimental effect. Without sensors, farmers need to manually sample and test soil. Having access to this data in real time means they can make immediate decisions or adjustments, saving valuable time, while also allowing the farmer to build a model of how the soil changes over time and at different times of the year.
Internet of Animals
People have been wearing fitbits for years, but on the farm, wearables are fast becoming a powerful tool to keep track of livestock. These wearable sensors mean farmers can monitor the health of their herds, and receive alerts if something isn’t right or based on events, such as a cow ready to calve.
Drones becoming a familiar sight on Irish farms
Drones have become an invaluable tool for mapping and surveying land. With their bird’s eye view, they can create high-resolution images of a field, highlighting areas that are problematic or may need extra work. Drones’ usefulness goes further than mapping. They are also being used to locate equipment, keep track of livestock and any other wildlife that could be causing issues, and counting crops to help with yield optimisation. Equipped with sensors they can communicate directly, and in real-time, with a central hub, providing up-to-date data that can aid with precision farming efforts.
IoT robots to manage repetitive or dangerous tasks
The combination of IoT and robots is on track to transform the agriculture sector. The technologies are enabling the automation of dangerous or time-intensive tasks – sowing, pruning, harvesting crops, for example – as well as gathering data that can be used to guide decisions on the farm, ultimately leading to precision farming techniques. Precision farming requires access to real-time data, whether that’s from crops, land or animals. Armed with this information farmers can increase crop yields, enhance the productivity of their animals, reduce costs and use their resources more efficiently.
Connectivity is crucial to farming innovation
Central to all of this innovation, whether it’s sensors, drones, robots and smart equipment, is connectivity. Farms are typically located in rural areas, where connectivity can be an issue. That’s where mobile connectivity comes in. Our global SIMs, for example, automatically connect to the local network with the strongest signal. This ensures service continuity, even in the most remote corners of the country.
Our global SIMs are being used in the agriculture sector to power innovative solutions like Freshgraze.ie. This smart fencing solution is essentially an automatic, moving fence, equipped with sensors where our SIMs live. Ordinarily, farmers move cattle between fields or they section off parts of large fields to allow them to feed in one area and let the grass grow in another. But as cattle wander around they can trample the grass they’re supposed to be feeding on. Freshgraze solves this problem by slowly rolling across the fields, allowing cattle to access the grass over time. Cattle naturally line up along the fence and feed on the freshest untouched grass as it’s exposed.
The Electronics in Agriculture team, part of LERO community and based at the University of Galway, is working on a smart equipment manufacturing project. Using sensors and remote monitoring, manufacturers can see how their machines perform in different farming environments: for example, a machine operating in the wet Irish climate baling heavy grass will require more frequent maintenance than a machine baling rice grass in a dryer Asian climate. This data will inform equipment development, maintenance cycles, and can offer insights into how operator behaviour can enhance the machine’s lifespan.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our global SIMs and how they are a solid building block for any IoT deployment, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or read our case studies to see how some of our customers are using our global SIMs.