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The global population is predicted to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, and this expanse in people relying on the earth’s resources is causing some concerns about how we will meet everyone’s basic needs. The demand for food will be 60% higher, and thinkers in the food industry are already innovating systems to put in to place now, in order to provide the next generation with food security.
Towards Efficient and Sustainable Food Production
There are several perspectives on how we can tackle this, including technologies being developed with the aim to reduce food wastage, but perhaps the strongest ally of securing food security is utilizing technology to make current food production processes more efficient and sustainable.
Further to this, there are pressures for all global industries to reduce their impact on the planet and to reduce emissions. This same technology is also a safe bet in helping agriculture to achieve this aim.
Smart agriculture is a concept that has been around ever since farmers began using GPS to map their fields back in the 1980s. The technology allowed them to accurately map their crop fields, giving them the ability to apply fertilizer specifically to the areas that needed it, reducing the cost to the farmer, and the impact on the environment.
The 1990s saw smart agriculture grow further, with the advent of technology to monitor crop yield to generate recommendations for fertilizer and pH addition. Now, in 2019, the capabilities of smart agriculture have exploded with the development of the IoT. Sensors have been developed to monitor, analyze and perform smart adjustments on an almost unlimited number of factors.
Sensors can be used to assist farmers in evaluating their land. Multispectral sensors can register waveforms within the entire electromagnetic spectrum, therefore collecting data on information not visible to the naked eye. Information is processed and analyzed in real-time, allowing farmers to gain a deeper understanding of their fields, helping them to detect areas lacking nutrients or water. This technology can even be used to detect plagues.
Smart technology can be relied upon to simplify the toughest jobs in agriculture. Milk farms are considered one of the most difficult to manage, with conventional milk farms demanding farmers to be on hand overseeing their livestock throughout most of the day. Fortunately, sensors are freeing up farmers by allowing them to check on their animals via an app on their phone, connected to sensors that alert the farmer when activity increases.
Farms in areas subject to inclement weather face detrimental effects to crop yield. Thankfully the Kilimo Salama project has demonstrated how sensors can be used to create a connected weather station to monitor the weather over an entire region, reducing its collateral effects. Crop yields are also subject to the detrimental impact of fluctuating pH levels. Sensors are also being used here to monitor soil drainage capacity or acidity, making adjustments automatically when required in order to suit the crop.
Sowing and harvesting is considered one of the most important aspects of agriculture, for obvious reasons. Sensors have been developed to improve this process, giving greater crop yields, through their capabilities of monitoring humidity, temperature, air quality, altitude, gas levels, and grain movement. Data that is fed back can then be programmed to automatically influence other connected technologies, to make adjustments necessary to produce the healthiest crop yield.
Role of Sensors in the Agricultural Sector
These are just a few examples demonstrating the scope of capabilities sensors have in the agricultural sector. Overall, sensors help agriculture to farm more efficiently, become more sustainable, and reduce its impact on the environment. The result of which is that agriculture has the potential to produce more food per square foot of land, and has the ability to reduce its carbon footprint.
In the future, we could see further use of sensors in facilitating the use of renewable energy in agriculture.
Sources and Further Reading