Agriculture

Smart Data Yields Big Harvests

Create: 12/05/2016 - 12:00

With the global population spiraling upwards, projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) has tasked farmers to increase food production by 70 percent to feed the world’s mushrooming population.

Big agriculture is responding to higher food demands by leaning on innovative thinking and new techniques to push up their production capabilities. Technology innovations are flooding into the market, and major players like Monsanto expect a boom in agricultural data science, as the market value reaches $20 billion by 2020.

Cultivating Crops with Digital Farming

To manage the coming swell, robots that harvest crops and digital farming are joining green revolution and time-held traditional farming techniques. Digital farming is garnering lots of interest as it harvests the abundant details and layers of processes that make up the planting and harvesting cycles.    

SAP built a digital farm app, built on SAP HANA Cloud Platform that combines telematics, geospatial analysis, analytics and business networks collaboration to give farmers a geo-based overview of their entire business. When famers login to their laptops, PCs, tablets or mobile phone, they see an aerial image of their farms.  The app leverages SAP HANA’s GeoFence technology to analyze and process geospatial information.

Farmers can take a virtual walk-though of any sector and understand exactly what is happening with their crop. Does it need water or fertilizer? Is the contractor scheduled to plant seeds? Are the seeds ordered and on their way? Sensors in the soil measure moisture, pH, and more to show farmers the state of their soil. A crop history shows past planting schedules and harvests. For better planning, a list of scheduled and unscheduled tasks display irrigation, fertilization, planting, spraying, and harvesting timelines. Farmers can schedule these tasks and assign a contractor to complete them.

Farmers interact with dozens of contractors and subcontractors throughout the planting seasons. SAP uses Fieldglass to find and send contractors onto the field at exactly the right moment, based on analyzing the farm data. When a crop needs irrigating, for example, the farmer first tests the land’s moisture. The sensors can tell him the exact percentage of moisture in the land at 6 am, 1 pm and 5 pm. He can look at records from last year at this same time, and then run a quick analysis to see what the moisture should be three days, two days and one day before planting the crop of rye. If rain is in the forecast, the farmer can cancel the contractor and avoid an unnecessary expense.

Growing Crops with Collaboration

While conventional wisdom leads us to think that Big Data, analytics, and the Internet of Things are made for those who live in urban areas, these technologies cut to the heart of traditional—and new—businesses that have layered processes and multiple people working together for the same outcome. They align perfectly in developed countries where consumers purchase groceries from a mobile app and drones monitor grape crops, and they promise efficiencies and broader access to food supplies in economically disadvantaged regions.

For more information about SAP agribusiness, start here, and this SAP video describes the concept behind a precision farming collaboration hub.  

IoT Transforms Farming from the Ground Up

Create: 10/16/2016 - 13:00

From enabling commercial farmers to increase production to feed an ever-growing population to supporting small, mobile farming in upcycled shipping containers, IoT is planting creative solutions in the farming industry.

Farming—one of the world’s oldest vocations—has long embraced innovation and the orientation toward continual improvement. From the evolution of the plow to breakthroughs in nutrition, pest control, informatics and more, the relationship between farming, science and technology is strong and time tested.

Advances in farming have increased crop yields to levels beyond what farmers of old would ever dream of, but they still lag behind the growth rate of the global population. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, to keep up with demand, food production will need to increase by 70 percent by the year 2050. And to compound this challenge, the reality of the expanding western lifestyle coincides with a growing shortage of water, land and energy resources.

Today’s farmers are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) as a valuable tool to help address the evolving challenges they face. In fact, Smart Agriculture was identified as the top ranked opportunity by the 2016 Global Opportunity Report. IoT is enabling both large- and small-scale food producers to increase food production, reduce water consumption and waste, create more flexible farming solutions and more.

Increasing Efficiency in Big Farming

To increase production while still controlling costs, larger farming operations are leveraging IoT in myriad ways. A large percentage of crop loss is due to weather variation. Integrating IoT and meteorological data gives farming operations the ability to build predictive weather modeling that can allow them to make strategic decisions—whether it’s when to plant or where to take action to prevent potential damage from unusual weather conditions.

IoT is also getting down in the dirt. Farmers are minimizing water usage and optimizing and automating many of the central farming processes with IoT-connected sensors. John Deere is connecting its tractors to the IoT with the goal of improving per-acre crop yields by boosting the efficiency of field prepping, planting, fertilizing and harvesting. These connected technologies include wireless communication, cloud apps and IoT sensors, all aimed at helping farmers do more with less. The company is also pioneering self-driving tractors, which would further increase efficiency by freeing farmers up to perform other tasks.

Another way IoT is helping big farms is by reducing waste through improvements in the supply chain. Around $165 billion dollars worth of food is wasted every year, and approximately 50 percent of that food waste happens during distribution. From trucks with IoT-connected refrigeration sensors ensuring food is kept at safe temperatures—and automatically sending alerts if it’s not—to mapping the optimal delivery routes with the help of real-time weather and environmental conditions, connected “things” are helping large-scale food producers reduce distribution-related food waste.

Facilitating Flexible, Small-scale Farming

IoT is also doing its part to make farming more accessible—and controllable. As more people move to urban environments, there’s an increasing demand for locally grown, sustainably produced food.

Freight Farms, a Boston-based agriculture technology company was founded to actively tackle these new challenges. The company is addressing the needs of the world’s changing food landscape by providing physical and digital solutions for creating local produce ecosystems on a global scale.

The Leafy Green Machine (LGM), Freight Farms’ flagship product, is a complete hydroponic growing facility built entirely inside an upcycled shipping container. Boasting indoor growing technology and environmental controls, its IoT-connected tools and services enable fresh food production in any environment, perfect for the limitations found in urban setting. The LGM can grow a variety of crops regardless of location or weather conditions. In 2017 the company expects to release a more compact LGC offering, small enough fit in a driveway, backyard or garage.

The company’s app, Farmhand Connect, gives users access to real-time data from the sensors inside the unit, enabling them to remotely monitor all the vital growing components. The app allows them to check air humidity and CO2 levels, temperature, nutrient/pH levels of the water, and elect to automatically receive notifications of any changes to the environment parameters set by the user. Thanks to innovative IoT-connected growing equipment and climate technology, every fully contained mini farm is able to achieve the perfect environment, 365 days a year, no matter where it’s located.

These examples illustrate a handful of the ways IoT technologies are transforming farming and providing farmers big and small with valuable tools to fight food shortage and address changing geographic and environmental challenges.

With even more innovative solutions on the horizon, food producers have a lot to gain by embracing IoT.  

IoT News Roundup

Create: 09/08/2016 - 13:00

This week’s top takeaways in IoT partner activities, interesting investments, recent research and noteworthy use cases: Watson joins Condé Nast staff, small farms plant IoT, new IoT eBook.

Setting the Stage for Smart Cities in the 5G Era
Smart Cities are connecting to the IoT to tackle traffic congestion, pollution, crime, and more. What if the IoT reduced vehicle congestion enough to prevent it from eroding a country’s GDP? Intel VP in the Mobile and Communications Group, Asha Keddy, explains the smart city trends she’s watching.

Condé Nast Finds Influencers for Brands with IBM Watson
Under a new partnership with IBM and the influencer platform Influential, Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker will use Big Data to understand which celebrities make good matches for marketing campaigns.  The media giant will base its selections on demographics, personality traits and key words to better target their audiences.

The Joule of IoT
Developers, entrepreneurs and enterprises have a new resource, the Intel® Joule module, to bring their IoT applications to market. Lenny Tran of Intel describes key features and real-world use cases, including PivotHead industrial safety glasses and VStone robotics. Two models will be available in September from authorized Intel® resellers.

Comprehensive eBook Takes On IoT from All Angles
A new eBook from Aeris, written by CTO Syed Zaeem Hosain, provides an in-depth look at IoT with 12 chapters, 169 pages, a glossary of terms and more that covers the spectrum of all things IoT. Enterprises, service providers, and solution providers can learn the technology and devices behind the IoT and how to capitalize on IoT opportunities.  

IoT Brings Year-Round Farming into Shipping Containers
Farmers in South Boston are growing 60 pounds of kale and 1,000 mini heads of lettuce per week in 1.5 acre farms housed in shipping containers. Using a smartphone app and IoT technology from Xively, the farmers can track air temperature, humidity, and water nutrient levels, as well as track shipments, deliveries and pickups. 

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