VP Sethi and SS Gosal
THE Internet of Things (IoT) is a technological advancement that is gaining widespread awareness and acceptance in several fields due to its practical relevance to everyday life. An estimate shows that by 2025, the number of connected mobile IoT devices will surge to 30-40 billion globally. Basically, IoT describes physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communication networks. The field has evolved due to the convergence of multiple technologies, including ubiquitous computing, commodity sensors, increasingly powerful embedded systems as well as machine learning. In other words, IoT uses a network of devices which allows them to communicate and exchange data with other smart devices embedded with sensors and software to make them smart using the Internet. The connected devices transmit data over the Internet without needing human-to-computer interaction. Currently, IoT finds several important applications, such as health monitoring, hospitality & tourism, online shopping (retail IoT), self-driving cars & tractors, smart grid, smart homes, smart city, smart factories and smart agriculture.
The main working mechanism of IoT begins with the device itself such as smart phones, digital watches and electronic appliances, which securely communicate with the IoT platform. The platforms collect and analyse the data from all devices and transfer it to sensors, security devices, smart wearable devices and intelligent appliances for successful operation to make appropriate adjustments
A UN report predicts 24 per cent increase in worldwide population to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 from current 7.8 billion; this needs enhancement in global agricultural production to keep up with the demand. IoT can provide several smart solutions to address these challenges by transforming the conventional agriculture to smart agriculture with its ability to optimise resources, reduce wastage and increase farm productivity.
The latest farming management approach is precision agriculture that enables farmers to make better decisions about where, when and how much to fertilise, irrigate and spray pesticides using digital technologies. Sensors are used to collect data on weather conditions, soil moisture, crop health and real-time location asset tracking (RTLAT) which help farmers make accurate decisions about crop management with optimal resource utilisation. IoT can provide better crop monitoring systems by collecting all data needed, such as crop health, humidity, rainfall, temperature and much more. The most appropriate time to sow crops and harvest them can be determined using sensors which also help in early problem detection. Exact time and quantity of water requirement by individual plants can be determined using sensors for better irrigation management, which can help farmers save water.
The presence of pest cluster areas in the fields can also be detected by sensors and accordingly pesticides can be applied as per requirement and field location for timely protection of crops. The amount of nutrients present in the soil can be detected by sensors which can guide the farmer to use fertilisers when required. Farmers can generate a fertiliser application-crop yield map to determine the areas needing attention. A correlation between the quantities of fertiliser used by each plot or farm throughout the season can be obtained to reduce costs and keep waste to a minimum. Software can analyse the long-term data for several seasons to predict and provide ready-made analysis to the farmers for accurate forecast, hence avoiding or pre-empting crop failure due to any natural calamity.
Drones equipped with sensors and cameras are being used for imaging, mapping and surveying of farm fields to enhance productivity and ease operations. Ground-based drones survey the fields on wheels, while aerial ones can perform various operations using remotely controlled actions or automatic flying routes through software-controlled flight paths that work precisely in coordination with sensors and GPS. The data generated and analysed by drones with backend support systems provide insights into crop health, irrigation, spraying, planting, soil and field, plant counting, yield prediction and other customised actions of crop monitoring. Drones can be programmed for spraying, planting and collecting data from crops for optimising the crop management ecosystem. Efficient planning and execution using imaging and programming makes this application of IoT vital for smart agriculture.
IoT-based remote sensing can help farmers monitor the crops from the analytical dashboard and take action based on insights of collected data, which can assist in preventing the spread of diseases and keeping an eye on the growth of crops. Soil health analysis can be easily done using IoT for detecting the nutrient value in different parts of the field, soil drainage capacity or acidity. This data can be used to determine the exact water requirement at different pockets of the field for irrigation. Post harvest, sorting and grading of agricultural and food products can be done using computer imaging that can significantly increase accuracy and time-efficiency based on their size, texture, colour and shape. Once the crop is harvested, IoT devices (sensors) can help in prolonging the crop storage period by monitoring and adjusting temperature and humidity levels.
The use of IoT in agriculture promises to induce several benefits for sustainable smart agriculture through precision farming, drones, image processing, big-data collection for decision-making, improved crop quality, risk reduction, process automation, remote monitoring and harvesting automation using robotics with increased productivity and efficiency.
Sethi is HoD, Mechanical Engineering, and Gosal is Vice Chancellor, PAU, Ludhiana
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