Improving agriculture with IoT
IoT, is a technological tool that whatever the business or area of life where it is applied, can be helpful. So, like this case study, farmers have come to rely on it to help them save water, choose the right amount of fertilizer or find out about the condition of crops in distant lands.
In this post, we have reflected the opinion of two active agricultural professionals to see how IoT is changing their way of working.
For Roric Paulman, a farmer in Nebraska, the agricultural IOT helps him address a crucial concern: water. His is a farm of about 8,500 acres, growing corn, potatoes and beets, among other crops.
Four-fifths of Paulman’s land is irrigated by groundwater extracted from an aquifer. Given the climate (Nebraska is the most irrigated state in the nation), the state taxes the use of groundwater, making it a major contributor to Paulman’s costs. “Conservation and management go hand in hand with technology”, he says.
What is IoT for Paulman? He describes it as a “partner” of integrated sensors that measure specific soil qualities, mapping variations in temperature, humidity and much more in real time.
This data allows much more accurate decisions to be made about the best place to deploy the limited groundwater supply available and therefore to minimize the costs involved in its use.
It’s no longer just a matter of maximizing the yield per drop of water, according to Paulman. “It’s the use of that drop and maybe even the use of fewer crops to provide a better return on investment”, he acknowledges.
Quantity of fertilizer
Richard Flatman is a winemaker at Tahbilk Winery who runs four separate vineyards in South East Australia. Quality and soil control, as expected, is one of his main concerns, so he was eager to implement an agricultural IoT system for that purpose when it became available.
“I’m based in one of the vineyards, away from the main site of the winery, so I make a lot of the decisions about the vineyards based on what I can see on a screen“, he said.
Each area of the vineyards is treated differently, for example, the amount of water it receives, the amount of fertilizer added to the water and the degree to which it needs to be managed practically.
Tahbilk’s system focuses on 13 soil sensors that report moisture data at four different levels below the vines, as well as four weather stations for surface information such as temperature, wind speed and solar radiation.
Every 15 minutes, sensors send the data to be displayed on a CLOUD platform.
As on Roric Paulman’s farm in Nebraska, the main advantage has been the savings in irrigation, even compared to the particularly hot and dry seasons that the winery has experienced since the installation of the system.
From September to December last year, according to Flatman, the vineyards received only 20% of the average rainfall for that period, but the company was able to reduce the amount of irrigation water. Extrapolated over the course of an entire growing season, that results in a saving of more than $81,000.
“This is huge not only in monetary terms,” he admits. “Tahbilk is a very environmentally friendly company and the company is always willing to invest money for the benefit of the environment.”