IoT in Action: A more sustainable future for farming

Posted on March 11, 2019

Chief Scientist, Microsoft Azure Global

The future of food security and feeding an expanding global population depends upon our ability to increase food production globally—an estimated 70 percent by the year 2050, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. But challenges ranging from climate change, soil quality, pest control, and shrinking land availability, not to mention water resource constraints, must be addressed.

IoT in action

So how can we increase yields in a sustainable, intelligent way?

We believe that the Internet of Things (IoT) technology and data-driven agriculture is one answer. In fact, IoT is already showing promising results.

Find out how IoT solves some of agriculture’s most vexing challenges by helping farmers connect fields and herds, reduce risks, streamline operations, and increase yield. To learn more, register for the IoT in Action event in Sydney on March 19, 2019.

How IoT is redefining agriculture

IoT offers countless benefits to agriculture in countless scenarios. Microsoft Project FarmBeats is a cost-effective, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT platform that is based on Windows IoT devices and Azure cloud technologies. By combining low-cost sensors, drones, and vision and machine learning algorithms to map farms, Microsoft Project FarmBeats enables data-driven, precision agriculture, and the ability to increase density, quality, sustainability, and yield.

IoT-enabled sensors in the field can monitor everything from soil pH and quality to water saturation to ensure site-specific applications of irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers. IoT provides opportunities for phenotyping and targeting seed varieties where they’ll best thrive. Drones and robots help monitor crops, identify optimal harvest times, and mitigate threats from pests and disease in real-time.

For operations that raise livestock or produce other animal products, connected field sensors and animal tags can be used to track and manage herds, monitor animal health and fertility, alert farmers to predators, and manage feed.

Of course, connecting devices and uploading data to the cloud can be especially challenging in rural areas. Microsoft has found a way to overlay WiFi signals over TV whitespaces—that is, unused TV channels—to transport data from sensors, drones, cameras, and tractors back to the farmer’s office. From there Azure IoT Edge running on PCs handles most of the computing, including Project FarmBeats AI and Computer Vision algorithms, and transmits data to the cloud, regardless of broadband speed.

Real-life applications of IoT in agriculture

As one of Australia’s fastest growing dairy farms, Australian Consolidated Milk (ACM), serves more than 180 farms and handles around 350 million liters of milk annually. Ensuring the quality and safety of milk is a top priority and maintaining the right temperature from collection to transport is key. One spoiled tanker-load of milk can cost up to $10,000 and have negative environmental impacts.

To help mitigate this, ACM is working with Advance Computing to trial a cloud-based IoT solution to provide greater visibility into milk temperature so that actions can be taken as soon as an anomaly is detected. The solution sends quality and temperature notifications to farmers in real-time so they can make necessary changes without delay.

Water is also a major concern in agriculture, consuming approximately 70 percent of our global water resources, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. New Zealand-based Blackhills Farm is doing its part to lower that percentage.

Using the SCADAFarm system by WaterForce, which combines IoT solutions from Schneider Electric and Microsoft, Blackhills Farm is able to remotely monitor and control their irrigation system. Sprinklers can be customized for individual crops, soils, and moisture levels and be adjusted quickly for rain, heat, and other conditions. The solution has helped Blackhills Farm reduce water and power usage while realizing higher crop yields.

Meanwhile, during harvest season, Echuca-based Kagome receives some 180 tons of tomatoes arriving at their plant each hour. It enlisted the help of Advance Computing to devise an IoT-based solution that uses data from on farm sensors, in truck devices, and technology installed in Kagome’s loading bay to ensure the company has a clear window on its operations. Tracing shipments is now automated and information can be accessed anytime and anywhere. According to Kagome CEO Jason Fritsch, the solution has paid for itself five times over in the first season.

See how IoT is reshaping agriculture at IoT in Action in Sydney

IoT in Action is coming to Sydney on March 19, 2019. Register for this one-day, in-person event to discover how partners and customers are unlocking the potential of intelligent edge and intelligent cloud solutions to transform success in agriculture and other industries. Gain actionable insights around the latest topics in IoT business transformation, innovations in IoT security, the intelligent edge, and more. Plus, meet face-to-face with IoT experts, partners, and technical and business decision makers.