Modules, Platforms

The Role of IoT in Sustainable Farming Technology 

July 31, 2023

If the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s projections are correct, 9.7 billion people will populate the earth in 2050. To support the global population, the organization says global food yields must increase 70% by then, with 90% of that growth happening on farmland already in use.

The agriculture industry faces extreme weather events and challenges like:

  • Drought and flooding
  • Soil degradation from poor rotation and overgrazing
  • Government restrictions on water, fertilizers and pesticides

With production demands rising and resources becoming more limited, traditional farming practices are no longer up to the task.

Make Smart Farming Smarter

IoT’s Role in Sustainable Farming

Hands holding a mound of dirt that's overlaid with geometric lines and connecting dots with a plant emerging from it.

There are myriad variables and conditions to monitor across a farm. Traditional farmers lose valuable time by:

  • Walking or driving the property to test soil
  • Manually checking crops for pests
  • Searching for missing livestock
  • Stopping to repair broken machinery

They need to digitize and automate processes to achieve better visibility, efficiency and higher yields.

The solution is collecting data — and using IoT devices and applications to inform farming operations in real time.

IoT technology provides connectivity for precision agriculture, in which sensors collect data during all farm production phases. Precision agriculture uses variable rate technology (VRT) to increase efficiency and reduce waste. Crop inputs (e.g., seed, water, fertilizer and pesticide) are then optimized so that only the needed amounts are used in each area of the field. In addition, farmers can utilize connected sensors to monitor animal health and equipment maintenance needs.

6 Applications for IoT-Enabled Sustainable Agriculture

IoT applications for sustainable farming systems include:

1. Yield Monitoring

Sensors on harvesting machines collect data when they harvest crops and provide real-time moisture content measurements and other crop yield data. The system also allows operators to identify the more or less fertile parts of the field and change the number of seeds planted in those areas.

2. Irrigation Management

In sustainable farming, measuring soil moisture is critical for increasing irrigation system efficiency in areas with water scarcity and usage restrictions. Sensors collect information about soil moisture and send this data to remote systems that optimize irrigation pumping systems.

3. Pest Monitoring

AI systems automatically analyze drone and satellite images of crops to detect signs of insect and other pest infestations. Specific solutions like traps can be monitored as well.

4. Global Positioning

Many of these precision farming applications map out the fields and inputs. Therefore, they require accurate positioning.

GNSS receivers take advantage of global positioning systems. In addition, precise point positioning and real-time kinematic (PPP-RTK) technology achieve precision down to a few centimeters. These capabilities permit even multiple autonomous machines to coordinate with each other and avoid overlapping when plowing, sowing or harvesting.

5. Telematics

Newer vehicles are equipped with devices and tools that send real-time diagnostic data to the cloud for analysis. This data helps with preventive maintenance and enables remote vehicle efficiency and location monitoring.

6. Blockchain Applications

IoT data collection also enables blockchain applications. They ensure that secure, traceable data follows food products along the entire supply chain — from harvest to the point of sale.

Cellular LPWAN: The Ideal Connectivity for IoT Sustainable Farming

Farmland with a computer-generated overlay showing crop health.

Some farms still use short-range Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® wireless technology or unlicensed spectrum in the field. However, cellular low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) devices that use cellular technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT are ideal for deployment in remote areas and other scenarios can provide better performance and deployment flexibility.

Furthermore, cellular LPWAN devices provide better coverage and can run on battery and direct power. These features make them ideal for many sustainable IoT agriculture use cases.

We offer the industry’s broadest portfolio of cellular LPWAN modules with best-in-class security and Power Saving Mode (PSM) and extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX). We can also build your ready-to-launch sustainable smart agriculture solutions with our modules, connectivity and platforms.

Speak to our IoT agriculture experts to get started on your sustainable farming solution.