This article originally appeared on IoT for All at IoT For Sustainable Agriculture Needs Reliable Connectivity (iotforall.com).
By Kevin Quillien, co-founder and CTO at Krucial
Feeding a growing population sustainably is critical – and agriculture is at the center of that effort. But for this to happen, agriculture needs connectivity. Digitization, and the move towards agriculture 4.0, hold the key. As technologies mature, from digital twins to AI, they will be rolled out more and more to help farmers all over the world run operations more efficiently, increase yield, and improve livestock welfare. Industrial IoT (IIoT) gathers the relevant data which drives these technologies.
IIoT is already widely used across the industry – and the global IoT in the agriculture market is to due reach more than $20bn by 2027. However, when data being collected by IIoT becomes mission-critical, and digital technologies central to the functioning of operations, any downtime is damaging. Resilient and reliable communications to ensure data flows, regardless of conditions or location, is essential.
With 90% of the world lacking terrestrial connectivity services, this causes issues reaching parts of even the most advanced agricultural industries in the world, such as those in the U.S., Canada, and Australia – the challenge of resilient connectivity affects millions of acres of farming land.
New Technologies Hold New Opportunities
Deploying IIoT on agricultural sites offers the opportunity to solve a range of challenges, including remotely managing water usage, monitoring equipment condition, keeping an eye on grain silo and fuel tank levels, automatically collecting and reporting on environmental parameters, and much more. But given the sheer scale of some sites, deploying these technologies can be difficult as connectivity and power infrastructure is either patchy or non-existent, but agriculture still needs connectivity.
Take a country like Australia where 51% of the Australian landscape is managed by farmers, covering a vast area, but connectivity is often lacking. Keeping track of that land is timely and deploying a bespoke connectivity solution can be expensive, time-consuming, and risky. Nonetheless, digitization is sure to become increasingly important as global warming makes Australia and many other parts of the world more challenging to farm in.
How Can It Be Done?
Utilizing a hybrid communications platform that leverages both ground and space networks is key to supporting this digitization and giving agriculture the connectivity it needs. Hybrid communications platforms can connect IIoT devices to the cloud via cellular and multiple satellite backhaul – some can even switch automatically depending on what is available.
The result is a resilient drop-in communications network that works regardless of existing infrastructure or weather conditions. Utilizing a solution with advanced power management and flexible powering capabilities also means it doesn’t have to be tethered to the grid, unlocking the digital transformation of sites anywhere on Earth.
Real World Impact
Consider the need for grain silo monitoring, which can significantly help farmers. Setting low stock alerts, remotely monitoring levels, and understanding parameters like temperature to ensure grain isn’t damaged, can give farmers greater insight and lead to fewer surprises from their grain supplies. A hybrid communications platform can link IIoT devices deployed in silos so they can be monitored remotely – regardless of connectivity and power infrastructure – leading to more accurate data, freeing up capacity for team members, and a more efficient process.
Any industry not leveraging digital technologies is missing out on opportunities to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. Because agriculture needs connectivity, digital can allow us to do more with the land we already have and feed a growing population without damaging the planet in the process.