Freewave Smart Ag: A Starters Guide to the IIoT and Automation in Agriculture

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What is automation? How can automation help farmers do more with less? Is automation in agriculture a good idea? How is automation transforming the farming industry?

Farmer’s exploring technology tend to ask the same questions. 

Here are a few of them: 

What is automation? How can automation transform my farming operation? Is automation in agriculture a sound practice? Why do we need smart agriculture? What is smart farming?

There’s a new world of technology available to farmers. But with new technologies come new fears and confusion. It’s understandable. 

Farmers are afraid they’ll be left behind if they don’t embrace new agricultural technologies. They’re also worried about failure, which means many farmers are unwilling to experiment with new technologies out of a fear of losing it all. 

Unfortunately, their fears have resulted in an industry that’s resistant to change. Still, many farmers have embraced automation. They’ve invested not only their dollars but also their time. 

We don’t want to sugarcoat the subject; embracing technology isn’t an easy task. Workforce training is a significant barrier to entry for many farmers exploring automation. 

A farm’s workforce is diverse, often consisting of temporary, part-time, and permanent employees. The transitory nature of a farm’s employees can make technological training challenging. 

But the process is less expensive and less time-consuming than you might think. 

Farmer’s are always looking for larger yields from fewer resources, and for most, automation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the answer. IIoT improves agricultural operations with real-time data insights and control to enable more efficient and precise management of crops, resources, and livestock. 

You might have a cursory – or perhaps in-depth – knowledge of precision agriculture. For the rest of you, first, let’s talk about automation in general. 

What is automation in agriculture? 

Farm automation is an aspect of “smart farming.” It’s a technology that improves farm efficiency and automates the livestock or crop production cycle. More companies are developing agriculture-specific technologies to automate these processes with automatic watering, autonomous tractors, robotics, harvesters, and automated seeding machinery. Smart farm technologies are still relatively new, but we’ve seen growing numbers of traditional agriculture companies embrace farm automation.

Even small farming operations use automation. Kyler Laird, a farmer in Indiana with a 1,700-acre farm and an engineering degree, developed autonomous machines to complete tasks like harvesting, drilling, and planting crops. He spoke to agriculture.com writer Laurie Bedford in 2017 and explained that “I’m a one-person operation. I need this technology because I really can’t afford to hire anyone. Besides, finding a skilled operator who is willing to work 24 hours a day for three or four days a year is ludicrous. I can’t hire that, but I can make that very inexpensively.” 

“I’m a one-person operation. I need this technology because I really can’t afford to hire anyone. Besides, finding a skilled operator who is willing to work 24 hours a day for three or four days a year is ludicrous. I can’t hire that, but I can make that very inexpensively.” – Kyler Laird, Farmer 

Most farmers can’t design and implement smart technologies, but you don’t have to – that’s our job. By using farm automation technology, however, farmers can drastically improve outcomes and spend far less money and time in the long run. 

What is “smart farming”? 

Smart farming, sometimes called a “third green revolution,” applies new information and communication technologies in agriculture. The technological farming revolution includes IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), precision agriculture equipment, actuators and sensors, geo-positioning systems, big data analytics, robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and more. 

You can transform your operations to deliver more sustainable and effective agricultural production through smart farming. Smart farming also benefits the environment through more efficient water use and optimizing inputs and treatments. 

“Smart farming can make agriculture more profitable for the farmer. Decreasing resource inputs will save the farmer money and labor, and increased reliability of spatially explicit data will reduce risks. Optimal, site-specific weather forecasts, yield projections, and probability maps for diseases and disasters based on a dense network of weather and climate data will allow cultivation of cops in an optimal way.” – 2017, PNAS 

Here are a few ways IIoT can improve modern agriculture:

Sample Agricultural Automation and IIoT Use-Cases

Grain-Bin Level Monitoring and Control

Agriculture automation gives farmers real-time visibility into storage conditions and ensures blowers only operate during off-peak electrical hours, saving as much as 50% in energy costs. 

Automated Irrigation and Compliance

Precision agriculture technologies let you schedule off-peak hour irrigation, allowing you to save as much as $30,000 per year in energy costs. You can automate water consumption reporting processes to ensure regulatory compliance. 

Herd Health Tracking

Smart ag technology helps farmers monitor feed intake to improve livestock health and mitigate feed shrink. 

Self-Driving and Autonomous Tractors

Real-time kinetics from precision agriculture technologies improve guidance and steering accuracy up to 100 times compared to traditional GPS. 

Intelligent Weed Control

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) powers high-accuracy robotic weeders to reduce herbicide consumption by 20%. 

We want to infuse intelligence into your agriculture operations. 

Making the most of automation in agriculture means ensuring field data is easily accessible no matter where the information is generated. But before you can automate agricultural processes, you need technologies that let your devices in the field communicate with each other – that’s where IIoT enters the picture. 

“Before you can automate farm operations, you need accurate data about the state of the farm. You also need a way for autonomous devices to connect with one another. This is the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices are the sensors, gauges, and machines that are connected across a farm using Bluetooth, a cellular network, or some other type of connection. More IoT devices allow growers to collect more data about the state of their farms, and IoT is showing great promise for optimizing resource delivery and driving precision agriculture to achieve maximum efficiency.” – 2018, realagriculture.com

Our solutions can power your automated agriculture systems, combining IQ edge data processing, sensor data capture, and network communications to meet the unique demands of your farm so you can easily uphold compliance as regulatory pressures increase. 

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