How IoT can help solve the biggest problems in AG

Key points

    The benefits of IoT in farming

    Practical examples of IoT in agriculture

    Using the innovation increase profitability

By Carlos Miskinis
Blog Writter
Jan 2019

Agriculture is the oldest industry on earth and since its beginning, it has always been a risky enterprise. It always falls prey to weather, narrow profits and uncertain markets. Moreover, with all the exposure GMO products have been receiving, professional full-time growers are having even more trouble running their businesses. Farmers today are having to face some of the biggest challenges in the sector’s history as the global population grows in size and so does the need for more and more food from fewer acres. Along with these challenges also comes the innate competition for land and water – this problem is also being enhanced by labor shortages, climate change, and increasing environmental regulation.


In the past, these challenges were solved by using mechanization as it proved to be the key to farming progress for food producers. Unfortunately, the idea of using mechanical equipment is not sufficient enough, therefore, professional growers are not only forced to embrace digital, but a whole host of innovative technologies to reduce costs and increase efficiency in this often volatile marketplace.


In 2017, the use of digital technology in agriculture resulted in 700 million dollars invested in AgTech companies, which is more than double the previous year. However, by 2015 it’s estimated that the total required number of mouths to feed around the world will reach over nine and a half billion, so levels of investment will still need to rise for farming to meet the future demands for food.


So, what are our options? How can we successfully deal with this upcoming crisis? The team at Challenge Advisory has an answer that will help you realize how one of the biggest, cutting-edge technologies called the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming traditional farming methods and ushering in a new era of food production.

Part 2

Practical examples of IoT technology in agriculture

Farm monitoring and supervising livestock are the main current benefits this innovation has to offer

Practical examples of IoT in agriculture

Throughout the years in business, we have managed to build meaningful relationships with local farmers and AgTech companies. Because of this, we are extremely up to date with how local farmers are running their businesses and what technology solutions are the most popular ones. To give you a real-life example of how IoT helps farmers, we will talk about an instance where we met a couple of impressive disruptors and adapters in the farming industry, during the year of 2018. This will shed some light on how digital innovation (IoT) can increase efficiencies, manage livestock and bring fresh and more sustainable food to our tables. We will also tell you what we heard from experts in Agritech about future developments in the sector. However, in order not to make this article too lengthy, you might be hearing about this in our future AG content – stay tuned.


How IoT helps increase the wellbeing of livestock


There are over two hundred and seventy million dairy cows producing milk around the world, but demand is outstripping supply and the public pressure for farmers to increase their yields is growing. For instance, in the UK alone, milk production has more than doubled in the past 40 years to a current peak average around 24 liters per cow. This has certainly kept milk prices low and in plentiful supply to suit the consumers, however, for a farmer to keep up with the growing demands for milk, obtaining a healthy herd is a constant challenge.


Last year, the team of Challenge Advisory has come to Fife in Scotland, to see how one company is using cloud-based technology to set the standard in assessing the well-being of livestock. The specific company’s CEO is responsible for manufacturing a technology that uses sensors to detect movement in farm animals. Local farm workers here in Fife have fully adopted the company’s cow alert system in April 2016 due to its immense value. The principle and step by step process that allows the sensors to track movement are fairly straightforward:


  • Firstly, the sensors that farmers fit on the cows go on their rear leg and they act like sophisticated trackers.


  • They record thousands of data points per second and the information is then transmitted – it travels through a triggering mechanism.


  • After that, the information is then sent to the central database farmers are supplied with that run accurate algorithmic calculations in real-time.


  • Then, all information is sent back to the tracker.


You might be thinking – so how exactly does this help the farmers?


Well, there are three or four really important things on a farm. One of them is female cow fertility in order to produce milk. They have to have a calf, therefore, one of the very first things that we do is we tell the farmer when the sensors are ready to be activated, so whatever the farmer does, he can use a special dashboard to find out that he’s got 12 cows with calves that are ready to produce milk today.

Diving into the main features of IoT and their future potential

The feature of having complete control over all farming processes will make IoT the most valuable future tool in agriculture

On the actual dashboard, the livestock is marked in colors that resemble heat, as the sensors track the temperature of the cows and whenever a farmer clicks, he’ll see a graph of all the movements a specific animal has done throughout the day. This helps to measure the difference between today’s behavior and yesterday’s behavior.


This amount of clarity that IoT gives to farmers, helps them see a huge variety of things, such as:


  • Whether their livestock is in the mating stage


  • The heart rate of all farm animals (helps forecast stress or disease)


  • What is their current activity (e.g. feeding, sleeping, lying down, mating, etc.)


  • The level of lameness of an animal (important for keeping production levels high)


The Internet of Things technology allows farmers to have complete supervision and clarity on the wellbeing of their livestock, which is a direct factor of the overall farm’s performance. In the example we have covered above, professional growers are able to improve sustainability and profitability by gaining the ability to predict future problems using IoT. Even though the technology is being adopted at an increasingly faster pace, it still has a long way to go development-wise. Despite this, this innovation is already making the lives of farmers easier and it will do an even better job in the near future.

More information