08.18.2015Enterprise Tech

IoT and Agriculture — Sowing the Seeds of Innovation

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that to support an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050, we need to produce 70% more food. However, with dwindling resources, climate change and the increasing cost of electricity, this will be a challenge. As a result, the ability to produce more food, more quickly is rapidly becoming a priority. The Internet of Things (IoT) can make a difference.

Drought Relief

The ongoing drought in California is a case in point. Considering that agriculture accounts for 70% of global water usage, there’s a lot of room for improvement. In California, agriculture is one of the state’s major sources of revenue and the four-year long drought is having a dramatic effect on employment, electricity consumption and particularly on farming. Cities in the region are struggling to manage water consumption even with water cuts, and water management consumes a lot of electricity. IoT technology can bring a new wave of effectiveness to water management.

Organizations like the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA) are using IoT solutions to distribute reclaimed water more efficiently to farmers and urban households. Its wastewater facility treats 20 million gallons of water every day and distributes it via 25 pumping stations. To make the process more efficient and cost-effective, the company collects data from sensors placed around the facility and uses the information to understand the bigger picture about the intake, treatment, demand and distribution of water. The MRWPCA can also gain real-time, actionable intelligence when this data is combined with information about pricing, power consumption and water usage. This helps the company know which pumps to use, when and for how long, depending on supply and demand.  

Smart Farming

Aside from water management, agriculture presents perhaps the perfect business case for IoT implementation — widely distributed assets across massive distances and areas that are difficult to manually survey. IoT, combined with big data, provides farmers with a wealth of information they can use to optimize efficiency, maximize productivity and ensure the quality of food in the supply chain — from field to fork.

All kinds of agriculture, be it crop, dairy or livestock farming, are reliant on maintaining the condition of distributed assets — from cattle and crops, to tractors and irrigation equipment. IoT solutions can help farmers track and monitor these assets. For example, the health of livestock can be monitored remotely and farmers can track the animals’ movement to establish grazing patterns and help increase yield. For assets like irrigation systems or farming vehicles, data gathered by IoT sensors gives farmers a holistic view of performance and helps schedule servicing and prevent yield-sapping breakdowns. In areas like precision agriculture, real-time data about soil, weather, air quality and hydration levels can help farmers make better decisions about the planting and harvesting of crops.  

Encouraging Innovation

We’re committed to helping develop IoT across the agriculture sector. As such, we support innovative initiatives like the Thrive Accelerator project, which nurtures startups in the precision agriculture sector. The 2015 project gave 10 companies access to entrepreneurs, investors and technology specialists to help them develop concepts and products that will make a real difference to farming.

Read the Verizon State of the Market: Internet of Things 2015 report to learn more about how IoT is changing the agriculture industry for the better.