Smart Farming: Integrating IoT and Analytics for Precision Agriculture

The integration of IoT and analytics in smart farming, coupled with satellite technology, is shaping the future of agriculture

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About Author: Dr Sat Kumar Tomer, Founder and CEO, Satyukt Analytics has a profound commitment to sustainable water resources and agriculture. His journey from a dedicated Research Associate to a successful techno-entrepreneur showcases his unwavering dedication and innovative mindset. Tomer’s academic journey is illustrious, marked by a master’s and PhD from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, and a post-doctoral tenure at CESBIO, Toulouse (France).

Agriculture has undergone a radical transformation over the past five decades, led by advances in machinery, seeds, irrigation, and fertilizers. Now, the industry is on the cusp of another revolution, with data and connectivity playing a pivotal role. The integration of artificial intelligence, analytics, and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies holds the promise of increasing yields, optimizing resource usage, and fostering sustainability in both crop cultivation and animal husbandry.
The Digital Agriculture Landscape
In the face of a growing global population and constraints in land and farming inputs, the agriculture sector is embracing digital transformation. Connectivity is at the core of this shift, with the potential to add $500 billion in value to the global GDP by 2030, offering a 7 to 9 percent improvement over expectations, as detailed in a report by the McKinsey Center for Advanced Connectivity and the McKinsey Global Institute. This connected agriculture is part of a broader trend across industries, contributing $2 trillion to $3 trillion in additional value to global GDP over the next decade.
As per the United Nations, the need for increased food production is pressing, with the world’s population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, requiring a 70 percent increase in calories available for consumption. At the same time, environmental and social pressures, including climate change and demands for ethical and sustainable farming practices, are influencing the industry. To address these challenges, agriculture is turning to digital technologies.
Satellite Technology in Modern Agriculture
One of the key technologies driving this digital transformation is remote sensing using satellites. Satellites provide timely and objective coverage, offering actionable insights at local and global levels. They capture data related to soil moisture, vegetation indices, evapotranspiration, crop health, and more. This information empowers farmers, governments, insurance companies, and other stakeholders in making informed decisions.
“To cope with the increasing demand for food and the impact of climate change, agriculture is turning to big data analytics.”
Satellites assume a pivotal role in transforming agriculture by monitoring and estimating various critical variables. They provide real-time data on soil moisture, crop health, and yield, empowering farmers to implement optimal management techniques. Beyond the farm, satellites contribute to governmental policy formulation for food security and incentivization by offering comprehensive insights into agricultural conditions. The data captured by satellites enables insurance companies to underwrite risks efficiently, ensuring transparent and informed decision-making in handling claims. Agri commodity traders and processors benefit from satellite technology as it aids in planning effective procurement strategies, optimizing the supply chain. Additionally, satellites play a crucial role in allowing agricultural input producers to forecast product demands accurately, ensuring the timely availability of resources. In essence, the multifaceted applications of satellite technology underscore its indispensable contribution to the modernization and efficiency of the agricultural ecosystem.
The benefits of using satellites in agriculture include timely and objective coverage, accessibility to otherwise inaccessible areas, periodic observation of plant growth, assessment of soil moisture and irrigation requirements, and early warning systems for pest attacks and crop diseases.
Big Data Analytics in Agriculture
To cope with the increasing demand for food and the impact of climate change, agriculture is turning to big data analytics. IoT devices, connected sensors, and cloud computing contribute to the collection of real-time data from fields, tractors, trucks, and plants. This vast amount of data is then integrated with other information, such as weather data and pricing models, to identify patterns and insights.
The adoption of analytics in agriculture is on the rise, with the market size expected to grow from USD 1.4 billion in 2023 to USD 2.5 billion by 2028, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.1%. The top four use cases for big data in farming include:
Feeding a Growing Population: Big data provides granular data on rainfall patterns, water cycles, and fertilizer requirements, enabling farmers to make informed decisions for increased yields.
Ethical Pesticide Use: Big data helps in managing the application of pesticides, adhering to government regulations and avoiding overuse of chemicals in food production.
Optimizing Farm Equipment: Sensors in farming equipment, coupled with big data applications, help optimize fleet management, ensuring the long-term health and efficient usage of machinery.
Managing Supply Chain Issues: Big data assists in tracking and optimizing delivery truck routes, addressing the challenge of food loss and waste in the supply chain.
Digitized Soil Health
As the demand for food increases and environmental challenges escalate, digitizing soil health becomes crucial. Satellite data and AI-driven monitoring systems enable farmers to track soil nutrients, moisture, pH, organic carbon, and other critical factors. This information helps in optimizing yields, making informed decisions, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of agriculture.
Monitoring soil health involves tracking:
  • Soil Data:Texture, moisture, pH, organic carbon, temperature, and total nitrogen play vital roles in plant growth and processing.
  • Pest Control:AI predictions and drone monitoring help in timely pesticide application, minimizing the impact on the ecosystem.
  • Risk Management:IoT data and algorithms assist in predicting and analyzing crop performance, addressing variables like plant strain, soil data, irrigation, and economic trends.
Regulatory landscape and ethical considerations 
Digital transformation in agriculture faces challenges such as cybersecurity, data protection, labour displacement, and the potential for a digital divide. Cybersecurity concerns require robust measures to safeguard sensitive agricultural data. Balancing data-driven innovation with privacy considerations is pivotal, demanding clear ethical guidelines. The rise of automation raises questions about job displacement, emphasizing the need for re-skilling initiatives to align the workforce with evolving demands. Additionally, there is a risk of a digital divide, necessitating efforts to provide equal access and support across diverse farming communities.
Despite these challenges, the undeniable benefits, including heightened efficiency, sustainability, and increased food production, affirm the irrevocable shift towards a technologically-driven agricultural landscape. Precision agriculture, data-driven decision-making, and smart resource utilization contribute to the sector’s resilience in the face of global challenges. While proactive solutions are vital for mitigating challenges, the transformative impact of digitalization signifies its enduring presence as a cornerstone for the future of agriculture.
Way Forward
The integration of IoT and analytics in smart farming, coupled with satellite technology, is shaping the future of agriculture. These technologies empower farmers, governments, and stakeholders to make informed decisions, optimize resource usage, and ensure the sustainability of the agriculture industry in the face of evolving global challenges.

*This article was first published in March/April 2024 edition of BioVoice eMagazine.