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Farming industry must embrace the Internet of Things

Monday 16th of February 2015

Farming industry must embrace the Internet of Things

The farming industry must embrace the use of precision agriculture and harness the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), if it is to feed the 9.6 billion global population expected by 2050 and face the challenges of climate change and more extreme weather events, says Therese Cory, senior analyst at Beecham Research and one of the authors of a new report launched today called ‘Towards Smart Farming’.  

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The report explores how machine-to-machine technologies and the IoT – when objects, people or animals are all given unique identifiers and connected to each other over the internet – are contributing to the transformation of agriculture by reducing risk and creating smart farming systems that improve output in quality and quantity.  
The study also offers an analysis of the drivers and barriers of the smart farming vision across the entire ecosystem, from farmers and farming associations, through technology and equipment companies to public sector agencies and authorities involved in policy making.
Precision agriculture makes use of a range of technologies that include GPS services, sensors and ‘big data’ to optimise crop yields.  Rather than replace farming expertise and intuition, ICT-based decision support systems, backed up by real time data collected through networks of sensors, can provide additional information concerning all aspects of farming at a level of granularity not previously possible.  Additionally, embedding intelligence into the design and operation of connected machines will allow data collected to be combined with the farming knowledge, enabling better decisions to be made.
“The ecosystem of suppliers and stakeholders is very complex,” explains Therese Cory; “It ranges from large manufacturers of heavy agricultural machinery to suppliers of M2M technologies, IT-based decision support systems and providers of expertise in all areas of farming.  Partnerships are key to forging a successful supply chain.” 
The report points to growing interest in precision agriculture from machinery vendors such as John Deere, Claas and CNH Global, along with considerable attention on data and farm management systems from a variety of players including agri-food giants such as Monsanto.
“While the US is leading the way towards smart farming, Europe is catching up, helped by various projects and programmes funded by public and private money and aimed at smaller as well as large farms.  These include EU initiatives and projects at national level,” adds Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham and joint author of the report.  “From an M2M perspective, the agricultural sector is still small; however, M2M and all the technologies around the Internet of Things vision will be key enablers for the transformation of the agricultural sector towards the smart farming vision.”
While the use of M2M technology in farming is still in its infancy, the notion of ‘the connected farm’ is coming closer, particularly if all types of farming activities are somehow connected, not only to each other but also to a raft of historical data such as animal health, weather events, climate, economics, product information and specifications and machine settings, for example.  Therese Cory comments: “We anticipate that the use of smart farming will spread to adjunct areas such as environmental monitoring, land management and food traceability.  This is a consequence of the greater public focus on issues such as food safety, wildlife preservation and rural development areas.”
Saverio Romeo concludes: “In terms of time scale, the next two years will be preparatory for the agricultural sector.  Then the pace of the journey towards smart farming will intensify during the period 2017-2020.” For an executive summary and full copy of the ‘Towards Smart Farming’ report visit

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