IoT enables precision agriculture and smart farming

Green illustration of agriculture use cases in IoT

Farming the future today

Global population is expected to grow by 70% by 2050, putting ever-increasing pressure on agriculture to feed the world. At the same time land and water shortages, changing consumer patterns and a global trend toward preserving natural environmental resources such as soil quality add to the burden on farmers to balance the various demands. So far, farmers have had to monitor manually the condition of their livestock, environment or agricultural produce, even on large farms. Their property also requires safety controls and security protection against natural disasters, theft, and accidents. 

Until now, the implementation of automated monitoring and control systems has been limited by the poor coverage of cellular networks in many highly productive but sparsely populated rural areas. Thanks to LPWA technologies like LoRaWAN™,  IIoT now enables detection, monitoring and control over very long distance (over 15 km) of a wide variety of key agricultural data: soil temperature and moisture; weather, rainfall and water quality; airborne pollution; crop growth; livestock position, condition and feed levels; smart connected harvesters and irrigation equipment; fire, theft and flood detection… LoRaWAN™ technology’s long-range, low-power wireless qualities enable the use of low-cost sensors to send data from the farm to the Cloud where it can be analyzed to improve operations.  Actility enables agricultural companies to deliver various services using a common IoT enabler platform, providing LoRaWAN™ network server and software to manage public or private networks, under a unified, scalable, multipurpose IoT network infrastructure.

IoT applications for Precision Agriculture

  • IRRIGATION CONTROL
  • SOIL HEALTH MONITORING
  • ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING
  • CATTLE MONITORING
  • FARM ASSETS MANAGEMENT
Green field with water irrigation system

Use IoT to know how much and how often to irrigate

The advent of affordable IoT can alter the irreversible consequences of poor irrigation management by providing farmers with real-time soil moisture monitoring and tools for remote irrigation management. The sensors-based system provides the ability to detect water levels at various depths and automate irrigation valve controls. LoRaWAN™ -based solutions provides producers with actionable data, therefore enabling more efficient water management, optimized plant growth, increased crop yields, and up to a 50% savings in irrigation water usage.

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CHALLENGES

 

Farmers need to enhance the efficiency of irrigation processes and minimize water losses. Large sized farms have complex irrigation systems and irrigation operations, often not efficient when moisture controls and valves openings are manual or time-scheduled instead of having a need-to-do basis. The soil is not homogenous and it holds moisture differently in various areas so it needs to be monitored efficiently. Also, connectivity has always been an issue for regional and rural areas due to lack of coverage and the relatively high cost of cellular connection.

SOLUTIONS

 

Optimized irrigation control based on multiple inputs including soil moisture, water flow, energy usage, and environmental factors. LoRaWAN-sensors provide an accurate reading of soil water tension – an indication of how much water in the ground is available to plants. Irrigation pumps are activated and turned off remotely using LoRaWAN. A connected device can be added to any existing pumps to override manual switches.  Actility provides the ideal IoT connectivity platform to manage the network and the sensors, working with partners’ dedicated applications.

BENEFITS

 

With Smart Irrigation IoT solutions, growers schedule and apply just the right amount of water on crops when needed only, so they can significantly reduce water consumption,  optimize performance and profit by improving crop yields. LoRaWAN-based networks are ideal for agriculture due to the low cost of data sending on very low power, with up to 15 years of sensors battery life, allowing growers to scale their deployments and benefit from true operational visibility. Operator intervention is limited and therefore lower maintenance and operating costs for the farmer. 

Green soil sensor with tree illustration

Collect soil condition data with IoT

Until now, growers did not have an effective way to measure soil conditions other than to visually inspect the crops. Today, IoT connects your fields and gives them the voice to tell you everything they need to thrive. Soil monitoring sensors deliver real-time readings of soil temperature, volumetric water content, air temperature, but also nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium (NPK) levels – directly from the field to the Internet. Smart sensors deliver data at customizable intervals, eliminating the need for manual readings. You can accurately predict optimal planting and fertilization times, reduce water usage, and minimize the plant stress that comes from over or under-watering.

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CHALLENGES

 

Farmers need real-time visibility into soil conditions while working in their fields. The ability to detect damage from affected plants and make necessary changes were often too late and resulted in crop loss. During the growing season, manual soil tests fail to provide the data growers need and this can cause farmers to either over fertilize or under fertilize, harming profits and/or the environment.

SOLUTIONS

 

Actility provides the IoT connectivity platform to manage a low-cost, wireless and remote system based on LoRaWAN, offering farmers real-time insight into the soil condition of their crops. Smart battery-powered sensors are installed on the fields to measure the surrounding soil’s NPK levels, pH levels, salinity, moisture, temperature, and aeration, as well as the temperature and humidity above ground.

BENEFITS

 

Soil health monitoring IoT solution allows farmers to manage soil quality from top layers to below roots by providing them real-time visibility.  Detailed soil quality data help farmers reduce waste and to improve crop yields and to analyze historical patterns to make better long- term crop management decisions. Farmers can use the data to diagnose problem areas and compare soil between zones.

Green water pump with lake illustration

Keep an eye on your farms environment

IoT enables easy and cost-effective solutions for weather conditions monitoring, flood detection, and water quality control, providing you the data to make accurate decisions about your fields and crops. Remotely access real-time information about the water level in rivers and canals, the rainfall, temperature changes, wind conditions, air pressure, and humidity for your precise location. Optimize labor, water usage and crop health with the smart solution to precision agriculture. By implementing a network of LoRaWAN™ sensors and gateways across your fields, environmental indicators can be measured in real-time, detecting issues before they become crises.

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CHALLENGES

 

Farmers often rely on inaccurate, imprecise information from meteorology reports and weather apps or spend long hours manually checking rain gauges. Rivers and canals present a risk of flooding, and farmers need early warnings in case it happens. Hydroponics and fish farms also need real-time and accurate monitoring of water quality.

SOLUTIONS

 

Actility provides the ideal IoT connectivity platform for farmers to manage an LPWA network and IoT sensors to monitor a range of environmental factors such as air quality, water levels for flood detection, water quality, soil humidity and more. LoRaWAN™ allows monitoring in remote areas with years of battery life for sensors. 

BENEFITS

 

With IoT solutions you can accurately and remotely record rainfall across different parts of the farm, enabling efficient irrigation scheduling and regular updates allowing fast assessment of rain events. Thresholds can be set to get alarms if flooding risks and changes in water quality are detected leaving enough time for corrective measures. 

Green cattle with cows and sheep illustration

Use IoT to keep track of your cattle's health and location

IoT solutions built on LoRaWAN™ represent an important trend in ranching. The data from sensors give ranchers the capability to monitor their livestock much more closely and act faster in the event of an abnormality – either in a cow’s health or its location. Using Actility IoT connectivity platform, ranchers are now able to use LPWA networks and smart sensors to remotely monitor the health, behavior, and location of livestock, be alert to early signs of illness in animals and to track the location of livestock to better manage pasture utilization. 

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CHALLENGES

Cattle accidents, thefts, and losses are very costly to the cattle farmer. Manual inspection of cattle conditions and health is a difficult and resource-consuming task. Livestock management is a complex, around-the-clock job, but no rancher has been able to be everywhere at once – until now.  Moreover, wild animals in natural reserves get equipped with trackers for health, scientific or security purposes: to limit human interference, the sensors’ batteries need to last for several months at least, which is possible only with LPWA networks energy efficiency and geolocation abilities.

SOLUTIONS

Cattle are tagged with LoRaWAN-enabled sensors and trackers on ear or collar,  providing location information and/or health indications. Geofencing is used to track whether cattle have strayed from a designated area, while vital signs and other data such as air temperature and humidity can be reported to determine cattle condition and stress levels. Actility allows managing LPWA networks and to implement the solution, with partners’ application. Trackers are also used for wild animals: LoRaWAN-based triangulation technique allows authorities to locate them in huge areas without resorting to GPS. 

BENEFITS

IoT cattle monitoring solution allows to prevent theft and recover lost cattle, to improve livestock’s welfare and productivity. Early identification and separation of sick cattle from herds can be done efficiently, while location tracking improves livestock monitoring and management. Applications scan the data for outliers such as a cow showing reduced mobility or elevated body temperature, which could be signs of disease. Moreover, LoRa TDoA geolocation allows getting an approximate location of wild animals while highly increasing tracker’s battery life. 

Green harvester in field illustration

Monitor and protect agricultural assets with IoT

Agricultural facilities have various assets that need surveillance. Wide area coverage and low power communication provided by LPWA networks like LoRaWAN™ enable new efficient solutions for tank and storage level monitoring. Farm gates, buildings and equipment can be protected with IoT sensors and trackers. Even beehives are getting remote health monitoring and anti-theft protection. Moreover, IoT allows improved food quality monitoring and traceability by remotely monitoring the location and conditions of shipments and products.

Silo and tank levels monitoring

Monitoring of liquid levels (water, diesel, oil) in tanks, wheat levels, temperature, and humidity in silos, is often manual, inefficient and inaccurate. With LoRaWAN sensors it’s now easy to replace manual readings into a real-time remote monitoring solution, giving you the visibility on tank and silo levels and stocks condition. You can know exactly and anytime how much wheat, grain, feed, water, and fuel you have on hand, allowing you to plan refill schedules better and avoid running out of stock 

Beehives monitoring

LoRaWAN battery-based sensors installed inside beehives enable beekeepers to remotely check the status of the hive, like temperature and humidity sensors. It allows beekeepers to remotely follow the life cycle of their bee colonies, to optimize colonies health, to reduce excess mortality rates. The solution can also include GPS trackers to know their location and prevent hive theft. Actility’s partner provides a user-friendly dashboard that helps you monitor and analyze the data you’ve collected.

Farm gates and assets security

Due to irregular cellular coverage in remote agricultural areas, it’s difficult to use traditional gate alarms there. Smart LoRaWAN sensors can be installed on gates, remote farmhouses, and outbuildings, sending alarms for gate opening and closing. LoRaWAN-enabled GPS trackers can be installed on various farm equipment, vehicles, and materials. This way you can secure your gates, set up geofencing and movement alerts, and deter livestock et equipment thieves with an easy-to-deploy IoT solution and years of sensors autonomy.

Food temperatures monitoring

Once crops are harvested, LoRaWAN sensors track transportation timing and environment ensuring food is traceable and kept at the optimal quality requirements. Remote quality monitoring is ensured through sensors measuring tilt, temperature, humidity, air pressure and etc… through every step of the supply chain. Instant alerts can be set up if temperatures fall outside of a safe threshold. Traceability information including quality measurements is sent to the application server and made available to both producers and consumers.

Discover our real-life Smart Agriculture case studies and the latest Actility news !

Why LoRaWAN™ is ideal for Precision Agriculture applications ?

Low network Total Cost of Ownership: LoRaWAN™ has the lowest cost for network infrastructure deployment and maintenance thanks to its high link budget, long range, good redundancy and ease for scaling densification.

Flexibility in network deployment models: agricultural companies have the choice to either use their own private LoRaWAN networks or leverage existing public ones. 

Advanced technical attributes:  very low-power bi-directional communications, and can work in a remote, harsh environment, high reliability of the network infrastructure and the sensors

Battery Life Optimization: LoRaWAN sensors are optimized for a battery life of up to 15 years, and for transmission frequency, LoRaWAN offers one of the best options for mitigating battery life issues through network densification. 

High security: the LoRaWAN specification uses 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithms to provide end-to-end encryption using two keys: one for the company, for protection of payload content; another for operators, for network authentication security. 

Fast-Growing Open Ecosystem of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs): companies have the flexibility to integrate devices from multiple vendors and benefit from interoperability at the network level.

Check out Actility videos on Smart Agriculture:

Interested in Smart Agriculture IoT solutions?

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You can buy an IoT solution like Water Level Monitoring on Click & Go, our catalog of fully integrated solutions including devices, gateways, network subscription, and partner’s application

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You can buy IoT sensors and devices for your Smart Agriculture use cases off-the-shelf on ThingPark Market, the largest catalog of IoT devices and applications, powered by Actility

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If you are looking to implement custom Smart Agriculture IoT solutions using Actility’s IoT connectivity platform, you can reach out to us through our contact form

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Monitor your farm at a glance

Humidity, soil moisture, and weather data can be analyzed continuously to automatically control irrigation where and when needed without human intervention. GPS tracking of livestock on huge farms, such as Australian cattle stations which can sprawl over up to 24,000 sq km of the outback, allows the farmers and station staff to use their time for more value-added tasks. Another key use case is to leverage precise information to plant crops, limit fertilizer usage and maximize yield. All these optimizations can result in more environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural practices. Actility allows you to connect and track virtually everything on a farm, from cattle to beehives! Using advanced analytics and big data tools, combined with third-party information – such as weather services – farmers can now know when is the best time to plant or harvest crops.

ThingPark-connected objects provide 24/7 visibility at a very granular level of soil and crop health, machinery in use, storage conditions, animal behavior, and energy consumption. All collected data is available in a single platform and can be connected to a third party application, allowing farmers to get a complete overview of what is happening on their land without having to inspect in person. Leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities, automated systems can take preventative action to forestall developing issues: whether it is the irrigation system anticipating the need to water crops, or preventive maintenance of agricultural machinery before a fault occurs, thus avoiding expensive downtime or lack of critical resource, and consequent loss of money.

An easy-to-deploy and cost-effective solution

Farmers can leverage both public and private LoRaWAN networks for their Smart Agriculture use cases, and both types are managed on Actility’s ThingPark platform. A private LPWA network is cost-effective and easy to deploy thanks to long-range communication which allows extensive coverage of indoor and outdoor with relatively few gateways and allows having complete control of the network and data. For example, only 1 or 2 base stations are needed to provide complete coverage for a big farm. 

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Enterprise-grade LoRaWAN™ platform with best-in-class user experience and Actility’s market-leading technology. Easy to set up, operate and support. 

A large ecosystem with a wide set of industrial use cases fitting small to high-density deployment with the most suitable performance & economics based on a progressive pricing model. 

Fully flexible solution supporting multiple deployment requirements (SaaS or On-Premise), multiple ISM bands, multiple gateway vendors (outdoor or indoor) and multiple IoT application platforms (MS Azure, AWS, IBM, etc). 

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The market leading, most complete, powerful and flexible multi-technology LPWA IoT Network platform. ThingPark Wireless is the preferred IoT network platform for Service Providers rolling out LPWA connectivity services, already powering over half of national LoRaWAN™ network deployments worldwide  

ThingPark Wireless is the heart of your IoT network, enabling secure connectivity, data flow, and management from sensors to cloud applications. ThingPark Wireless is modular, and scales easily, enabling Service Providers to monetize connectivity and accelerate the adoption of IoT solutions across multiple industries.