Technology shows all its destructive nature when applied to what has always seemed unchangeable. It is the case of agriculture, and its enormous possibilities for growth and development if interfaced with the latest innovations and technological solutions of Smart Agriculture.
The value of this technology employment in 2019 in Italy was estimated at 450 million euros, with a growth of 22% compared to last year's value and with even more optimistic long-term development prospects.
The largest investments in the sector are dedicated to monitoring and control systems for agricultural vehicles and equipment (39%), management software (20%) and natively connected machinery (14%), followed by remote monitoring systems for land and crops (10%) and systems for mapping land and products (9%).
First of all, it should be noted that the technological field that seems to have the greatest application opportunities within Smart Agriculture is IoT (Internet of Things), obviously assisted by other technologies such as Drones, Blockchain, Machine Learning, etc.
Italy invests in Smart Agriculture about 20% of the total of the EU.
But what are the practical advantages of agriculture in adopting these instruments?
In this article we will explain the technological applications within the cultivation processes that can help the farmer manage processes, materials, machinery, human resources, and, of course, the crops themselves more efficiently.
Phytopathology often causes enormous economic losses to the farmer if not recognized in time. To limit the damage, it is essential to discover its onset punctually, while at the same time preventing its start by highlighting the conditions that increase its risk.
How? For example, through the implementation of sensors (IoT) in the fields, on the trees, on the individual fruits, in the drainage channels, and so on, thanks to which it is possible to recover qualitative information on the health of the plants, on the humidity of the soil, on the presence of harmful substances, insects, diseases, etc.
At the same time, by using drones, orthophotos, and 3D images, it is possible to highlight the different parts of crops, which receive less water, grow less, or appear less healthy or sick.
Another application of IoT, drones, but also Machine Learning, is explained in the concept of “Precision Farming”.
Usually, resources are used according to the schedule or in any case homogeneously in a crop, without considering the intra-field variability and the real needs.
The new technologies make it easy to collect information to carry out selective treatments, saving time, and applied products. Through predictive analysis, made possible by Machine Learning algorithms, the farmer can predict when certain crops and areas will need to be sown, irrigated, or fertilized.
Other Smart Agriculture Applications
But now let's go into the various features, imagining a ready-to-use solution dedicated to Smart Agriculture. What are its practical applications?
Thanks to the solution, the operator can easily draw web maps of their plots using the orthophotos of the area as a background. The system also allows you to upload the cadastre maps. It would be possible to map not only the plots but also tare or parts of land destined for other uses.
Georeferencing plants or rows
In addition to displaying the plots, when the information is relevant for each plant, it is possible to geo-report plants or rows, using the GPS in the field and reporting the information on the map.
Computerization of crop data
Each plot drawn on the map can be associated with a multiplicity of useful information both during the evaluation and monitoring of the crop and during the sending of data for regulatory compliance.
Interface with soil and plant sensors
The solution interfaces directly to IoT sensors positioned in the plots to provide important information about soil and plant response to weather conditions.
Weather data display
The application provides weather data from fixed control units or IoT sensors installed directly in the plots. The sensors provide useful information about the microclimate that insists on a certain area, which is essential for the assessment of the possibility of occurrence of certain phytopathologies.
Warehouse management for fertilizers and plant protection products
A specific section of the solution would be dedicated to the management of the fertilizer and phytosanitary warehouse. The system automatically displays a counter to monitor the presence of products in the warehouse.
Processing of graphs and statistics
Smart Agriculture produces numerous graphs and statistics that allow you to carry out a specific analysis for various factors, in particular:
- Forecast modeling: the solution would be able to produce very accurate forecast models for each area, indicating the probability of generation, fertility, and mortality of a pest agent. This information allows knowing promptly the beginning of a phytopathology or the degree of infestation.
- Optimize the use of products: the Smart Agriculture solution would allow optimizing the use of fertilizers, plant protection products, and irrigated water thanks to the use of distribution maps and soil parameters obtained from soil sampling.
- Support in the choice of soil sampling points: the platform would support the farmer to choose sampling points through pedological data, orography, and previous sampling.
- Highlight the presence of localized criticalities: the solution would highlight various criticalities, such as nutrient deficiency, phytopathologies, or the presence of water stagnation in the soil through vegetation vigor maps. These maps are created from remotely sensed data by satellites or drones.
In summary, the Smart Agriculture solution that we have imagined allows you to:
- Improve and modernize crop management by replacing paper maps and data;
- Optimize data handling and loading times;
- Prevent the onset of disease and contain its spread;
- Optimize management choices;
- Save on the use of products (fertilizers, plant protection products, water);
- Contain the environmental impacts of activities;
- Produce higher quality goods;
- Conduct time comparisons for the management of criticalities in the plots.
The time has come for agriculture to enter the era of digitalization.
The future is 4.0. also for agriculture: by developing new solutions for Smart Agriculture it is possible to benefit a growing market, which offers opportunities to companies that believe in an ecological and prudent approach to resources.