July 10, 2016 / Federico Guerrini CONTRIBUTOR
The agricultural sector is going to face enormous challenges in order to feed the 9.6 billion people that the FAO predicts are going to inhabit the planet by 2050: food production must increase by 70% by 2050, and this has to be achieved in spite of the limited availability of arable lands, the increasing need for fresh water (agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply) and other less predictable factors, such as the impact of climate change, which, according a recent report by the UN could lead, among other things, to changes to seasonal events in the life cycle of plant and animals.
One way to address these issues and increase the quality and quantity of agricultural production is using sensing technology to make farms more “intelligent” and more connected thorugh the so-called “precision agriculture” also known as ‘smart farming’.
It’s something that’s already happening, as corporations and farm offices collect vast amounts of information from crop yields, soil-mapping, fertiliser applications, weather data, machinery, and animal health. In a subset of smart farming, Precision Livestock Farming (PLF), sensors are used for monitoring and early detection of reproduction events and health disorders in animals.
Typical monitored data are the body temperature, the animal activity, tissues resistivity, pulse and the GPS position. SMS alerts can be sent to the breeder based on predefined events, say, if a cow is ready for reproduction.
The European Union has sponsored several projects on the topic during the Seventh Framework Programme and, now, during Horizon 2020. The currently running EU-PLF project for instance, is designed to look at the feasibility of bringing proven and cost-effective Precision Livestock Farming tools from the lab to the farm.
Several private companies are also starting to be active in this field, such as Anemon(Switzerland), eCow (UK), Connected Cow (Medria Technologies and Deutsche Telekom. Smart fishing is at initial stage with some projects in Europe, South Korea, North America and Japan.
“Precision agriculture is not new. The agricultural vehicle manufacturers (John Deere, CNH Global, Class and others) have been involved in this segment for some time. Initially, it was about position technologies (GNSS) mainly, but it is becoming more complex moving towards the idea of a connected harvester,” Beeachm Research’s principal analyst, Saverio Romeo tells me.”
SOURCE : Forbes