The first weekend of October brought the first glorious days of fall temperatures to North Carolina. After breaking historical precedent with a record temperature of 100 degrees on Oct. 3, 2019, we finally got a break. Everyone complained about the unusual weather, the blistering heat and especially the lack of rain, which is top of mind across the agricultural community of farmers.
Faced with the concerning impact of global climate change combined with the need to feed a global population expected to reach 9.1 billion people in 2050, the pressure is on. Farmers need to increase food production 70% compared to 2007 levels to meet the needs of the larger population, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and they need to do this in a sustainable and profitable way.
Is the promise of agri-tech out of farmers’ reach?
Satellite imagery and better weather forecasting models are having a positive impact for farmers. But interestingly, according to Dan McCaffrey, VP of Analytics at The Climate Corporation, “Research shows that outside of climate and weather, two-thirds of variables in the food growing cycle are controllable factors, such as plant population, soil preparation or previous crops.”
More and more farms are taking advantage of new agricultural equipment, including auto-guided tractors, combines, tillers, robotic sprayers and weeding robots to automate and optimize their activities. But the key to immediate productivity improvements is agri-tech, which is combining all the data available from the sensors built into the tractors and tillers, along with the weather forecasting data and each individual acre’s historical data and chemical makeup. This is a significant and frustrating challenge for the farming community given home-built analytics platforms that leverage Kafka data streaming; extract, transform and load tools; geospatial analytics and machine learning are not on the local farmer roadmap.
Analytics can make a positive impact on farmers’ yield
IoT can be used to improve farming practices using analytics platforms, such as The Climate FieldView platform. Hardware devices directly in farming equipment — such as tractors, combines, liquid applicators, and planters — can capture machine and field data from IoT sensors as farmers traverse their fields. An analysis of sensor data combined with weather, geospatial and satellite data can identify the optimal yield scenarios for that farm or field. The key to agricultural success is not to hope for the perfect weather season but, instead, to ensure that all factors within a farmer’s control are optimized.
Feeding our world with valuable data from IoT
There are many opinions on the future of agriculture. Genetically modified organisms are a controversial topic but considered by many corporate farming organizations to be the future of farming. Local farmers and most consumers do not agree. We want fresh and authentic blueberries in June and crisp, delicious apples paired with beautiful autumn leaf season. Leveraging data in order to create the best possible circumstance for crop growth is imperative. The future of agricultural success is not dependent on genetics, but on analytics powered by IoT, provided to local farmers on their tablets or smartphones as they continue to feed the world.
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