Agriculture has always been a core industry for human civilization. However, with the continuous population growth and climate change, it has become increasingly important to find optimal ways to improvise farming practices ensuring food availability to feed the world’s population.
One of the most exciting developments in agriculture in recent years has been the advent of sensor technology in precision agriculture. By using sensors to monitor everything from soil moisture levels to crop growth rates, farmers are able to make data-driven decisions that can significantly improve crop yields and reduce waste.
Here, in this article, we will discuss the role of sensors in the farming industry while focusing on various types of sensors and their potential benefits, current usage, and future developments to expect.
How are sensors used in precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture has several advantages over traditional farming methods. It can help farmers to better understand their crops and make more informed decisions about planting, fertilizing, and harvesting.
According to the BIS Research report, the global precision agriculture market was valued at $7.89 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $14.61 billion in 2027, following a CAGR of 13.12% during 2022-2027.
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Sensors have become increasingly important in agriculture as they can provide farmers with valuable information about the environment, crops, and livestock. Here are some ways in which sensors are used in agriculture:
Soil Sensors: These sensors can be used to measure soil moisture, temperature, and nutrient levels. Farmers can use this information to optimize irrigation and fertilization, which can increase crop yield and reduce water and fertilizer waste.
Weather Sensors: Weather sensors can be used to monitor temperature, humidity, wind speed, and other weather conditions. This information can help farmers make decisions about planting and harvesting times, as well as identify potential weather-related hazards.
Livestock Monitoring: Sensors can be used to monitor the health and behavior of livestock, such as tracking the movement patterns of cows or monitoring the heart rate of pigs. This information can help farmers identify potential health problems before they become serious and improve overall herd management.
Crop Sensors: Crop sensors can be used to monitor the growth and health of crops. These sensors can measure factors such as plant height, chlorophyll content, and leaf temperature. This information can help farmers optimize crop growth and identify potential problems before they become severe.
Water Quality Sensors: Water quality sensors can be used to monitor the quality of irrigation water, which can help farmers make decisions about water management and reduce the risk of crop damage or contamination.
Smart Agriculture Sensors: Smart agriculture sensors aid in the quick identification of animals, detecting heat, and monitoring their health, which in turn makes it easier to isolate and treat sick cows by identifying, detecting, and tracking herds.
Precision Agriculture Sensors: Precision agriculture sensors have proven to be highly effective in agriculture as they transmit valuable data that enables farmers to not only monitor their crops and livestock but also improve them and stay up to date with changes in the environment.
What are the different types of sensors in agriculture?
A sensor refers to a device that detects and reacts to specific inputs, including but not limited to light, movement, pressure, heat, or moisture and converts them into signals or representations that can be interpreted and analyzed by humans.
In agriculture, different kinds of sensors are utilized to support the integration of smart farming practices, which are as follows:
Optical Sensors: This refers to the application of light to assess soil components and monitor the occurrence of various light wavelengths. These sensors can be installed on vehicles, satellites, drones, or robots, allowing for the reflection of light by the soil and the collection and analysis of plant color information. Optical sensors also possess the capability to measure the soil’s texture, organic matter content, and moisture characteristics.
Electrochemical Sensors: Electrochemical sensors are utilized to gather, analyze, and map the chemical information of soil. They are typically mounted on custom-designed sleds and provide precise information essential for agricultural purposes, including soil nutrient levels and pH. Following this, the soil samples are sent to a laboratory for soil testing using standard procedures.
The ion-selective electrode is used to accurately measure pH levels, thereby preventing measurement errors. This type of electrode detects the presence of specific ions such as hydrogen, nitrate, and potassium.
Dielectric Soil Moisture Sensors: These sensors are employed to gauge the mechanical resistance or compression of the soil. The sensor is equipped with an implement that penetrates the soil, and it registers the force exerted through pressure gauges or load cells. As the sensor traverses through the soil, it measures the retention forces that stem from the soil being cut, crushed, and displaced.
The mechanical resistance of the soil is noted in terms of pressure units, indicating the ratio of the force needed to penetrate the soil channel relative to the frontal area of the tool in contact with the soil.
Airflow Sensors: Measurements can be taken at specific locations while in motion. These measurements assess the soil’s ability to allow air penetration. The anticipated outcome is the pressure required to push a fixed amount of air into the soil at a specific depth. Various soil characteristics, such as moisture content, soil type, compaction, and structure, generate a unique identification pattern.
Agriculture IoT Sensors: The sensor furnishes up-to-the-minute data about the conditions prevailing in the field. This information encompasses a range of factors, such as the ambient temperature, soil temperature at different depths, precipitation, dampness on the leaves, chlorophyll level, the velocity of the wind, the temperature at which dew forms, the direction of the wind, level of humidity, the intensity of solar radiation, and atmospheric pressure.
What is the current status of sensor technology in the agriculture industry?
There are several companies that are currently using sensor technology in agriculture. Here are a few examples:
John Deere: John Deere is a well-known agriculture equipment company that has been incorporating sensors for several years. Its sensors can be used to monitor soil moisture, crop growth, and weather conditions.
Monsanto: Monsanto has developed a precision agriculture platform that incorporates sensors to collect data on soil quality, weather conditions, and crop growth. This data is used to create customized crop management plans for farmers.
Trimble: Trimble offers a range of precision agriculture solutions, including sensors that can be used to monitor soil moisture, crop growth, and weather conditions. Its sensors can be integrated with its precision agriculture software to create customized crop management plans.
Climate Corporation: The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Bayer, offers a range of digital agriculture solutions, including sensors that can be used to monitor weather conditions, soil moisture, and crop growth. Its sensors can be integrated with its digital agriculture platform to provide farmers with customized insights and recommendations.
Taranis: Taranis offers a precision agriculture platform that incorporates sensors to monitor crop health, soil moisture, and weather conditions. Its platform uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data and provide farmers with customized insights and recommendations.
According to Debraj Chakraborty, Principal Analyst, BIS Research, “Precision agriculture technologies have seen rapid growth in adoption worldwide in recent years, with developed nations such as Canada, Australia, Europe, and the U.S. leading the way due to their access to advanced resources and technologies.”
Overall, the use of sensors in agriculture is a promising development that has the potential to revolutionize the way we produce food and manage our natural resources.
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