To top it off, inefficiency in the way we, at present, harvest crops makes the situation worse for us. Given that the total cultivatable land isn’t going to increase, it’s no brainer that we have to find smart solutions to increase the crop yield.
Improved seeds alone can’t help us win this battle. We need to have even more concrete things at place.
And you will nod your head when I say that farming takes a lot of skills. You should know when to plant, which fertilizer to be used and in what quantity, when to irrigate and a lot more other things.
For a time being, farmers have been utilizing weather and wind information which is not enough.
What if we they have an access to information on how much lighting should be given to a plant? Even better, they may have given a system that can manipulate the amount of lighting for faster plant growth? Sound cool? Yeah!
Plus, think of a scenario where the information of soil moisture, temperature, humidity of their farm will be at their fingertips that affect plant growth? Even cooler!!
Xu Hong, an independent inventor, has proposed such smart farming system in his recent patent application.
His invention reveals IoT based automated precision crop control for Control Environment Agriculture –Greenhouse, Plant Factory, and Growing Container – and Vertical farming practices.
A plurality of sensors will be deployed at a selected location in a farm field to accumulate various kinds of data – lighting, humidity, temp, soil moisture, etc. – and other elements that influence a plant/crop yield/growth.
This data then is analyzed to give various instructions to farm equipment – farm tractors, sprayer, and irrigator – and LED hub for light control.
For example, the computer can relay instructions to farm tractor and sprayer when insecticide or pesticides are to be sprayed. It can instruct machines on the total volume of chemical to be used, total area where it needed to be sprayed and in what quantity.
The paragraph 22 of the patent application captures another essence of the invention beautifully. As it was easy to decipher, I’m directly pasting it below. Have a read:
Spatial variation is at the core of precision agriculture and geostatistics. All aspects of the environment–soil, rocks, weather, vegetation, water, etc.–vary from place to place over the Earth. The soil, landform, drainage, and so on all affect crop growth, and these factors generally vary within agricultural fields.
Farmers have always been aware of this situation, and with the sensor hubs can now measure and map it in a quantitative way. Measurement is now possible with the tools provided by geostatistics, which describes how properties vary within fields.
This information is then used to predict values at places where there is no information for eventual mapping. Geostatistics can also be used to design sampling of the soil and crops to determine what the soil needs to improve crop growth, in terms of crop nutrients, lime and irrigation, for example.
This sample information is used for geostatistical prediction and mapping. Such maps can then be used by farmers for decision-making. Examples include where to apply lime in a field, where more water or drainage is needed, and what amounts of nutrients are required in different parts of a field.
Precision agriculture will reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used by applying inputs only where they are needed and in appropriate quantities.
Another feature worth mentioning disclosed by the invention is that it also monitors the inside farm environment. The deployed sensors capture CO2, amount of sunlight, temperature, humidity, water pH and wind data.
This data is then analyzed for better precision farming. To give you an example, it can be used to optimize the amount of light received by the plants inside a greenhouse for faster growth. You can dim, shut down and turn off the bright/darkness cycle.