Connected agriculture, one of the answers to tomorrow’s environmental issues
In a context of global warming, depletion of resources, but also to meet new environmental challenges, such as the fight against pollution or the protection of biodiversity, agriculture must now evolve.
Current agricultural techniques are based on intensive cultivation to cope with a growing population, with an excessive use of chemical and heavy phytosanitary products, permanent tillage that does not allow its regeneration and causes its depletion and strong environmental impacts that are not negligible.
In addition, consumption patterns are changing, as evidenced by the success of organic farming. Consumers are now more willing to move towards a responsible and environmentally friendly culture and towards more natural products.
To meet these new challenges and thanks to the expansion of digital and new technologies, new trends are developing, such as connected agriculture. If you are a farmer and want to know more about what connected agriculture is, we explain everything you need to know.
What is connected agriculture?
The use of digital tools and the Internet is becoming widespread today in all personal and professional fields, including in the agricultural world, especially with the renewal of the profession thanks to the impetus of young farmers, born in an era ultra-connected to the Internet.
Today’s connected agriculture
The use of computers and the internet is not new to farmers, especially for administrative tasks. But, aware of the advantages of digital technology, its use is diversifying:
- exchanges on farmers’ forums ;
- market price monitoring ;
- purchase of agricultural equipment and delivery, thus saving time;
- sale of products online ;
- weather monitoring up to the hour thanks to a specific application;
- consultation of satellite maps for spreading ;
- and many other more technical tasks such as the automation of milking robots, the adjustment of production machines, etc.).
But today, connected agriculture is taking on a real dimension and offers new and innovative technical solutions to facilitate the daily management of the farm.
Tomorrow’s connected agriculture in France
With the advent of “wireless” and the development of artificial intelligence, it is now possible to connect the various automated actions together, which until then had been working independently, and to make them communicate with each other.
Thus, connected agriculture allows the collection of all farm data which will then be analyzed by a central system in order to inform the farmer of certain risks, or simply for advisory purposes.
Moreover, connected agriculture allows connected tools to be linked so that they communicate with each other and act accordingly without human intervention.
For example, the installation of autonomous and connected sensors in operated plots allows the collection of information, which will then be analyzed to inform the farmer. Possible presence of pests or disease in a specific area? The connected agriculture will be able to adapt the treatment on the specific area and preserve the rest of the farm. Plots that do not develop enough? Thanks to the connected agriculture, adjusting the distribution of fertilizer automatically according to the zones and directly on the connected agricultural machine itself becomes possible.
As we have seen, connected agriculture is a decision support tool, via an application that gathers all the data collected by the machines connected to the system. But it also enables the creation of specific alerts and the automation of actions with or without human intervention.
How does connected agriculture work?
Connected farming works with the help of sensors or measuring probes, which can be installed anywhere in the plots, in silos for example, but also within a livestock farm to monitor the evolution of the herd. Their primary role is to collect data, such as soil moisture, plant vigour, soil ions, etc., which can be used to monitor the evolution of the herd.
All the data collected is then sent to a control and analysis tool (a central platform) connected to a connection interface via a USB port or a wireless communication system (Bluetooth or WIFI). Thanks to this fully customizable interface, available as a mobile application for smartphones, farmers have direct and secure access to this information, wherever they are.
However, with the development of connected objects, it is now possible to connect autonomous agricultural machines to control them remotely, thanks to the application, or to program them according to alert thresholds. For example, if the weed rate exceeds the defined threshold, the connected weeding robot automatically starts up. Some high-performance models can even be equipped with a navigation system that allows them to navigate precisely where the weeds are so that only the area in question is treated. In this way, the farmer no longer needs to use pesticides to weed the entire farm.
The assets of connected agriculture
Among the many assets of connected agriculture, or also called robotics, are those that we believe are essential for any farmer.
- Connected agriculture allows for precision and ethical cultivation by only treating what needs to be treated and only at the right time. Farmers can then produce healthier food while preserving, and even boosting, biodiversity and renewable energy.
- Robotic agriculture allows the optimization of working time. Indeed, the application contains an agenda allowing the automation and dematerialization of administrative tasks. But also, to improve the yield thanks to shorter and easier distribution channels. In addition, the farmer can relieve himself of certain time-consuming tasks by automating them, such as the various regular measurements.
- Connected farming saves money by treating only specific areas and not the entire farm or animal operation.
- The connected farmer is part of a network and a community of self-help, with the advice and experience of peers, they can adapt to new regulatory issues or face particular conditions. It is also an excellent tool for training and developing new skills or knowledge for farmers, who due to their activity cannot always leave their farms, thanks to e-learning training services.
Connected agriculture is thus proving to be a real assistant in the daily management of farms, and the new technologies currently being developed will soon make it possible to automate more agricultural tasks towards a transition from farms to more autonomous farming methods.