It seems like nearly everything today is considered smart — we have smartphones, smart watches, smart homes, and even smart cities! One area which has evolved to become smart may be shocking to some as smart farming has become prevalent in the modern world of agriculture.
What is Smart Farming?
In order to keep up with expected population growth, global agricultural production will need to rise by 69% between 2010 and 2050. In order to keep up with this, farmers have to work incredibly efficiently in order to meet the demand that will be upon them. Smart farming is the crossover point between agriculture and technology and is an exciting new phenomenon emerging today. It is the use of a variety of sects of the world of tech to manage the farm including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, robotics, and AI, all of which are used to assist farmers in their daily farming duties.
For Use By the Agriculture Experts and the Backyard Farmers
This addition of technology to farming can be seen in both the small tasks required of backyard farmers and the large scale essential undertakings that the farmers who make up the backbone of our food supply chain have to tackle as well. For the backyard farmer, IoT devices can be used to help you do things such as monitor the feed levels in your DIY chicken coops.
An IoT device that could be applied more appropriately to a full farm with livestock, crops, and more is the ever-popular drone. Drones have become more and more commonly seen in our lives, though most home use cases include the drone being used as a pretty cool toy. Drones for agriculture, however, have a much greater purpose than just looking awesome. The PrecisionHawk autonomous UAV (or unmanned aerial vehicle), for example, is used to collect high-quality data through a series of sensors. These sensors are used for a variety of purposes including surveying, mapping, and imaging the entirety of your farming land and can be told where on your property to go monitor precisely. This device is controlled by farmers who provide specifications for the IoT device to look out for before sending it out so that the data returned is as relevant to their needs as possible. This is a cool way for farmers with larger farms to have a better idea of how their farm is doing as a whole in significantly less time than it would take to manually walk around and observe.
An IoT device that spans over both the large scale full-fledged farmer and the neighborhood egg curator can be seen in the devices which help to make plant and crop fertilizer monitoring a far easier feat. IoT devices for this task can assist the user in things like sensing the level of moisture in the soil, reporting on optimal water usage and weather conditions for optimal plant growth, and even determining the appropriate fertilizer to use for the given existing soil.
Cybersecurity for the Crop Cultivators
When it comes to any sort of IoT-connected device, it is very important to keep security at the top of your priority list. While it may sound a little silly to protect your farming-related devices (who cares if someone knows when you feed your cows, right?), there are actually real-life physical threats that can come out of having unsecured IoT devices. This has been seen in the medical field in instances where hackers breach a hospital’s network security and are able to control Internet-enabled devices, including smart insulin pumps, where a particularly evil actor could over or under supply a patient with this incredibly delicate and essential medicine — a mere cyber attack with physical, potentially deadly repercussions.
Though the agriculture industry is obviously different than the medical world, the threats can be communicated across the two planes. A malicious actor could pose a very real threat to your entire farm including crops, livestock, and more if they were able to breach your Internet connection and take control of your IoT devices. Going back to the IoT crop fertilizer monitor mentioned earlier, if a hacker so chose, they could completely throw off the entire way you tend to your crops and how you monitor the various aspects that that IoT system controls. They could influence the IoT feeder to over or under feed your cows or chickens, resulting in an impact to your dairy and livestock supply chains.
This may all sound a little intimidating, but do not let it deter you from adopting a smart farming approach into your life. There are many things you can do in order to lessen the threats out there, primarily these things include the use of strong passwords on all devices, being sure to be connected to protected networks, and using a firewall in order to secure your important agricultural data.