The Future of Farming is Smart: Farmers have started integrating the Internet of Things into their agricultural processes to meet growing demands in quality and quantity

January 06, 2018

For some imagining a world without chocolate or coffee is like having a dystopian nightmare. However, scientists continue to report that these pleasures may no longer be a part of our quotidian lives as early as 2050. And it’s not just these treats that are in danger, but all agriculture products.

We’ve gotten really close to making our farms run like factories, but unlike a manufacturer that will guarantee a standard output, putting in all the raw materials and work on a farm doesn’t necessarily turn out great produce. Agriculture has always been an industry left to the chance of weather and pests, but as climate change creates harsher and more volatile climates it has become more and more difficult for farmers to provide consistent quality yields. This is not solely a problem for the farmers’ bottom lines, but for the entire world population too.

As the global population explodes exponentially, food production needs to also grow. In order to meet this challenge, many farmers have integrated the Internet of Things into their agricultural practices, for example by embedding computing devices into their farmlands to receive and send data about crops.

This is radical for agricultural production, which can be thrown off track due to countless factors, many of which a farmer could never be able to detect. Every two minutes these sensors measure air temperature, humidity, soil temperature, soil pH, weather forecasts, and pest forecasts, something which a farmer could never do with such speed and precision.

All of this data then gets thrown into a cloud where the farmers can read it and make decisions about what to do. If they realize the leaves are too dry, they can water the plants with the exact amount of water needed. If it's too sunny, they can even have robots cover the crops immediately or apply fertilizer when they sense the nitrogen levels are too low.

Farming is the oldest industry humans engaged in, and it's such an amazing moment that now IoT technology can be integrated in a way that farmers can have more control over it. With all of this aggregated data, growers will also be able to understand the expected quality and quantity and what specific factors lead to superior harvests. This is great news for a population that is not only growing, but also becoming more educated and pickier about quality.

Soon large farms may be able to do what small urban farms like Bowery have been—control growing conditions on a microscopic level by collecting data points in real time and making changes to create disruptive quality produce. Bowery, which has raised over $20 million dollars from investors, plants greens like kale under LED lights in a warehouse located in Kearny, New Jersey.

The future of farming is here, but the money can’t just be poured into trendy start-ups. Instead, there should be just as much money getting invested in the traditional farming industry so that they can integrate the latest technology to drive greater production. In fact, by the urban and traditional farms working in tandem, there can be huge improvements in agricultural output.

Especially for industries like coffee and chocolate, where farmers tend to be very poor, it's time for companies to invest in developing these technologies, then teaching farmers how to use them in order to bring better products to the market. While these may not be necessary parts of our diets, they are integral parts of culture and lifestyle and an industry that employs many. Through the hard work of farmers and techies together, we may get to not only enjoy these treats in 2050 but also get to experience even better chocolate and coffee than before.