How IoT and Digital Transformation Are Revolutionizing the Agriculture Industry

August 7, 2020

For some, it’s a common misconception the agriculture industry is mired in old fashioned applications or outdated processes. Because what you have to realize is that the agriculture industry is on the verge of a complete digital transformation. The reality has become simple: growers and agronomists utilizing best practices for both the Internet of Things (“IoT”) and the Digital Transformation have usually been the most successful. IoT and Digital Transformation are paramount when looking to streamline procedures and optimize operations. Let’s take a look at a few IoT and Digital Transformation applications benefiting the agricultural industry today.

Agriculture sensors precisely measure soil health and other crop metrics.
Photo Credit: Agritech Tomorrow


The potential for IoT in agriculture is beyond extreme. According to a Cisco report, there is an estimated $14.4 trillion in value at stake with the emergence of IoT. Sensors prove incredibly useful to agronomists across the world. And one of the biggest ways growers are streaming and simplifying the collection, inspection, and distribution of data is the utilization of sensors on equipment and materials.

Sensors placed strategically around fields enable growers to view their crops from anywhere in the world, in real-time. Based on the data, agronomists can make recommendations, and growers can make changes accordingly. In some cases, hourly data used to achieve precise soil moisture health reduces water usage of up to 30%.

“Ground-based sensor-based systems are more insightful and cost-effective for focusing solely on monitoring soil under crops and animal behavior,” says Harriet Sumnall, a Research Analyst at ABI. “This is exactly the information that farmers need to map out their plan of action to secure the optimum yield.”

Drone technology paints a comprehensive view of a farmer's field.
Specialized drones can shoot seed pods, water crops, and spray chemicals.

Drone Technology

One of the principal forms of digital transformation has been the utilization of drone technology. As a drone software company, we have seen firsthand how growers and agronomists use drones to improve their efficiencies while simultaneously boosting their yields and productivity.

Traditional methods such as planes, helicopters, and satellite imagery have only resulted in low-quality images and a complete lack of insights into what is happening in the fields. Additionally, these traditional methods are incredibly expensive and rarely result in a positive ROI. On the other hand, drone technology has been instrumental in producing 2D maps and 3D images across millions of acres of cropland. These maps and models are just two ways that growers and agronomists can predict soil quality, plant health, and even plan seed planting patterns.

Drones can even spray chemicals on crops while mindful not to penetrate groundwater. Recent studies have shown that drones can increase spraying speed by five times compared to other types of machinery. And in a Brazilian soybean field, drones have been used to reduce herbicide use by 52%.

AI is creating advancements in the agriculture industry by identifying best practices.
Photo Credit: Genetic Literacy Project

Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

One of the most innovative pieces of digital transformation is the ability to use machine learning (“ML”) and artificial intelligence (“AI”). ML and AI impact agronomy before even planting a seed, becoming vital for plant breeders and soil prescribers. As a Forbes article found, ML predicts which traits and genes will be best for crop production, giving farmers all over the world the best breed for their location and climate.

ML and AI are even making it easier to monitor soil conditions, water usage, and weather. As AI captures and analyzes data, agronomists and growers garner insights that enable them to make more accurate decisions, faster. These decisions can impact the agriculture industry as a whole. Take, for example, the 2019 growing season, which was plagued by wet and rainy conditions. These restraints led to significantly lower crop yields and severely impacted the supply chain. And while growers have always had the Farmer’s Almanac, there are more impactful ways to accurately manage crops year-over-year. AI creates seasonal forecasting models that make valuable crop and planting decisions ahead of time. These data-driven decisions give agronomists peace-of-mind as they head into further growing seasons.

Agriculture robots are spraying weeds, picking fruit, and harvesting nuts.
Photo Credit: Robotics & Automation News

Furthering Precision Agriculture

Robotics and AI have proved their value for a variety of industries, and the combination of IoT and robotics is resulting in amazing things for the agriculture industry when improving productivity and boosting yields. Today, there are even spraying and weeding robots (recently acquired by John Deere – a current DroneDeploy partner). These robots have reduced agrochemical use by a whopping 90%.

The industry is also testing automation for fruit-picking and nut harvesting, always a delicate process.

IoT’s market by 2024 predicts that over two million farms and 36 million cattle ranches will be connected. And like many manufacturing leaders, agronomists and growers are taking advantage of IoT and Digital Transformation. This is far some surprising, as Microsoft reported that 79% of today’s manufacturing leaders are using IoT in their operations, with 82% reporting increases in operational efficiency and improved product quality. The agriculture industry is poised to thrive in an age when IoT, Digital Transformation, AI, and ML are vital to operations.

If you're interested in learning more about drones' role in the digital transformation of agriculture, download our State of the Drone Market 2020 Report.

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