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Guest Post

IoT brings resource gains, sustainability to agriculture

Sensors, LoRa and LoRaWAN bring benefits to famers across the globe -- and in a variety of use cases. Read about how this technology can optimize resources and improve crop yield.

Smart agriculture is the future of farming and can greatly improve operations for farmers around the world. Leveraging IoT satellite connectivity and low-power, long-range sensors both indoors and outside can improve crop yield, while simultaneously minimizing environmental impact, even in the most remote locations.

Agriculture consumes 65% of the world's freshwater withdrawals, making it imperative for farmers to look for solutions that enable them to maximize crop yield, while also minimizing environmental harm and water waste. However, over 14 million Americans still lack broadband access, which makes it difficult for farmers in rural and remote areas to use technology to monitor crops, livestock and water consumption.

Due to these challenges, farmers have turned to various types of technologies and solutions to give them more control over their crops, land and animals. Agricultural drones can monitor crop growth and production; temperature and moisture sensors analyze the soil and environment; and semiautomatic robots detect weeds and distribute pesticides. These technologies offer low-power and long-range sensors so farmers can gather and use data to improve farming operations much more easily.

Agricultural IoT support from space

Long-range, low-power wireless solutions equip farmers with the data they need in order to achieve their goals of increasing yield and minimizing environmental impact. Lacuna Space is expanding Long-Range WAN (LoRaWAN) coverage with satellites and LoRa technology to increase connectivity for low-coverage areas.

With the ability to have reliable connectivity despite location, more farmers around the world can gather data that enables them to make informed decisions about irrigation, fertilization and more to improve crop yield and monitor water usage.

Farmers in areas without cellular or Wi-Fi signals can now receive the same technological advancements as those in more connected areas. This supports smarter agricultural practices throughout the world, bringing access to tools that improve operations and crop yield to more individuals in the industry.

IoT helping on the ground

WaterBit, a precision agriculture irrigation company, gives farmers the ability to have real-time, low-cost IoT sensing systems that improve crop quality and yield through optimized resource use. Farmers use WaterBit's irrigation sensors to detect the makeup of the soil, and the LoRaWAN open protocol communicates the data to the gateway. Farmers then streamline operations based on this information to more efficiently manage their crops and ensure the highest crop yield and minimal water consumption. WaterBit helps farmers effectively use their land in a way that was not previously possible with legacy technology.

IoT spurring plant growth

Devonian Gardens, a three-acre botanical garden located on the top floor of a shopping center in Alberta, uses LoRa-enabled sensors to monitor various factors that affect plant health, such as light, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Understanding these factors is important when dealing with multiple plant species because each type has unique water, soil and environmental needs.

With information gathered from the sensors, specialists can quantify light spatially in the garden, which provides insight for future species selection, placement and maintenance. Armed with data from sensors monitoring greenhouse conditions, growers have more control over plant health, which enables them to adjust the environment and help their plants thrive.

About the author
Marc Pégulu has been vice president of IoT in the wireless and sensing products group at Semtech since June 2015. Pégulu joined the company in March 2006 and was involved in several key technology initiatives, including LoRa wireless and software-defined modem technologies. Prior to joining Semtech, he held positions in chips and systems development at Thomson CSF, Thales, ATMEL and DiBcom in France and China.

Semtech, the Semtech logo and LoRa are registered trademarks or service marks of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates.

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