emerging technology

IoT in agriculture: How smart farming is changing the agriculture industry

Gibson Toombs
April 23rd, 2021

The internet of things (IoT) is revolutionizing the agriculture industry, providing new possibilities for the production, management, and distribution of foods, fabrics, and other farming products. According to the UN, there will be 9.7 billion people on Earth by the year 2050, which means that—between the years 2010 and 2050—global agriculture production will increase by 69%

For agriculture companies, meeting this demand—without negatively affecting the environment—will require implementing innovative technologies like drones, bots, and sensors into processes for tracking the weather, monitoring livestock, managing greenhouses, and so on. From a business perspective, organizations that leverage smart farming techniques can gain a competitive advantage in the agro industry and improve their bottom line.

Similar to how the industrial revolution replaced handheld tools with machines like the cotton gin, the digital revolution is replacing manual farming practices with IoT, leading to more efficient processes, fewer wasted resources, and higher quality products. 

A brief overview of IoT in agriculture

With an increasing demand for food and limited available land to expand agricultural operations to, the industry must find ways to produce more on established farmland. In other words, how can farmers yield more products with fewer resources? Enter precision agriculture. 

Precision agriculture is the practice of increasing crop yields—and therefore profitability—while lowering the amount of human labor and inputs required to produce crops, such as soil, fertilizer, water, insecticides, and herbicides. Precision agriculture cannot be achieved without smart farming—or the adoption of cutting-edge IoT devices, which are becoming more advanced every day. 

Agricultural IoT allows farmers to automate certain processes, maintain equipment and machinery, control pests, use data analytics to make smarter decisions, and more. For these reasons, the global agricultural IoT market is expected to reach $30 billion by the year 2023.

Benefits of smart farming

As mentioned, agricultural organizations that adopt IoT can increase productivity and profitability, while also making life easier for their workforce. Let’s get into the specific benefits of smart farming and why it’s important for not only the agricultural community but the entire world:

Increased efficiency

IoT solutions give farmers the ability to monitor their products and surrounding conditions in real time, which translates to better time management and improved decision-making. For example, almonds need 3.8 liters of water to grow. By implementing agriculture sensors to monitor irrigation levels, almond farmers can avoid unnecessary watering—saving time, cost of labor, and of course, water. 

Less waste

Did you know that 18% of cropland in the US is dedicated to food that never gets eaten? This is a result of inefficient harvesting, insufficient control over pests and diseases, and other factors. Still, the production of these crops consumes plenty of fertilizer, water, pesticides, and human labor. By delivering insightful data in real time via in-field sensors, agricultural IoT can help cut down on the number of resources that are wasted each year, enabling farmers to get more value out of their land. 

It’s also important to keep in mind the amount of pollution caused by farming machinery such as tractors and plows. In 2018, the US agriculture industry emitted around 698 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. By increasing operational efficiency, farmers can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier environment. 

Higher quality products

Smart farming not only results in higher yields, it also produces higher quality products overall. Farmers can collect data through crop and soil sensors, then use that information to identify patterns for optimal outputs. With clearer insights, they can more accurately recreate conditions that produce the highest quality products. 

Applications of IoT in agriculture

So how are agricultural organizations using IoT and smart farming techniques to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve product quality? Here are some of the most common use cases in the industry today: 

Monitoring crops and weather conditions

Certain climates cause certain crops to fail. Being able to predict weather conditions by the hour enables farmers to make better decisions on when to plant, water, harvest, and deliver products—leading to stronger outputs and fewer crop losses. IoT sensors designed to detect drastic changes in temperature, humidity, and rainfall will send real-time data to farmers, which is then displayed on a dashboard, eliminating the need for a physical presence out in the field. Crop-monitoring sensors also enable farmers to identify deviations in crop health, so they can take appropriate action before it’s too late. 

Monitoring livestock

IoT applications like smart collars for cows help farmers collect valuable data regarding their cattle. With an intelligent monitoring system, farmers can identify which animals are sick, then separate them from the rest of the herd in order to prevent the spread of disease. Also, by implementing IoT-based sensors, farmers can more easily locate animals that go missing, saving both time and labor. 

Deploying agricultural drones

Drones are employed to serve many purposes in precision agriculture. They can be used for watering plants, spraying pesticides to control pests, and giving farmers a clearer vision of their land. In conjunction with various imaging technologies, drones can provide aerial pictures with time and site-specific information that help farmers identify issues—such as growth bottlenecks, fungal infestations, irrigation problems, soil variations, and so on.  

Automating greenhouses

Traditional greenhouses control environmental factors through manual intervention. But as we all know, more manual labor means higher production time and costs. Smart greenhouses, on the other hand, use IoT to control climate conditions and assess crop health, eliminating the need for a constant physical presence. Intelligent greenhouse systems can collect data via remote sensors, then use that information to adjust climate, watering schedules, and so on—leading to higher yields and reduced costs. 

Team up with Codal to implement IoT into your agriculture business

When thinking about upgrading or replacing costly and manual practices with elegant IoT solutions for your agricultural organization, many questions come to mind: What IoT devices should be used? Who will oversee the implementation of such technology? Where and how will data be stored, managed, and accessed? What are the most cost-effective solutions? To answer these questions and maximize the ROI of your business transformation, you’ll need a partner that understands smart farming technology. 

That’s where Codal comes in. We’re an award-winning web development and design agency that specializes in agricultural IoT. We aim to help farmers increase efficiency, reduce waste, and produce higher quality products—all while saving money and boosting profitability. Once we understand the ins and outs of your organization, we can help with choosing and implementing the right IoT solutions—and also provide ongoing support, so you can focus on running your business.  

Interested in learning more about IoT in agriculture? Reach out to Codal today!

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.


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