Industry Focus: Smart Irrigation
The importance of finding new ways to farm sustainably is inarguable. Smart irrigation is one factor that comes into play when discussing modern methods of farming. Not only does it help the environment, but it promotes a healthier economy and, subsequently, job growth.
What is the purpose of smart irrigation?
Lio Doron, the director of New Product Development at Netafim, points out that smart irrigation demands that clean water be preserved, seeing as it is a diminishing resource. A substantial amount of water is wasted in the process of agricultural farming.
Doron questions whether or not the over-watering of plants is caused by a lack of education. He states, “this can be due to the fear of under-irrigation together with the wrong perception of irrigation benefits and lack of knowledge and tools to measure how much water plants really need.”
Figaro, an acronym for Flexible and Precision Irrigation Platform to Improve Farm Scale Water Productivity, is a project based in Europe which promotes smart irrigation. According to a report that has been released by the research team, there are three main objectives to smart irrigation; the first is to develop a more sustainable way to irrigate. This is achieved through more precise irrigation management platforms.
The second objective is to promote the reduction of fertilizer during the agricultural process. This is essential if the modern world wishes to adapt to climate change. Often, fertilizers have harmful chemicals and heavy metals which run off into river systems and oceans; thereby, polluting waterways and contributing to water scarcity. The less fertilizer that is used during agricultural processes, the less damage is caused to the climate altogether.
Finally, smart irrigation demands that innovative hydraulic and agronomic models are integrated into agricultural processes so that irrigation can be more precise. The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) plays a significant role in this objective.
Due to the current complications with irrigation systems, farmers and engineers alike are coming up with new ways to irrigate systems efficiently and sustainably. Climate change is causing immediate and unpredictable effects to crops and farms, which is why technology is needed to help predict circumstances like weather conditions and; thereby, to allow farmers to adjust accordingly.
Smart Irrigation on a Global Level
Smart irrigation is largely based on building a brighter and cleaner future. Human population is expected to rise by three billion people within the next three countries and the majority of these people will be born in underdeveloped countries.
According to the 2nd World Irrigation Forum , agricultural production will need to increase by 70% during this time if mankind is to provide for this spike in population. Beyond this, underdeveloped countries will have to increase their production by 100%. In recent years, however, there has been no increase in agricultural production in these countries.
Current agricultural techniques in underdeveloped countries greatly contribute to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere because it turns forests or Savannahs into crops in an effort to increase production. Better methods of production demand that production be increased on existing croplands to avoid the destruction of ecosystems and to avoid the development of ‘carbon sources’.
Carbon sinks and carbon sources refer to an environment’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A carbon sink absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases into the atmosphere; meanwhile, a carbon source releases more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
Smart Irrigation is necessary to rectify problems like these. When forests and Savannahs are destroyed for croplands, this is known as extensive farming; meanwhile, finding new ways to increase production on existing farmlands is known as intensive farming. The latter provides for more possibilities regarding smart irrigation.
The Internet of Things’ Impact on Irrigation
The development of technology has benefited many fields and among them is the field of agriculture. Finding ways to make food and to grow plants sustainably is mandatory. Along with this, it farmers and environmentalists alike are innovating ways to farm inexpensively and with less cost to the environment.
The Australian Farm Institute’s quarterly newspaper discusses the Internet of Things and its impact on the field of agriculture. This idea allows for the connectivity of data, devices, and applications through networks.
With the invention of smartphones, IoT has developed significantly; however, it is expected to grow even more. Regarding agriculture, IoT has allowed for a decrease in intelligent sensor costs, an increase in the supply of ‘near-ubiquitous connectivity at a progressively decreasing cost per bit;, and much more.
Overall, the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase yield and productivity on farms; thereby, helping to solve the upcoming food crisis that will be caused by the aforementioned food spike. In this sense, IoT is essential for the survival of the human race.
The Internet of Things promotes the development of machines and technology; thereby, allowing human beings to take a step back from the labour aspect of agriculture. It should be noted, however, that while IoT is an aspect of smart farming, not all smart farming depends on IoT.
Machine-to-machine farming is well-known and widely used in current agricultural processes. It is also considered to be a precursor to IoT; however, it does not depend on IoT. Machine-to-machine farming, however, works on small networks and is rather expensive.
IoT is more sophisticated, works on larger networks, and is aiming to develop affordable ways to farm in the new world. Farm data will be readily available worldwide; thereby, allowing farms to share data and to promote transparency.
IoT in India
During a Keynote Speech by Ravikishor Mundada, Mundada claims that as IoT is promoted on Indian farms, productivity will be increased, farmers will remain connected to their farms, fewer crops will be exposed to chemicals, and bio-diversity will be promoted.
IoT will change the face of agriculture; for example drones, remote sensing, and monitoring will be readily available. Not only this, but devices will be able to predict the weather and adjust accordingly to prevent over-watering, as well as disease migration.
It is a common thought that technology is destroying the job market and that machines are replacing human beings. This is not inherently true, however, because rather than replacing human labour altogether, technology simply shifts the job market.
Rather than being hired for labour on a farm, graduates looking to begin their careers in agriculture can instead look for jobs that build IoT solutions. The Internet of Things replaces low, entry-level jobs with those suitable for college and university graduates.
Below is a list of companies that are known to invest in smart irrigation and that may provide careers for graduates in the future.
This company primarily uses satellite imaging to record and analyze data. By doing so, HydroBio is able to determine problems with irrigation before harvests are affected. The company also maximizes crop yield and the conservation of water.
Horatu personalizes crop yield and growth by using sensors to record data for specific farms and crops. This provides the farmer with information about his or her crops anytime, anywhere! The software has alerts to warn for unpredictable weather like flooding and frost.
This company provides farmers with sensors that monitor gardens and crops in order to determine the best environmental conditions for plant growth. Light, humidity, temperature, soil nutrition, and moisture are all calculated.
Necessary Skill Sets
Graduates can expect to find careers in sensor development, data analysis, manufacturing, agricultural innovation, etc. For sensor development, manufacturing, and agricultural innovation, degrees in engineering, programming, or agricultural management is preferred because graduates will be expected to find new devices and methods to irrigate. Some experience is optimal as well.
Careers in smart irrigation usually demand that a degree in either agricultural management, agricultural programming, engineering, environmental studies, etc. Essentially, any college or university program that involves the environment or agricultural programming is sufficient.
Here, you can find a list of university programs that will aid job seekers in their future careers.
- Nottingham University, UK: Bachelor degree in Agriculture and Crop Science
- Reaseheath University, UK: Bachelor degree in Agriculture and Business Management
- Aberystwyth University, UK: Bachelor degree in Agriculture
- Plymouth University, UK: Bachelor degree in Agricultural Management
- Bishop Burton College, UK: Bachelor degree in Agricultural Resource Management
Smart irrigation is necessary to pave a better future for humanity. It is not only beneficial to the environment, though, it is also optimal for graduates looking for career opportunities and for economies around the world.