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Smart farming: the future of agriculture

Smart farming – or agriculture 4.0?
Image: © sompong_tom / Adobe Stock

High-tech farming as a new standard

Intelligent agriculture and precision farming are gaining ground. And for good reason. As well as making operations more efficient, digital solutions also have the potential to continue to improve the carbon balance in agriculture. That is why many farmers are already using futuristic tools today. A current Bitkom study shows that 8 out of 10 farmers in Germany are already utilizing digital technologies, with GPS-controlled agricultural machinery and intelligent feeding systems particularly widespread. But other technologies are also in use:

40%
of farmers in Germany use agriculture apps on their smartphone or tablet.
40%
use farming or herd management systems to manage their operations.
32%
use smart systems to apply plant protection products or fertilizers.

Farming 4.0 is also an integral part of day-to-day farming life in many other countries as well. Market research and consulting firm Data Bridge Market Research forecasts that the global market for smart farming will be worth more than an estimated 25 million U.S. dollars by 2028, when intelligent agriculture is likely to be standard practice. When it comes to the concept of maximizing the potential of combining climate goals and digital transformation, this underlines the potential of agriculture to effect real change.

Smart farming in practice

From hi-tech agricultural machinery and farming apps to robots and drones, the applications for smart farming are extremely diverse.

  • Drones are part of daily life on many farms. Along with overflying fields and monitoring crops, they also make agricultural sustainable – and as an added bonus, they are helping to save deer as well. Every year, countless young deer are overlooked when fields are mowed and end up caught in the machinery. Drones help prevent this by spotting the animals from the air before work begins.
  • Sensors positioned in the fields can give farmers detailed information about a range of variables, including acidity and soil temperature. Sensors can also predict weather patterns for the days and weeks ahead, so that appropriate measures can be promptly taken to protect the affected plants in the fields.
  • Specialized smart farming apps are a convenient way for farmers to monitor their crops and animals via their smartphone. Depending on the software, statistics can also be incorporated.
  • Milking robots can automatically milk cows, while other robots can now sow seed, pull weeds, and harvest crops, operating efficiently and thus helping to boost both income and yields.
  • Electric autonomous tractors are another form of technology that may still be in its infancy, but is extremely promising for agriculture. The innovative low-emission vehicles operate efficiently and independently, while also protecting the soil.

How block chain and the IoT are changing agriculture

Industry experts are certain that intelligent agricultural technologies will play a pivotal role in the future, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT). The ability of machines to communicate with each other is a prerequisite for scenarios such as precision farming – the precise cultivation of arable land – and smart greenhouses, because that is the only way to leverage collected data on climatic conditions, soil properties, etc. in order to ensure the ideal environment for the plants being grown and cultivated. If specific sensors in the greenhouse detect that plants are too dry, for example, they can notify the watering system immediately, which then waters the plants.

Rather than relying solely on the IoT, however, many smart farming models draw on the interaction between the Internet of Things and blockchain technologies. These create a secure environment for storing and processing data, which in turn makes it easier for farmers to use data-driven innovations in smart farming. The IoT sensors in an intelligent greenhouse can then operate as a private local blockchain, for example, which can be controlled centrally by its owner.

Smart farming: greater sustainability and efficiency

In view of the many advantages and significant potential that smart farming offers, it is no surprise that more and more farmers are switching to modern technologies to make their operations intelligent. Rather than being visions of the future, precisely programmed cultivation of fruit and vegetables and greenhouses that autonomously control all the elements for optimizing plant growth are now reality. If this progress continues, it will not only make agriculture more efficient in the long term, but also continue to improve the carbon balance through the widespread implementation of smart technology.

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