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Tag: Agriculture

Will IoT improve your eating habits?

Will IoT improve your eating habits?

29720_french_fries_inline_640_8“This extra-virgin olive oil is a fake!”

I recently came across an interesting article by Amy Webb on how Internet of X will change our lives as we know them now. Essentially, Webb’s theory is that soon, we’ll be able to analyze any product we consume or use – ranging from the chicken in our meal to the multi-vitamin we take – thereby giving us enough information to make informed choices.

The technology for doing most of it exists today – the sensors, spectrometers and gateways, in addition to big data and advanced analytics tools needed. However, someone has to securely store the massive amount of data that can potentially generated, and host advanced search technologies to query the data – question is, who will be paying for that?

Some of it can be paid for by product companies – an example Webb provides is researching the seasoning on your french fries at the restaurant to buy the seasoning to use at home. The seasoning manufacturer would be happy to provide the information in order to grow their sales – but that may not cover the expenses for hosting, access and security.

This brings to mind what we (I work for Harman Connected Services) are doing with a large agricultural company, as well as a different foray into precision farming with a large telecom company.

foodIn the first instance, from a crop grower technology perspective, we are working with measuring the NPK (Nitrogen, Phospate, Potassium) levels – which is one of the biggest focus area of nutrition management of crops.

Nutrition Management broadly addresses 3 areas:

  1. For the grower the cost of nutrition – Optimizing the spend on fertilizer, ensuring that just the needed amount of nutrition is purchased and applied.
  2. For the grower ensuring the the crop gets the required amount of nutrition. The need varies based on growth stage of the crop as well as external factors such as temperature, humidity, soil quality etc.
  3. From the regulatory authority perspective ensuring that seepage of nitrate from fields into neighboring lands (could be an organic field etc.) or water bodies is minimal.

The technologies used are available today – IoT sensors, big data, analytics – but stretching that to Webb’s example is easy. If the data of the food source data (similar to what is collected by us above) was made available by the grower, you could potentially see where your spinach was grown, and how much fertilizer was used to grow it. You could also see if there were any sustainable agriculture practices followed…the list goes on…

All this is very exciting, and businesses will eventually find a way to monetize the data so that it can be made available to the general public securely…just don’t carry a fake Gucci bag to your next cocktail party!

Precision Farming, or Can a Cow be a Sensor?

Precision Farming, or Can a Cow be a Sensor?

riverOver the weekend, I had a chance to read an excellent book called “A River Runs Again”, by Meera Subramanian. Written in the “sandals on the ground” journalistic style, Subramanian uses fluid prose to document her travels across India and her interviews with various people and entities.

However, this is not just another book, listing the environmental and social issues faced by a developing country. The difference in this book, which is divided into sections based on the Five Elements–  air, earth, water, fire, and ether – is the real life stories of positive change being brought about by organizations and individuals – from conversion back to organic farming to creating a vulture aviary to bring back the Parsi Sky Burial ecosystem…

Though not explicitly stated, these change agents are using technology as a growth enabler – which brings us to “smart farming”. There has been quite a bit of work done around ” smart farming” or “precision agriculture“. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) predicts that the global population will increase to 9.6 billion people by 2050 – and 70% more food needs to be produced to feed that population. Precision agriculture tries to use existing technology like GPS, sensors, big data, IoT and analytics to optimize the crop yields. Even the farm animals play a part, with embedded IoT sensors to reduce the carbon footprint. It does not imply automated farming by machines, but helping the farmer’s gut instinct with intelligent decisioning.

Graphic_Japanese_Farming_v5-01As the author of a report on smart farming states, “I would like to highlight the fact that the aim should not be ‘industrializing’ agriculture, but make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and of high quality. We should not look for revolutions. We should look for re-interpretation of the farming practices through use of data-centric technologies. And this re-interpretation should be placed also within a new vision of rural areas.”

There was another article recently which talks about venture funding for companies using advanced data collection and analytics in agriculture. A good example they give is that of a machine, which can “visually characterize each plant through real-time image capture and processing, use algorithms to determine which portions of the plant to keep and precisely eliminate the portions of the plants that are unwanted.

Their Zea product enables high-throughput, field-based phenotyping. Using computer vision, Zea counts plants, measures plant spacing, builds canopy height distributions and measures key physiological parameters — all based on imagery. In our minds, this is machine learning at its finest…”

The demand is there, and technology is available now. The piece which is missing is to make the technology accessible and affordable for those who need it the most…