The Next Big Thing In Agriculture: How Smart Sensors Help Farmers Grow Better Crops

The Next Big Thing In Agriculture: How Smart Sensors Help Farmers Grow Better Crops

December 16, 2021

Smart agriculture sensors are the new frontier in farming. With the help of sensors, farmers are able to maximise efficiency in their fields and ensure that they use only the necessary amount of fertiliser, water and protectants.

In recent years, the agricultural industry has become more reliant on technology to achieve better yields and higher quality produce. This article provides a great summary on how smart sensors can help agriculture.

Using smart sensors, farmers can also quickly diagnose problems in their crops and take action before it’s too late. Smart sensors can even be used to monitor soil conditions, pest levels and other parameters that affect their health.

What are agricultural smart sensors?

Smart sensors are digital devices placed in the soil to monitor air temperature, soil temperature, air humidity and soil moisture levels. Real-time readings are sent via a wifi connection, to a centralised database, providing high-detail data and precise knowledge of growing conditions to growers, allowing them to monitor crop conditions, respond accordingly and improve their yield capabilities. 

How does a smart sensor work?

A smart sensor device takes readings on the physical environment around it, in order to provide details of specific inputs, feeding this information to user websites and mobile apps via a centralised database.

Agricultural smart sensor products are part of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), providing seamless communication between the digital farm sensor and the farmer, monitoring and reporting on environmental conditions in real-time.

Our GROW SmartFarm Sensors are placed in the soil and measure soil moisture at four depths - recording readings periodically. This data can be accessed via mobile devices, tablets or computers and analysed for patterns, sending alerts and notifications to growers in real-time.

How can smart sensors improve your farm?

When it comes to the agricultural industry, smart sensors can assist farmers and growers to make the best decisions regarding the growing conditions for their crops. At the touch of a button, they are able to determine whether soil conditions need improving, manage irrigation requirements and monitor disease pressures, based upon real-time data.

 

Our compact and affordable GROW SmartFarm Sensors provide the data, along with the digital platform to monitor and record the data, on four key growing conditions; air temperature, air humidity, soil temperature and soil moisture. The precise measurements provided by the device can help save farmers money, by minimising costly inputs - such as water and fertilisers. It can also help maximise yields, by ensuring that crops are growing in an optimum environment. Here’s how each of these measurements helps your bottom-line:

Air Temperature:

Every plant will have an optimal temperature for plant growth, flowering and fruiting as well as the rate at which photosynthesis occurs. Photosynthesis increases as temperatures rise and transportation of sugars occurs mostly during the night, or coolest parts of the day. Being able to monitor the air temperature, allows growers to respond and alter growing conditions, to provide the crop with the optimal air temperature – particularly when growing in an enclosed environment such as our GROWTunnels.

Air Humidity:

Humidity has a significant effect on plant growth, especially during germination and flowering. Measuring air humidity with smart sensors, allows growers to ensure there are suitable levels of water vapor present in the air.

High humidity makes it difficult for plants to absorb water from the soil and can cause disease. It also affects soil aeration and the ability of roots to absorb oxygen from the soil.

Low humidity causes leaves to dry out and lose turgor pressure, reducing their ability to take in carbon dioxide through their stomata. If the air is too dry then the plant will have a hard time absorbing enough water, causing the leaves to wilt and drop which reduces crop yields. It also causes less fruit to form on plants, resulting in less product being produced.  If a crop is already stressed out from too much heat or cold, then low humidity will make it even more stressed.

Soil Temperature:

The soil temperature is important for crop production. It directly affects the growth of plants, influences the rate of germination of seeds and of course, the crops final yield. Soil microbes, which are critical to crop production are also affected by soil temperature. Therefore, monitoring the temperature of soil, using an agricultural smart sensor is also a good way to ensure optimal environmental conditions and management practices.

Temperature has a direct effect on many biological processes in plants. The reaction time of the metabolic processes is shorter at higher temperatures. In addition to absorption, the rate of many chemical reactions increases with increasing temperature. The amount of water lost through evaporation from the leaves will increase with increasing temperature, if there is no change in relative humidity. Furthermore, plants have different optimal temperatures for each stage in their life cycle.

Temperature affects both the quantity and quality of crops grown. For example, a soil temperature above 30 degrees Celsius has been shown to decrease yield by around 25%. Cool soils that are wet to moist will produce higher yields than hot and dry soils.

Soil Moisture:

The importance of soil moisture monitoring cannot be overstated when it comes to improving crop yield, as it gives an indication of the water stored in the soil, which is necessary for the growth of plants.

Surface soil moisture is a significant factor influencing the yields of various crops. It is well documented that plants must be supplied with adequate moisture at all stages of their growth to achieve maximum yields. But it’s not just about what’s on the surface that counts.

Our GROW SmartFarm Sensors are placed in the soil and measure soil moisture at four depths, providing useful information on water movement through the soil, and therefore can also indicate soil consistency.

A study in China showed that corn yields increased by 10% when the soil moisture content was maintained above 50%. The study was done on a large scale at three locations in different soil types, which revealed similar results. However, cropping time and planting depth are also important for increasing soil moisture as well as crop yield. Whilst another study across four states in India showed that wheat production decreased by 30% when the soil moisture content was below 30%. It is therefore evident that monitoring soil moisture and adjusting irrigation requirements accordingly, is an effective way for farmers to increase their crop yields and overall plant health.

Future of agriculture and smart sensors: 

Smart sensors have already been proven a very useful tool, for both small-scale operations and use in predicting large agricultural events such as drought.

In California, soil moisture sensors were able to detect the dryness of the soil and send out alerts before the drought became too big to handle.Here in Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources estimate that using smart farming sensors could potentially increase Agricultural contributions to GDP by US$15.8 billion. The University of Adelaide is currently conducting research utilising smart sensors in viticulture, in order to enable better prediction of vineyard outcomes, including fruit yield and quality. Research such as this will provide crucial decision-making information to help improve farm yields and benefits growers annual returns.

As the use of smart technology grows in the agricultural industry, we hope to see that smart sensors could potentially link into other smart farming systems, controlling irrigation inputs, identifying crop pattern recognition and even executing weed control.

 

When it comes to improving your farm, you can’t afford to not have all the right information at your fingertips. Thanks to the rapidly changing world of agribusiness and new technological advancements, farmers can be more effective and efficient in their work. 

Our SmartFarm sensors allow you to monitor and improve your farming operations, based on reliable data that will help you make better decisions on the fly.

If you would like to know more about how this technology can benefit your farm, please contact us today!




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