Agritech Needs Digitization through Bluetooth Tags

Agritech Needs Digitization through Bluetooth Tags

Modern agriculture is complex—especially when it comes to technology. Now, beacons are expected to make smart farming possible and affordable.

Farmers and agricultural businesses have always relied on new tools. But they aren’t the easiest to physically update. Hardware can be expensive, complicated, and the industry as a whole is not as edgy as others—meaning it is easy for developers to forget about and also difficult to get new minds into the field.

“In 2015 one fifth of all farms (19 per cent) used Industry 4.0 applications. In agribusinesses with 100 or more employees the figure was one third of the total (33 per cent). The trend towards Agriculture 4.0 is clear.”

365 FarmNet

Agritech, however, is also one of the more exciting topics in the IoT. Users love the idea of winemakers using technology to create better harvests or farmers using data to make vegetables taste better. The question is, how can the IoT help agriculture in a way that is viable and realistic for the industry?

There’s no question that technology is needed in agriculture. Rising populations, global warming, and also increased restrictions means farm operators need Smart Farming. Much like automotive developers being forced to build alternative-energy vehicles due to regulations, the agriculture industry will find itself in need of smarter tools.

Smart farming tools could, for starters, get new minds into agriculture. By offering new possibilities and opening up the chance to work with connected farming tools, the industry can revitalize interest and drive new solutions and possibilities.

How can the IoT and agritech help farmers?

Precision Agriculture or Precision Farming is the art of measuring and responding to highly specific variables to produce more and waste less. These days, it’s akin to using technology and data to make an agricultural system as efficient as possible. Moreover, it can be found everywhere in agriculture.

“In the past 10 years, Precision Farming has moved from good science to good practice–and has witnessed unprecedented growth around the globe: 70 to 80% of new farm equipment sold today has some form of Precision Farming component inside.”

CEMA

Common beacon and tag uses in smart farming

3 Common Agritech uses for beacons: automations, data generation, and automization

Automation and triggers:
Beacons and tags only send out a series of simple, identifying numbers and data. However, when paired with smart software and apps, they can do much more. Sensors embedded in Bluetooth tags can measure temperature, movement, and other types of valuable information. This information can be attached to a trigger, meaning, when a certain change is noticed by the beacon’s related platform, an action can be triggered to take the appropriate next steps. Too high temperature? Adjust the settings automatically. Is it too dark? Moist? Is equipment moving too quickly? Triggers let managers turn these small events into opportunities for optimization.

Asset tracking:
A key component of all agritech is asset tracking. Equipment and goods are highly valuable in agriculture. Tractors are expensive, and every movement of products around the space should be tracked to ensure nothing goes wrong and that every resource is used effectively. Normally, a truck loaded and sent off with goods can be tracked, measured, and even located. A crop’s movements from field to barn to beyond can be tracked and recorded. This means, operators have the ability to watch their goods and know that they’re en route, misplaced, or incorrectly utilized.
Even livestock can be tracked.

Data generation:
Following goods around a farm is only the beginning when it comes to IoT in agriculture. All of these movements generate data, and that data means better long-term results. Data has always been crucial to the industry as it allows managers to get the most of their crops. Should a harvest fail or flourish, the numbers can illuminate exactly what happened. This means, farmers can see problems (or unexpected opportunities) and make update practices on a regular basis.

Data also gives managers the ability to quantify exact information about the crops. For example, marijuana growers have several legal restrictions placed on how they can grow their goods. Bluetooth allows them to not only track their plants but quantitatively prove that they’ve followed protocol. This is how you put “precise” in precision farming.

Agricultural digitalization and “partial” digitalization

Given all the cool use cases enabled by Bluetooth, it’s no surprise the farming industry wants to add beacons and tags to their toolkit. However, it’s not always that easy. Many operations use old, analogue technologies.

Some countries and areas are seeing rapid digitalization in agriculture. Others are seeing very little. The problem, here is the possible divide that could occur between those highly-advanced and far-behind systems. This is why Ulrich Adam, Secretary General of the European Agricultural Machinery Industry Association (CEMA), had plenty to say in an interview with euractiv,

“Partial digitisation can be a sensible and achievable step for any farmer wanting to advance on the path of digital farming. For instance, even a farmer with old analogue machines can partially digitise them by adding relatively inexpensive digital support tools to them such as, for instance, so-called Bluetooth beacons.”

It’s not always easy for businesses to keep up with technology, but Bluetooth is affordable, simple, and able to power a wide breadth of use cases. For agritech, they could fit the bill for many companies that may want to modernize their systems but can’t afford or manage larger systems. Regardless, the growing importance of precision farming will only boost the interest in beacons. The results should yield better efficiency for farmers and hopefully tastier results for consumers.

Hannah Augur - Photo
Content writer / tech journalist / geek based in Berlin. Hannah reports on all things tech and has a medium-sized tolerance for buzzwords.

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