The Victorian Government is undertaking a global search for agtech solutions for the State’s agriculture and food industries.
As part of the Internet of Things trial, the government has been investigating the barriers to digital technologies in agriculture, including connectivity and the use of on-farm applications.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network connecting a number of physical devices, facilitated by an Internet connection. Devices include common computers such as tablets and smart phones, but also machinery, sensors and chips. Devices connected by the IoT are capable of sharing information and decision-making, based on remotely gathered data.
In agriculture, IoT offers the possibility to accelerate the outcomes of precision agriculture technologies by improving device connectivity and process automation. IoT technology could also be used in supply chain management, health and safety and to demonstrate provenance to food consumers.
The Victorian Government’s latest announcement includes calls for companies capable of building the IoT network for a trial across four major Victorian agricultural regions.
A second call will be made to invite tenders to supply applications and devices specific to the sectors included in the trial – dairy, cropping, meat production and horticulture. Farmers will be invited to participate in this part of the trial, with the cost of joining the IoT to be covered by the Victorian Government.
IoT in the Fight Against Climate Change
Amongst the potential for IoT agtech, is the use of technologies in the fight against climate change as well as assisting farmers in developing countries.
Vietnamese prawn farmers have suffered in recent years with exceptionally dry seasons making ponds too saline for optimal breeding conditions. One trial successfully reversed salinity by adding fresh water to the pond, but this process could be further streamlined and automated with the use of IoT.
In such situations, sensors could be used to monitor water salinity, temperature and even the appetite of the prawns, while a central management system would control system components such as pumps, feeders and aerators.
As changes in conditions occur, the farmer would receive a notification on a smart device, prompting him to action the required task, and with a smart device and adequate internet connection, these tasks can be done remotely.
In all circumstances, the benefits of IoT agtech are two-fold. Production costs are reduced through more precise use of inputs as well as the increase to yields through more informed decision-making.
Although cost may be a barrier to entry for small-scale farmers in developing countries, some organisation have already posed solutions based on a sharing economy model. In Vietnam, Mimosa Technology has leases hardware to farmer cooperatives, which reduces the financial requirement of individual farmers.
In Nigeria, Hello Tractor rents tractors to small-scale farmers via a text message request. The IoT is used to scheduled tractors with jobs and track each machine as its being used.