Water is the most essential resource for life, both for humans and for the crops we consume. Around the world, agriculture represents 70% of all freshwater use.
I study computers and information technology at Purdue Polytechnic Institute and run Purdue’s Environmental Network Technology Laboratory (ENT)where we address environmental and sustainability challenges with interdisciplinary research on the agricultural internet of thingsor Ag-IoT.
the Internet of Things It is a network of objects equipped with sensors so that they can receive and transmit data through the internet. Examples include wearable fitness devices, smart home thermostats, and self-driving cars.
In agriculture, it involves technologies such as underground wireless communications, underground sensing, and ground antennas. These systems help farmers monitor the conditions of their land in real time and apply water and other inputs, such as fertilizers, exactly when and where they are needed.
In particular, monitor conditions in the soil holds great promise in helping farmers use water more efficiently. Sensors can now be wirelessly integrated into irrigation systems to provide real-time information on soil moisture levels. Studies suggest that this strategy can reduce water demand for irrigation anywhere from twenty% a 72% without hindering daily operations in the fields.
What is the agricultural internet of things?
Even in dry places like the Middle East and North Africa, farming is possible with efficient water management. But extreme weather events brought on by climate change are making it difficult. Recurring droughts in the western US in the last 20 years, together with other disasters such as forest fires, have caused billions of dollars in crop losses.
Water experts have measured soil moisture to inform water management and irrigation decisions for decades. Automated technologies have largely replaced manual soil moisture tools because it is difficult to take manual soil moisture readings in remote production fields.
In the last decade, wireless data collection technologies have begun to provide real-time access to soil moisture data, enabling better water management decisions. These technologies could also have many advanced IoT applications in public safety, urban infrastructure monitoring, and food safety.
The Agricultural Internet of Things is a network of radios, antennas and sensors that collect crop and soil information in real time in the field. To facilitate data collection, these sensors and antennas are interconnected wirelessly with farm equipment. The Ag-IoT is a complete framework that can detect conditions on farmland, suggest actions in response, and send commands to farm machinery.
Interconnection of devices such as soil moisture and temperature sensors in the field allows control irrigation systems and conserve water autonomously. The system can program the irrigation, monitor environmental conditions and control farm machinery, such as seed drills and fertilizer applicators. Other applications include estimate soil nutrient levels Y pest identification.
The challenges of putting networks underground
Wireless data collection has the potential to help farmers use water much more efficiently, but putting these components in the ground creates challenges. For example, at the Purdue ENT Lab, we found that when the antennas that transmit sensor data are buried in the ground, their operating characteristics change dramatically based on soil moisture. My new book, “signs on the ground”, explains how this happens.
Farmers use heavy equipment in the fields, so the antennas must be buried deep enough to prevent damage. As the soil gets wet, the moisture affects the communication between the sensor network and the control system. The water in the ground absorbs the signal energy, which weakens the signals the system sends. The denser soil also blocks signal transmission.
we have developed a theoretical model and an antenna which reduces the impact of soil on underground communications by changing the operating frequency and bandwidth of the system. With this antenna, sensors placed in the upper layers of the soil can provide information on the state of the soil in real time to the irrigation systems in distances up to 650 feet (200 meters) – longer than two football fields.
Another solution that I have developed to improve wireless communication on the ground is to use directional antennas to focus the signal energy in the desired direction. Antennas that direct power into the air can also be used for long-range wireless communications underground.
What’s next for Ag-IoT?
Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important to Ag-IoT as it matures. Farm networks need advanced security systems to protect the information they transfer. There is also a need for solutions that allow agricultural researchers and extension agents to combine information from multiple farms. Aggregating data in this way will produce more accurate decisions on issues such as water use, while preserving the privacy of growers.
These networks must also adapt to changing local conditions, such as temperature, precipitation and wind. Seasonal changes and crop growth cycles can temporarily alter the operating conditions of Ag-IoT equipment. By using cloud computing and machine learning, scientists can help the Ag-IoT respond to changes in the environment around it.
Finally, the lack of high-speed Internet access is remains a problem in many rural communities. For example, many researchers have integrated wireless underground sensors with Ag-IoT in center pivot irrigation systemsbut farmers without high-speed Internet access cannot install this type of technology.
Integrating satellite-based network connectivity with Ag-IoT can help unconnected farms where broadband connectivity is not yet available. Researchers are also developing mobile and vehicle-mounted Ag-IoT platforms using drones. Systems like these can provide continuous connectivity in the field, making digital technologies accessible to more farmers in more places.