What Is Smart Farming

31 May 2017 | Smart Farming represents the application of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into  agriculture, leading to what can be called a Third Green Revolution.

Following the plant breeding and genetics revolutions, this Third Green Revolution is taking over the agricultural world based upon the combined application of ICT solutions such as precision equipment, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and actuators, geo-positioning systems, Big Data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), robotics, etc.

Smart Farming has a real potential to deliver a more productive and sustainable agricultural production, based on a more precise and resource-efficient approach. However, while in the USA possibly up to 80% of farmers use some kind of SFT, in Europe it is no more than 24%.

From the farmer’s point of view, Smart Farming should provide the farmer with added value in the form of better decision making or more efficient exploitation operations and management. In this sense, smart farming is strongly related, to three interconnected technology fields addressed by Smart AKIS Network:

  • Management Information Systems:Planned systems for collecting, processing, storing, and disseminating data in the form needed to carry out a farm’s operations and functions.
  • Precision Agriculture:Management of spatial and temporal variability to improve economic returns following the use of inputs and reduce environmental impact. It includes Decision Support Systems (DSS) for whole farm management with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources, enabled by the widespread use of GPS, GNSS, aerial images by drones and the latest generation of hyperspectral images provided by Sentinel satellites, allowing the creation of maps of the spatial variability of as many variables as can be measured (e.g. crop yield, terrain features/topography, organic matter content, moisture levels, nitrogen levels, etc).
  • Agricultural automation and robotics:The process of applying robotics, automatic control and artificial intelligence techniques at all levels of agricultural production, including farmbots and farmdrones.

Smart Farming applications do not target only large, conventional farming exploitations, but could also be new levers to boost other common or growing trends in agricultural exploitations, such as family farming (small or complex spaces, specific cultures and/or cattle, preservation of high quality or particular varieties,…), organic farming, and enhance a very respected and transparent farming according to European consumer, society and market consciousness. Smart Farming can also provide great benefits in terms of environmental issues, for example, through more efficient use of water, or optimisation of treatments and inputs.

Africa: Smart farming allow Enterpreneurs Skips Soil, Uses Only Water to Farm Food

In a world increasingly affected by climate change and unpredictable weather patterns, Peter Chege’s innovative enterprise Hydroponics Africa offers small-scale farmers secure yields.

Peter Chege has been in the agriculture supply business since 2002, Kenya. In 2013, he tried something new: He started building hydroponic systems that enable farmers to grow animal feed, without soil, in about seven days.  Hydroponic technology has been practiced for centuries across the world and is frequently used in Australia and the United States. Mr. Chege’s has adapted and refined the technology to fit Kenya, and he is hoping that hydroponics will soon become a commonplace practice for Kenyan farmers. Four years later, the company Hydroponics Africa has installed farming systems in Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda, and has trained over 5,000 people in how to use them.

Peter Chege’s innovative enterprise Hydroponics Africa Hydroponic systems grows plants without soil in nutrient water solutions: 60-cubic-metre system; Cost of about Sh100,000; Capacity: 200 kg of barley/day for animal fodder, for feed about 10 cows; takes 7 days to grow and fed to all livestock,uses 80% less water and very small space; 1 Barley sprouted fodder grown in a 9 x 6 metre shed can feed the same number of cattle that graze on 1,200 acres of pasture land. Human labour is also minimised as it takes only one or two people to maintain a hydroponic shed.  The system helps small and medium holder farmers have access to a high quality, affordable and sustainable way of farming. With hydroponics the farmer is unaffected by seasons, adverse weather conditions or climate change, which historically has given rise to severe food insecurity in Kenya.

Hydroponics Kenya is one of green enterprises supported by the World Bank / infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, an initiative sponsored by the U.K.’s Department for International Development, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australian Aid), Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA), Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thailand 4.0: “Smart growth, Smart farmers” -Policy to Reform Thailand’s Agriculture Sector

The agriculture sector and biotechnology industry have become strong pillars of the Thai economy and are transforming Thailand into a knowledge-based and value-added economy, making them strategically important to the country’s future development plans. Thailand is working to improve its competencies in biotechnology and agriculture, and will raise its competitiveness and capabilities even further in the coming years.

As part of the Thai government’s move to smart growth and Thailand 4.0, the government has adopted a policy to reform the agriculture sector to ease problems faced by Thai farmers and to support national development by transitioning to “smart farming.” The reform focuses on seven areas.

  • The first seeks to designate agricultural zoning in all provinces in accordance with each area’s geographical and climatic conditions. An “Agri Map” will be adopted to suggest farmers grow crops suitable for their respective farmland.
  • The second involves the establishment of 882 learning centers to increase the efficiency of agricultural production. Each district will have one learning center of this kind, harnessing big data analytics to ensure increased stability in food prices. Technologies will also be used to reduce wastage, better monitor crop conditions and to adopt improved weather forecast systems.
  • In the third area, the grouping of farmers and farmland will be promoted for greater efficiencies, which will enhance cooperation between farmers and the public and private sectors, in the form of “Public-Private-People Partnerships.”
  • The fourth seeks to encourage farmers to produce in response to market demand. They will also be urged to upgrade their products to international standards to make them more competitive in world markets. Organic produce is one such category for which farmers can tap into fast-growing demand in Thailand.
  • In the fifth area, banks for agricultural products will be set up through the grouping of farmers and their participation in management to better improve farm inventories.
  • The sixth area seeks to promote teamwork through a “single command” system in order to translate and execute the reform plan into action by improving on reporting lines with the provinces. This system will be overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
  • The seventh area initiated reductions in agricultural production costs, for example, reducing rice farming in favor of other cash crops in line with the country’s water resource management plan.

Upgrade farmers into small-scale entrepreneurs to help farmers develop their own businesses

  • Seek to identify community leaders who know how to add value to products,
  • Upgrade our farmers into small-scale entrepreneurs via branding, better packaging, etc, find overseas markets for these products and help other local just like farmers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Rice farmers, for example, should have their own rice mill and barn
  • The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and the Government Savings Bank will soon launch One Tambon One SME packages to spur the agricultural industry.
  • Government was now investing in the know-how to ensure every community or village has adequate technologies to conduct e-commerce.
  • Implementing the 5millionbaht-per-tambon project
  • Government and the prime minister have already asked privately-owned convenience stores to help by purchasing agricultural crops