Smart agriculture, sustainable agriculture

«In a sector so complex and affected by uncontrollable external variables, such as the weather; the Digitalization emerges as a key tool to increase control and predictability». Albert Duaigües, co-founder and CEO of RawData (Spanish startup that develops specialized software in the agricultural sector), thus defends the use of technologies in the primary sector and for a double objective: to improve sustainability and gain competitiveness,

According to their estimates, 95% of the measures adopted to improve environmental or social sustainability in the agricultural sector can translate into a reduction in costs or an increase in income. «Sustainability is not only an ethical or regulatory compliance issue, from my point of view it is a smart business strategy that improves the bottom line and the positioning of the organization versus any type of stakeholder (customers, suppliers, society, consumers…).”

Technology, therefore, promises field professionals to be able to optimize the efficient use of water, but also of fertilizers and phytosanitary products in order to have a more ecological and healthy agriculture. Rafael Conde del Pozo, responsible for business development, strategy and innovation at Softtek, highlights Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a lever for automate various operations such as “efficiency and optimization of resources, data orientation and soil and crop management”. In his opinion, the greatest benefits can come from reducing chemical use, water conservation, waste reduction and greater energy efficiency.

Duaigües argues that having this comprehensive vision allows investments in sustainability “to become investments in the viability and growth of companies in the sector.”

It's about sensors…

Much of the digitalization of the field involves the use of sensors that, connected to the network and collecting and sending datacan help in tasks as diverse as the use of irrigation water, pesticides or the optimal harvesting of fruits.

For example, LiFi4Food (a spin off of the IMDEA Networks research institute in Madrid) offers a digital solution for precision agriculture that allows monitor and control crop parameters in greenhousesmeasuring the conditions of each plant (lighting, temperature, soil humidity, etc.), so that farmers can better optimize the use of water and energy within the greenhouses or automate tasks more easily.

One of its peculiarities is that the IoT sensors it proposes do not have a battery, which reduces their size, cost and maintenance and, as it explains, facilitates their recycling and eliminates the risk of crop leaks. These sensors use very low consumption communications technologies, such as LiF i Light Fidelity, which allows communication with the IoT device by taking advantage of the LED lamps deployed in the greenhouses. In addition, the solar cell in the IoT device also allows energy to be stored and operated uninterrupted.

The second technology is the radio frequency backscatter (RF backscatter), where the IoT device does not generate the signal itself, but instead reflects the radio frequency waves in the environment and encodes the information to be transmitted in them. IoT devices are networked to keep the farmer updated with their greenhouse conditions in real time.

…and tires

Sensors can also be applied to, with the help of specific software and artificial intelligence, detect early when weeds appear in the crop fields. Continental has developed a system that is capable of accurately detecting them and eradicating them with boiling water instead of herbicides.

But, in addition, it also uses these sensors for digital monitoring of the tires it manufactures. Thanks to a Bluetooth sensor, the system offers access to essential tire data directly on your mobile devices. No additional hardware is needed. This allows efficient operations, reduce emissions and save costs significant in helping farmers set the correct tire pressure before starting work in the field.