Agriculture comes with many challenges. There are labor shortages, climate unpredictability, poor soil from lacking land management, and more. These challenges can make agriculture difficult, but technology has provided a tool that can help manage these challenges and mitigate them: agriculture sensors.
Read on to learn more about sensors in agriculture, what they’re used for, the best types of sensors, and the advantages of using sensors as a part of precision agriculture.
What Are Sensors in Agriculture?
A sensor is an electronic device that can sense the desired measured information from the environment and transform it into an electrical signal or other required forms of information output. Sensors are programmed to meet the requirements of information transmission, processing, storage, display, recording, and control. Sensors in agriculture are used to pick up measured information about the environment or plants, and that’s transformed by the sensors to electrical signals that can be used to analyze the information.
With the development of the Internet of Things technology, sensors are gradually applied to more and more industries such as agriculture. IoT provides sensors with the ability to gather information from a variety of locations and transmit it to a central location where the information can be used to make agricultural decisions.
Depending on the type of sensor, the sensor might be placed in the soil where probes can read information and transform it into an electrical signal or reading that humans can interpret. Most agricultural sensors include some type of probe that is in contact with the soil or plant, and a display screen where the data is shown. Consider this example model of a soil moisture sensor.
What Are They Used For?
How are sensors used for smart farming? Agriculture sensors are a way to gather information about crops, fields, equipment, and other key factors to be able to make informed decisions about agriculture. The sensors can be used for anything from measuring the pH level of the soil to the growth of the crops.
Overall, smart IoT sensors in agriculture are ultimately used to empower farmers and others in agriculture to make the best decisions about how to manage their crops and fields. Sensors provide them with real time data about their fields and crops, which can help them make better decisions on how to care for their crops and fields. For example, a sensor can help a farmer discover that the nutrients in the soil of a particular field are depleted. That farmer then knows it’s time to switch farming techniques and to care for that field in particular.
Sensors can provide a wide range of information that can empower farmers to care for their crops and fields. By collecting a wide range of data from sensors, farmers can paint a complete picture of their farms, crops, and fields that helps them plan for the future accordingly. They know what fields need extra care, what ones are ready for crops, what crops grew well with the weather, and more. From there, they can plan for the future.
Best Types of Sensors
There are many different types of sensors in agriculture that are helpful to a wide variety of crops, fields, and situations. Below are six of the best types of sensors for farmers to include in their farming practices because these sensors provide important information that can help farmers make important and informed decisions.
Optical sensors. Optical sensors use light to measure data. These sensors can be installed and mounted on automobiles, satellites, drones, or robots that are able to be mobile enough to pick up data. The sensors cause the soil to reflect, which provides farmers with information about the soil and plant color. Optical sensors can help measure the moisture of soil, the organic matter content of soil, the content of clay, and more.
Electrochemical sensors. These sensors help in gathering chemical data of the soils by detecting specific ions in the soil. They provide information about the pH and soil nutrient levels. Typically, these sensors are mounted on special sleds. Soil samples are sent to a lab for analysis and the most accurate data collection. The goal of these sensors is to gather highly specific information about the soil to make informed decisions.
Mechanical sensors. These sensors are used to measure soil compression or mechanical opposition. The mechanical sensor is pushed through the soil. As it passes through the soil, it documents the holding forces that result from the cutting, smashing, and displacing of soil. Soil mechanical resistance is recorded in a unit of pressure and points out the ratio of the force necessary to go into the soil.
Dielectric soil moisture sensors. This sensor calculates the moisture levels in the soil with the assistance of a dielectric constant. This is an electrical property that substitutes depending on the moisture content in the soil. These sensors are primarily used to determine the moisture levels of the soil for optimal crop growth.
Location sensors. These sensors are used to help manage weather conditions, and they’re positioned at different places in a field to gather data about weather. The sensors use GPS location data to determine where certain phenomena are occurring.
Air flow sensors. These types of sensors measure soil air penetration. The expected result is the pressure needed to push a decided amount of air into the ground at a prescribed depth. These sensors can be fixed or mobile sensors to gather a variety of data.
Benefits of Using Agriculture Sensors
What are the benefits of using agricultural sensors? These are some of the key benefits of using agricultural sensors today:
- Helps maximize returns with minimum resources. To combat high food demand, agricultural sensors can help farmers increase their yield while using the minimum amount of resources available, such as water, fertilizer, and seeds. This helps farmers conserve resources and still grow adequate food.
- Are simple and easy to install and use. Sensors in agriculture can be simple to install and easy to use. They connect to a central location, which provides farmers with an easy way to gather information.
- Can be remotely controlled. With IoT sensors, farmers can control sensors remotely. That provides them with the benefits of sensors without the complexities of having to manually manage each individual sensor.
- Provides information about pollution and climate change. Agricultural sensors don’t just need to provide information about soil and plants. They can be used to measure pollution and climate change data to create a more sustainable farm.
- Empowers farmers to plan for the future. Having data is important to making accurate predictions and making informed decisions. Smart agriculture sensors provide farmers with that data, so they can make informed decisions about their farms, crops, fields, and equipment, and so they can plan for the future.
A Challenge for Agriculture Sensors
There is a challenge with using smart agriculture sensors. Smart farming and IoT technology—including agriculture sensors—require continuous internet connectivity to function optimally. That can be a challenge in the agricultural industry because many farms and fields are very rural and lack the necessary infrastructure to have continuous connectivity.
The challenge of continuous connectivity means that farmers in very rural areas need ruggedized devices and an IoT partner that is willing to work to provide the best connectivity. Working with an IoT partner like SimonIoT can help farmers find the right connectivity options for their environment to be able to fully utilize their agricultural sensors.
Overall, sensors in agriculture are a powerful tool to gather accurate information about crops, fields, and equipment in order to improve smart farming practices. Sensors can be used to understand the pH of the soil, the soil moisture levels, soil compaction, soil composition, weed detection, the state of farming equipment, and even the weather.
Using sensors in agriculture can empower farmers to make informed decisions about their farms and to maximize their food growth with minimum resource use. Farmers can determine exactly what’s working in their fields and plan ahead for changes that can be predicted with the sensors. These benefits are why many farmers are turning to smart farming practices and why improving continuous connectivity is so important for the future of farming.
Learn more about sensors in agriculture and how to utilize them well in any environment by getting in touch with Simon IoT.