Future of Farming
Giles Barker, Co-Founder of Kisanhub, discusses the role sensors will play in agriculture and the challenges of working in rural environments.
We deliver a cloud based, big data platform for large agricultural enterprises. What I mean by that is any farming organisation that farms or operates on thousands of hectares or works with multiple growers. We aggregate their data alongside external datasets on our cloud-based platforms so they can make better decisions.
We gather the data in multiple ways, from manual entry to automatic feeds we’ve set up on site, data collected from weather agencies, satellite agencies and financial markets to sensor information. With regards to data security, a lot of our team has worked in the financial industry and we use the same kind of security systems that they would use in those industries.
Agricultural IoT market
We chose to enter the agricultural market because both the Co-Founder and I come from farming backgrounds. In bringing our capabilities together we are able to deliver solutions, which will be hugely beneficial for the agricultural market.
Currently we have teamed up with NWave to test a pilot product on NIAB’s Innovation farm in Cambridge on their potato crop using third party soil moisture sensors. The data from these sensors is sent through the NWave network back to our cloud system in real-time, picking up soil moisture readings to help with irrigation scheduling.
Farmers have been using soil moisture sensors for a number of years but the barrier to doing this in a wider area and on a larger scale are costs and the ability to send data in real-time. Unlike a city, where you have 4G and Wi-Fi, fields tend to be in rural areas so connectivity has always been a key issue and this is why our partnership with NWave is attractive to the agricultural market.
I think quite a few people have the expectation that farmers are a bit anti-technology, but from my experience that’s totally untrue. If you can prove to a farmer that they can save costs or improve their yield, they will make an investment. The challenge until now is showing farmers their ROI because it has been both very expensive and difficult to collect data across multiple fields. Kisanhub is trying to target and prove that their ROI will make the investment worth it.
IoT and data
We are focusing on three key data metrics, soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity. Other ways IoT could be adopted into agriculture is by using sensors to detect different pests in the field and then using the data to create a map of how these pests are spread across the country. There is also a huge amount of agricultural machinery that could become connected.
IoT is a bit of a buzzword, but we are trying not to get bogged down in the hype and instead focus on creating use cases for farmers. I am hugely opportunistic about what remote sensing will do for agriculture, in terms of reducing water consumption and improving yield. Sensors and IoT will be impactful, not just for farming and agriculture, but also for all of society. 70% of all water used in the world is used by agriculture and of that 50% is wasted; think of the global impact if you could improve that.