Whether it’s a vending machine, a piece of equipment on a factory floor, or a pacemaker, “it” is probably better off connected. In general, the more data decisionmakers can gather about an object, process, or environment, the better. The same goes in agriculture. Farmers living in a connected world are looking to gather more data about their crops, fields, farm animals, and other assets in realtime in order to facilitate the best decisions possible.

There are many different ways the IoT (Internet of Things) can be applied in farming and agriculture, and the reward for doing so in terms of ROI (return on investment) is often decided. Smart vineyards, for instance, can help winegrowers produce better wine by measuring temperature, air and soil humidity, and sunlight intensity, along with microclimate parameters like leaf wetness, soil pH levels, and nutrient levels. For a product like wine, which relies on a sensitive crop, weather matters a great deal, and varying conditions can impact grape crop yields as well as the quality of the end product. While smart vineyards are still subject to the whims of Mother Nature, the ability to manage conditions with the help of the IoT can mean the difference between producing an average wine and producing an award-winning wine.

At the Pago Aylés winery, in Spain, the Ramón family leverages IoT technology to gather data that not only provides realtime insights but also unlocks the benefits of predictive control. The winery says its goal with the IoT deployment is to establish and model predictive behavior patterns in terms of quality, production, biological cycles, and potential pests and diseases. The solution leverages 4G connectivity and Microsoft, Azure cloud, a Web application from remOT Technologies, called Agrimés, and smart-agriculture sensors from Libelium. In just the first year of the deployment, the Pago Aylés winery expects a 25% increase in wine quality, along with a significant reduction in production and information-management costs.

Across the pond in Sonoma County, Calif., Griffin’s Lair, a 21-acre vineyard that has suffered crop damage from birds, is also leveraging technology to protect grape crops. Vineyard owners Joan and Jim Griffin had previously spent around $25,000 per year on netting and other labor-intensive solutions to keep birds away from grapes, but they found these solutions were not effective. After deploying a robotic laser solution called Agrilaser Autonomic from the Bird Control Group, however, the vineyard reports it has achieved a 99.8% bird reduction, decreasing crop loss and eliminating the need for expensive and inconvenient nets. The laser beams act as bird deterrents without harming them, and the robotic lasers can be programed to operate autonomously, virtually eliminating the need for human intervention.

From reducing pests to generating predictive models that can help farmers, growers, and producers act proactively instead of reactively, connected devices and IoT technologies are bringing about a new era in agriculture that relies on sensors, data, and analytics to maximize production and product quality. The success of the global agriculture industry in achieving these efficiencies will benefit more than just those in agribusiness (link to IoT: The Next Farming Frontier feature), it’ll benefit everyone who relies on their crops to survive and thrive.

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