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The use of wireless sensors within the food and agriculture industries is still new, and the full breadth of potential applications of the technology are still being explored. The use of wireless sensors in food and agriculture are involved in applications of environmental monitoring and precision agriculture in order to help improve the quality, quantity, and reliability of crop yields. Newer developments of sensors in this sector are also improving food traceability and reducing food wastage, which is a major challenge that the food industry currently faces.
Agriculture is under pressure to grow enough produce to feed our rapidly growing population. As a result, they are aiming to get the most out of their land by growing more crops per square foot and by reducing crop spoiling.
To grow successful crop yields, farmers must monitor factors relating to the air, soil, and water in the vicinity of their land in order to make necessary adjustments. These environmental factors can influence how the crop grows, and sensors are helping to monitor and to develop precision agriculture techniques. In addition, sensors are helping outside of farms, assisting in their journey from field to consumer, making the industry more profitable and saving on food waste.
Examples of the applications of wireless sensors in food and agriculture industries are discussed below.
Air Pollution Sensors
In the modern-day, we face the challenge of air pollution, which can negatively impact on crop growth. Fortunately, sensors have been developed with the capability of remotely monitoring levels of air pollution, alerting farmers when contaminants are high so that they can take action.
Each crop has different water requirements, and in using sensors to collect data on the water content of the soil, farmers can know whether this needs to be increased or reduced. The connection of these sensors with the internet of things (IoT) allows these sensors to communicate with other connected appliances, and create a system where the moisture content is automatically controlled.
Sensors that measure rainfall are now being used to assist in water conservation systems. Farms in locations that don’t get sufficient regular rainfall can now use the help of sensors to store water so that it can be used to irrigate the land as and when it is needed.
Sensors Aiding Sowing and Harvesting
Sensors have been developed to improve on sowing and harvesting procedures, helping farmers to get the most out of every crop yield. Sensors have been implemented to monitor factors such as humidity, altitude, gas levels, temperature, air quality, and grain movement. The collected information can then be communicated to other connected technologies, to create automatic management processes, minimizing human involvement in making the necessary adjustments.
Data that is fed back can then be programmed to influence other connected devices automatically.
One of the newest developments in sensors in the food and agriculture industry is that of edible sensors. Biomaterials have been used to create sensors that can be directly adhered to fresh fruit and vegetables in order to monitor them during transit. The sensors continually feed back information on the temperature of the produce while traveling, connecting with temperature control systems to adjust the environment automatically and reduce spoilage.
The sensors have been designed to be completely safe for consumption, made mostly from magnesium, which is digestible by humans
Modern farming also relies on sensors which survey farmland, feeding back essential information on the nature of the land and highlighting which areas need attention, such as which areas are lacking in nutrients or water. This sort of information is difficult to judge by the eye on such a large scale, so these sensors have been developed to make this analysis automatically.
These examples are likely to be the beginning of the applications we will see for sensors in the food and agriculture industry. With developments underway, the coming years will see further integration of sensors in this sector.