When you think of technology, you probably don't associate it with agriculture. However, technology is steadily becoming an integral part of the future of farming. Advancements in IoT (Internet of Things) has brought forth a new branch of agriculture commonly referred to as "smart farming."

What is "smart farming?"

While the name sounds fancy and futuristic, smart farming (also referred to as precision agriculture) is simply the use of technology to collect data to create,  an "intelligent" farm. 

Different IoT devices such as moisture sensors that collect data about the soil's contents and are sent to the farm's irrigation systems keep the farm connected and efficient. Not only can the farmer see real-time stats about the farm, but other devices on the farm can collect the data and make intelligent decisions independent of the farmer.

Why is smart farming important?

Olivia Chadwick

Farming may not sound like an issue you need to care about, but the agriculture industry is in dire need of refinement. In 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a report stating that by the year 2050 there will need to be a 70% increase in the production of food to accommodate an increase in population by 2.3 billion people.

The report also highlights the continued need to fight poverty and diminishing resources while simultaneously adapting to climate change. In addition, we will need to find a way to make 120 million hectares (that's nearly 300 million acres!) of land that can be used for food production.

What are the advantages to smart farming?

Sally Bornbusch

The good news is smart farming is already happening. Agricultural vehicle manufacturers such as John Deere have already designed products specifically for precision agriculture. While many original products were designed around position technologies, the field has evolved to encompass areas such as weather monitoring, soil-mapping, even text alerts that let you know when an animal is ready for reproduction.

What are the disadvantages to smart farming?

There are many obstacles that stand in the way of a smart farming revolution, such as the expense required to buy and maintain such a complex system of connected technologies, not to mention farming isn't exactly the most sought-after job of this generation. But even more so, there is the ever-present concern that exists in virtually every industry: data ownership.

Biotech giant Monsanto has already expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of data mining for farmers. As of right now, it is still unclear who exactly possesses the data. Does only the farmer have access to the data? Or can, for example, John Deere or Monsanto have access to it as well? And, if they do have access, what will they do with it? How long are they allowed to store the data? Until these questions are answered, farmers may be weary to use such equipment.

There is no doubt a need for an overhaul of the agriculture industry. Whether or not smart farming is the way to proceed cannot be determined until there is a better understanding of the implications technology has on the industry. Until then, it is up to us to make farming cool again.