By Mr Cheng Boon Seng (Director, Elliance Sdn Bhd), Associate Professor Dr Lee Lam Hong (Associate Professor, School of Computing; Faculty of Science and Technology, Quest International University Perak), and Professor Dr Vilasini Pillai (Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology, Quest International University Perak)
With the rapid progression of globalization happening all around the world alongside the increment of the global population, there is now an increasing demand for food & edible crops. However, factors like environmental pollution, soil erosion, and a decreased interest in farming are causing the supply to demand ratio of edible crops to expand.
What does this mean? It means that these factors could be contributing to a food crisis in the near future.
But all is not lost, and technology could once again be the answer. In recent years, computing technologies in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things have been advancing rapidly—gaining importance and popularity in many sectors. The evolution of the engineering industry, meanwhile, has resulted in the production and deployment of various peripherals that result in better performance and cost efficiency.
In other words, advanced computing and engineering technology can be used to solve real world problems like the afore-mentioned potential food crisis. How? By simply increasing productivity in agriculture.
Precision Farming—also known as smart farming or data-driven farming—is a farming management concept that utilises modern computing and engineering technologies for current farming practices. Simply put, it increases the quantity and quality of agricultural products.
It does this by improving the crops’ growth medium and having control over environmental conditions. In order to achieve maximum quantity and quality of produce, it is vital to provide optimum growing conditions. At the same time however, we cannot overlook the need to preserve the environment.
Smart farming addresses this issue by optimising the usage of land, fertilisers and pesticides, and using modern computing algorithms such as swarm intelligence and machine learning.
For farm operators to understand the actual conditions of the growth medium and environmental factors, it is crucial that they have data sensing in real time. This helps identify the optimal criteria for plant and crop growth, which in turn allows them to provide the plant with the best condition for its growth.
This process can be further enhanced by equipping modern smart farming systems with cognitive functionalities which are facilitated by approaches such as Data Mining, Machine Learning and Swarm Intelligence. As a result, automated farming systems can be advanced with autonomous capabilities, which eventually extend the “intelligence” and the overall applicability of the systems to the next higher level. Smart farming passively manages potential problems right away and corrects them before they dramatically impact a harvest.
The reach of smart farming doesn’t end there. The use of weather prediction as well as soil monitoring sensors helps to maintain a perfect microclimate and environment for optimal plant growth. Having more control over the production process maintains higher standards of crop quality and growth capacity.
At the same time, smart farming practices bring better cost management and waste production, as they are able to detect any irregularities in crop growth, thus mitigating the risk of losing yields.