Bluetooth Sensing for Agriculture

There’s recent research into Development of Sensors-Based Agri-Food Traceability System Remotely Managed by a Software Platform for Optimized Farm Management.

The paper describes an IoT-based smart traceability and farm management system that calibrates irrigation and fertilisation based on crop typology, growth phase, soil and environment parameters and weather information.

The system uses a custom built Bluetooth LE sensor tag that’s fixed to containers agri-food products collected from the fields, being processed or stores. The sensor monitors gas, temperature and humidity that indicates whether the foods are spoiling over time or along the supply chain. The tag also supports traceability. A mobile application monitors the tracked information and condition of the agri-food products.

The sensor tag uses a HM-10 BLE module and CCS811 (gas) and BMP280 (temperature and humidity) sensors that were chosen to provide reliable markers of the freshness status of vegetables, meat and fish. The gas sensor measures Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs) and equivalent CO2 (eCO2) concentrations for air quality monitoring applications.

The developed system schedules irrigation and fertilisation according to the crops’ need reducing under or over watering thus minimising plants’ stress.

Smart farming allows farmers to control, in real time, the growth and harvest of cultivated crops. It allows agricultural companies to increase yields, nutritional quality and improve safety. It reduces production costs and the negative impacts on the environment for economic, environmental and social sustainability.

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Smart Farming with Bluetooth

Smart Farming, also sometimes known as the ‘Third Green Revolution’, is the use of IT to improve profitability, gain efficiency, reduce costs through making better, more optimal decisions and better management control.

Kristoffer Rist Skøien Senior R&D Engineer at Nordic Semiconductor, the making of the SoC in most beacons, has a recent blog post on Feeding the World with Connected Crops. He explains how farmers need to move beyond current precision agriculture (PA) and site specific crop management (SSCM) into more advanced realtime sensing of things such as weather conditions in a specific spot, soil humidity, soil acidity, growth progress and other productivity metrics.

IoT can improve the productivity of farming to improve yields, aid with cost management, waste reduction and automation to create a more efficient and productive business. In the future, this might even combine with autonomous vehicles for watering, fertilising and pesticide application.

There’s need to process significant amounts of data using game-changing business analytics at scale and at speed. Simple feedback mechanisms as well as complex deep learning algorithms can be combined with other, external data sources such as weather, market data or data from other farms. Techniques include benchmarking, analytics, predictive modelling and prognostics to provide models to manage crop failure risk.

A relatively recent paper, Big Data in Smart Farming – A review, covers the issues of extracting meaningful data from farm sensors. It explains the process from sensing and monitoring, through analysis and decision making to intervention with the implications on the efficiency of the entire supply chain. The paper covers the whole ecosystem that extends far from the farm itself:

Smart Farming is still in an early development stage. Current implementations are custom, proprietary solutions that can are experimental and expensive. Solutions need to be affordable, especially for developing countries. However, as with Industry, the early innovators will inevitably gain the early benefits while the laggards will get further left behind.

One way to reduce costs is using standard and open technologies. Bluetooth and more specifically, Bluetooth mesh, offers a low power, low cost, standard way of collecting sensor data. Open software platforms such as OpenATK and initiatives such as FIspace should make solutions more accessible.

Read about Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)