Dhaka,  Saturday
15 June 2024

Smart farming for smart Bangladesh

Published: 08:48, 10 June 2024

Smart farming for smart Bangladesh

Photo : Messenger

Where farming meets excellence in nurturing the earth, then it will be feeding the world, because agriculture with heart and soul.
Bangladesh is a thumbprint of a country geographically, with the eighth largest population in the world. A growing population with a density of close to 1,300 per km 2 means the land available for the country to feed itself is decreasing rapidly.

However, the foundation of Bangladesh’s success as a nation and an economy is the fact that it has managed to increase agricultural productivity at an astonishing 3.54 percent per year in the last two decades (1999–2019). The sector is at the centre of the Bangladeshi economy, accounting for approximately 14% of the country’s GDP, decreasing poverty, ensuring food security and remains the main source of employment, providing livelihood to 41 percent of the labour force.

If Bangladesh is to continue its progress towards achieving the SDGs, particularly in the face of the adverse effects of climate change, the country will need to leverage cutting-edge technology and data to address issues including access to finance, weather/soil and inputs information, market intelligence, and capacity for data-driven, Smart Agriculture…

Smart farming, also known as smart agriculture, is the adoption of advanced technologies and data-driven farm operations to optimise and improve sustainability in agricultural production. Technologies used for smart farming include artificial intelligence (AI), automation and the Internet of Things (IoT).

While new technologies and tools have long been integral to farm management and food production, urgent concerns drive the development and adoption of smart farming technologies today. Chief among them is food security: food production must increase by 70% by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Climate change is making it harder to secure enough food. It reduces crop yields and endangers the availability of natural resources such as water for irrigation. In addition to climate issues, the agricultural sector also faces profitability challenges amid the rising costs of inputs like fertiliser, volatile commodity prices and increasing regulatory requirements.

Through smart farming, we can better adapt to the uncertainties brought by climate change, mitigate environmental impacts and promote resilience in agricultural production in Bangladesh.

The evolution of agricultural practices and technologies

Early agricultural practices centered on the use of human labour, animals and simple tools. Some notable advancements in agricultural technology were the invention of the seed drill for more efficient planting in 1701, steam traction engines that powered grain threshing in the 1800s, and gas-powered tractors in the early 1900s.

The introduction of farm machinery greatly reduced the need for physical work in farming, while data collection and analysis allowed farmers to improve their crop and livestock outputs. This method, called precision agriculture or precision farming, began in the early 1980s with Dr. Pierre Robert, also known as "the father of precision agriculture". He studied how different areas of a field need various amounts of nutrients for the best crop growth. His work led to the creation of farming systems that apply different amounts of resources across a field.

In the 1990s, agri-business technology advanced even further with the creation of the digital crop yield monitor and the growing use of satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS). By combining yield data with GPS, farmers could map their yields, giving them important information about crop characteristics and quality in real-time during harvest. Later, GPS technology led to another big breakthrough: automation. The self-driving tractor emerged from a partnership between farm equipment company John Deere and NASA in the early 2000s.

Today’s smart farming technologies

Advanced technologies that are revolutionising agricultural production at various agribusinesses power today’s modern farming.
Information and communications technology

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology defines information and communications technology (ICT) as the capture, storage, retrieval, processing, display, representation, presentation, organisation, management, security, transfer and interchange of data and information. Data collection on everything from soil content to weather conditions has become a key facet of smart farming and ICT is helping farmers organise and transfer that data.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT refers to a network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software and network connectivity that allows them to collect data. In the case of smart farming, IoT devices include many kinds of IoT sensors, including sensors for monitoring crops, tracking livestock and observing the condition of farm equipment. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) also collect agricultural data through remote sensing.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI and machine learning (ML) can help farmers derive insights from the big data—large, complex data sets—stemming from IoT initiatives. Data analytics and modeling through cloud-based AI and ML tools can inform decision-making and smart farming techniques. For example, predictive analytics, weather data sets and agriculture forecasting models powered by ML can help the agricultural industry manage the production process, including crop production, land utilization and supply chain planning.

Automation and robotics

Automation and robotics figure prominently in modern smart farming practices. In addition to autonomous tractors, farmers use robots for tasks like seeding, harvesting and pruning. They can also deploy UAVs to spray fertiliser, pesticides and other agricultural inputs in a manner that is more efficient and precise than traditional methods. The more precise and limited application of fertiliser, in particular, can have a notable environmental impact: fertiliser is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Smart farming in action

The agricultural sector and technology providers can help create a better future of agriculture with smart farming techniques and innovations in Bangladesh. Here are just a few examples of farm productivity optimisation around the world, due to smart farming:

Smart soil sensing for water optimisation

In Texas, sensors linked to a smartphone app are gathering real-time information on soil conditions, including soil moisture. The app combines this information with other data, including weather forecasts, for an AI-powered analysis that results in watering recommendations. The app sends the recommendations to farmers' mobile devices to help them efficiently deploy water resources for better crop growth in areas affected by droughts and climate change.

Cloud-based irrigation for vine stress

In California, where efficient water use is also a major concern, a winery implemented a cloud-based tool that ingests information from weather forecasts, satellite imagery and sensors to measure vine stress. Analysis of the data yields watering recommendations tailored to the needs of each vine. Since putting the tool in place, yields have increased by 26% while reducing water usage by 16%.

AI-driven climate control in greenhouses

In Kazakhstan’s Almaty region, a five-hectare smart greenhouse facility is equipped with IoT technology and AI. These technologies monitor conditions within the greenhouses and automatically adjust temperatures, light, humidity and irrigation levels as necessary to create the optimal environment for crop growth.

Monitoring animal behaviour for improved dairy production

In the United Kingdom, researchers attached sensors to cattle at dairy farms to track their activity, including steps taken and time spent eating and lying down. Since more active cattle generally display more positive behaviour, such information can help farmers determine whether interventions are necessary—namely, changing the animals’ environment to raise their contentment levels, which tend to improve milk yields.
Terminus point out

Smart farming, also known as smart agriculture, is the adoption of advanced technologies and data-driven farm operations to optimise and improve sustainability in agricultural production. Growing quality, harvesting trust, raising the bar in agriculture, taste the difference, farm to table -cultivating nature's treasures.

The writer is a freedom fighter who writes on politics and international issues.