January 23, 2015 | Written by: Maamar Ferkoun
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We have been witnessing a steady trend in the loss of agricultural land and biodiversity worldwide. Adding to this, adverse weather conditions induced by climate change and an increase in the world population struggling for scarce resources are projecting a grim picture of the future.
We may be able to alter or even reverse this trend using technologies already in place. Cloud computing may prove to be a formidable asset.
There are practical applications for the use of cloud computing that create a whole ecosystem, from sensors and monitoring tools that collect soil data to agricultural field images and observations from human actors on the ground accurately feeding data repositories along with their GPS coordinates. As an example, sensors are now able to detect the location of a bale of hay in a field, as well as the amount of moisture it contains.
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Farmers can also use the cloud to access information from predictive analysis institutes, whereby they can have an accurate prediction on products that are in demand by different markets and adjust production accordingly. They are also able to have insight on weather conditions and other parameters affecting production.
There is also an incentive for farmers to use knowledge-based repositories containing a wealth of information related to farming practices, crops input, agricultural innovations, pesticides, seeds, fertilizers, nutrients and weed resistance, as well as on equipment. All this comes along with expert advice from a wide range of sources, for example, on farming and processing of agricultural products. This scenario can also be extended to include access to consumer databases, supply chains and billing systems.
AgJunction has developed an open and cloud-based system that captures and shares data from many types of precision agriculture controllers on a farm to lower costs and reduce environmental impact. Additionally, Fujitsu has launched the “Akisai” cloud for food and agricultural industries and is utilizing information communications technology to ensure plentiful food supplies in the future.
While these resources can be used in developed countries with ubiquitous Internet access, this is not as easy to accomplish in developing economies where there are issues with Internet access, bandwidth and lack of power. But even in these circumstances, we are seeing technology made available on mobile phones, providing a wealth of services to farmers.
So while this is still in its infancy, we are seeing a trend where a cloud-based ecosystem is addressing a critical human need. What are your thoughts on the applications of cloud with agriculture?