5 Ways Smart Growing Will Help Your Farming Business
Advances in agricultural science has lead to greater crop yields. However, with these advancements comes a cost, and in a hyper-competitive markets where producers and growers sell their products, higher prices are not well tolerated. That's why any new investments in technology must be able to provide real improvements in efficiency.
When evaluating new technologies, be sure the solution you choose provides...
5. Savings on Pest, Disease, and Blight Control Costs
No crop is immune to diseases and pests. However, the rise in popularity of organic food has added difficulty to controlling these issues, since the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other control chemicals is not an option.
What to do? Humans have been growing plants and livestock for our uses for thousands of years, albeit not on the same scale as we do today. Our need to provide more has lead to converting more land for these purposes, and with more area comes more variables. In short, we don't get the luxury of growing only in absolutely ideal locations and conditions.
This is where crop and environmental monitoring solutions can lend an assist. Through monitoring conditions such as air humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, soil moisture and temperature, and light levels, these solutions help a producer to create and maintain optimal conditions for their crops, as well as minimize and eliminate conditions that lead to pest, disease, and blight.
This study by Libelium describes how this idea was implemented with great affect for an olive farm in Italy.
4. Water Use Optimization
It's no secret that water is essential to all life, and no one is more acutely aware of this than producers. Some places, like Michigan (where we are based) are fortunate that we have water in abundance, whereas somewhere like California has experienced ongoing water shortages in recent years (though I'll admit the weather there is much nicer, on the whole).
Even in places like Michigan where water is in abundance, ideal irrigation is hardly a given; over-watering can be as damaging as drought. Over-watering can lead to root rot and is seen as an open invitation by many aquatic based pests and diseases.
Then, there are the costs associated with watering. Metered water, or even just the electrical costs to pump water to crops can take a mean cut out of the bottom line. What to do?
This is another area where crop and environmental monitoring solutions offer huge benefits. By measuring soil moisture levels and comparing this data to the ideal range for a particular crop in a given soil and climate, this system can help realize gains towards product quality, yield amount, and cost savings.
This study by Libelium describes how a vineyard in Spain was able to utilize these ideas and develop new watering procedures that produced substantial cost savings.
3. Savings on Input Costs
Greenhouses and other indoor grow operations face many of the same challenges as outdoor farming. In many ways, the control gained by being indoors is offset by the costs that go into maintaining these environments. However, with hydroponic cultivation, a key aspect is easily monitored and controlled, that being nutrients. Nitrate, potassium and phosphorus can be measured very accurately when dissolved in water. Ideal ranges can be setup for a particular plant and at a particular point in its life cycle. By monitoring nutrient levels, cost savings on the purchase of these nutrients are realized, along with improved quality and minimized waste.
This study by Libelium describes how a greenhouse in Italy implemented a system to track their nutrient levels and develop an input management program that maximized output while minimizing input expenses.
*Note: Soil water content sensors can provide these benefits to soil-based crops as well, both indoor and outdoor. However, hydroponic cultivation minimizes variance across a crop.
2. Time Savings
Farming is infamously hard work with long hours. Except, does it need to be? With the tools available to farmers today, much of the labor that was required is no longer needed. With optimized water and fertilizing practices, much of the effort needed during the growth cycle can be minimized down to only the times when it is needed to achieve the highest quality and yield.
Additionally, by connecting systems and automating control of machinery that handles these tasks, a farmers role shifts mostly towards managing these systems and (most importantly) having time to spend doing what they want to do.
This study by Libelium describes how a fish farm in Iran measured, controlled, and automated the factors affacting farm-raised fish in order to shorten growth cycle, saving time to market and the work needed to get their produce there.
1. Insights Into Short and Long-Term Trends
With all of the needs that must be addressed by a grower on a daily basis, it can be hard to see the big picture. By regularly collecting data on what is important to your crops, you can see what trends are occurring over time. Does a cool spring mean a late harvest? Does heavy winter snow mean less water is needed in August? By collecting data and applying analytics to realize trends , a farms efficiency stands only to get better over time.
While there is a line where data does not add value, I'm always surprised by insights gained by seemingly unrelated parameters. For example, you may find that loading up on a nutrient early on in the growth cycle will minimize the need for a different nutrient later on in the cycle. This could bring substantial savings if prices on that later nutrient are expected to rise this year, and that savings would be money in your pocket that you would not have had otherwise.
This study by Libelium describes how a marijuana grow house in Arizona was able to do this by monitoring data on their air, water, and crops, seeing savings between 15 and 20%.
Bottom Line: Save Time and Money
Be it grapes, berries, marijuana or hemp, grains, livestock, fish, or any other crop, environmental and crop monitoring can save your organization money through the short and long-term insights, control, and optimization capabilities it offers.
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