IoT and Smart Agriculture Are Building Our Future Cities Today

The 9.6 billion people expected to live on the planet by 2050, and with 70 percent of them in urban areas, IoT is pushing smart agriculture in smart cities.
Susan Fourtané

Internet of Things (IoT)  and other related new and emerging technologies are set to change and improve Smart Cities. Agriculture is using these technologies, deploying IoT for smart farming, creating what now we call Smart Agriculture.

Mobile operators and 5G deployment, governments, and city councils are working on a new approach to implementing smart city solutions which contribute to delivering real, long-term benefits to businesses and citizens alike.

Smart Cities initiatives provide valuable resources which can assist governments, city planners, and digital service providers in deploying connected solutions, thus creating cities that are truly smart.

Big Data and Analytics enable smart agriculture 

One of the most challenging questions the food and agricultural industry ponder is how to double food production by 2050 with less land available every year.


Moreover, according to the United Nations, the planet's global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Feeding this much population represents a challenge for the farming industry. By embracing IoT, food production could be increased by 70 percentaccording to Beecham Research.

Other challenges, such as extreme weather conditions, rising climate change, and environmental impact resulting from intensive farming practices increase the demand for changes in food production.

Data and analytics have many benefits, and agriculture has more data than almost any other industry. Farmers around the world are using data and analytics to increase food production to help meet the ever-growing global demand.

With tractors having sensors and with sensors also on the fields, farmers can record real-time data on the condition of the soil, the soil moisture, and the amount of sun the plants have received. The analysis of the data collected give farmers the insight they need to keep feeding the world in a smarter way. 

What is smart agriculture?

Smart agriculture denotes the application of IoT solutions in agriculture.

Similarly, Smart Farming is a farming management concept using modern high technology that sustainably increases the quantity and quality of agricultural products. In other words, data and IoT-based smart farming enabling the future of agriculture.

Farmers in the 21st century have access to GPS technology, soil scanning, water, light, humidity, temperature management, automatic water sprinkling, precision agriculture, data management, and IoT technologies. 

With smart agriculture, farmers can monitor the field conditions from anywhere using their mobile devices. IoT-based smart farming is highly efficient. It makes farming precise and profitable when compared with the conventional approach.

IoT applications for smart farming 

The rise of more-efficient industries, connected cars, and smarter cities are all paramount components of the IoT world. However, the application of technologies such as IoT in agriculture could have the greatest global impact.

Smart farming based on IoT technologies will help farmers both to reduce waste and enhance productivity. This can be from the quantity of fertilizer utilized in the soil to the number of journeys the farm vehicles have to make to the field.

According to Beecham Research, smart farming can be structured in seven application areas

  1. Fleet management: tracking of farm vehicles

  2. Arable farming large and small field farming

  3. Livestock monitoring

  4. Indoor farming: greenhouses and stables

  5. Fish farming

  6. Forestry

  7. Storage monitoring: water tanks, fuel tanks

Intelligent connectivity in Smart agriculture 

Intelligent Connectivity enables increased crop yields, crop quality, and livestock management through enhanced monitoring of soil conditions, better use of pesticides and fertilizers, improved animal welfare, and more accurate prediction of weather conditions.


Big data platforms, assisted by Artificial Intelligence (AI) use multiple real-time data feeds to make more informed food production decisions. Connected drones are used for crop spraying, land management, and aerial surveillance.

Through machine learning and data analysis, AI-assisted agricultural platforms will continue to enable long-term improvements to production through enhanced understanding of the whole agricultural process.

Currently, yields of many crop types are under severe threat due to lack of pollination caused by bee colony collapse disorder (CCD). This is a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food, and just a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.

Deutsche Telecom has developed connected beehives to help boost bee numbers. The Bee Corp, NimbeLink and Verizon have been trialing LTE-M to connect beehives to smart AI-assisted platforms to improve management of honeybees. This is expected to regularize essential pollination of crops.

LTE-M is a low power wide area technology which supports IoT through lower device complexity and provides extended coverage, while allowing the reuse of the LTE installed base, according to the GSMA. 

The bee Colony Collapse Disorder is a particularly vital element of the agricultural process which is often overlooked. Connected beehives stand to boost one-third of the world’s crop production.

Better management of vehicle refrigeration can enable crops to be delivered in better condition resulting in longer market and shop lives. Connected vehicles increase the efficiency of crop distribution. Through optimal routing and monitoring of temperature control, everything can be under remote control when in transit.

The result is that restaurants can source ingredients locally. By using connected gardens and aquaponic systems it is possible to create sustainable sources of protein and herbs.

Internet of food and farm 2020

The revolutionary potential of a smart web of sensors, actuators, cameras, robots, drones, and other connected devices brings an unprecedented level of control and automated decision-making. The European Commision project Internet of Food & Farm 2020 actively explores through research and regular conferences the potential of IoT technologies for the European food and farming industry.

Internet of Food and Farm 2020 (IoF2020) is part of Horizon 2020 Industrial Leadership and supported by the European Commission.

The goal of the project is to make precision farming a reality taking a vital step toward a more sustainable food value chain. The help of IoT technologies results in better quality produce that is within reach.

In the future, pesticide and fertilizer use will drop. Overall efficiency will also be optimized. IoT technologies enable better traceability of food which in turn leads to increased food safety. 

The IoF2020 is committed to building a lasting innovative ecosystem that fosters the uptake of IoT technologies. Key stakeholders along the food value chain together with technology service providers, software companies, and academic research institutions are all involved in the project toward the future of intelligent and connected agriculture in smart cities.

Farm of the future: Square Roots 

Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Tesla and SpaceX's Elon Musk, is the co-founder of Square Roots, an urban farming incubator with the goal of teaching young people how to farm in smart cities while preaching the importance of locally sourced, non-processed healthy food. 

In 2004, Kimbal Musk co-founded together with Hugo Matheson The Kitchen Restaurant Groupa growing family of restaurant concepts with real food menus at every price point. The restaurants, including The Kitchen, Next Door, and Hedge Row, source their food directly from American farmers.

Kimbal Musk also co-founded Big Green, an organization that installs gardens in underserved schools. Big Green teaches children about the importance of eating natural healthy food.

In 2016, Kimbal Musk co-founded Square Roots, an accelerator dedicated to the next-generation of farmers. Square Roots teaches young farmers how to raise crops with LED lighting in climate-controlled shipping containers. 

The 9.6 billion people expected to live on the planet by 2050, and with 70 percent of them in urban areas, is driving a lot of investment and interest in urban farming. This is going to change the face of the cities of the future and increase life expectancy.   

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