Before tackling the digitalisation of their organic cherry orchard, the Vicente brothers, the caretakers of the Frutas Mifra cherry farm, had to ride around the entire farm on a quad bike to open, close, check for leaks and supervise all the irrigation valves. Almost 40 valves in total had to be opened and closed by hand, one by one, then monitored to keep track of the amount of water reaching each tree.
A laborious task that required time, effort and energy: Frutas Mifra’s cherry orchard, located in the region of Codos, Zaragoza, is extensive, with a significant slope and has areas of difficult access that complicate the care of the fruit.
Now all this process is carried out remotely, from the farm’s office or from the mobile phone. This enables them to know at all times and attend to the changing needs detected by the connected sensors from anywhere, “even while you are doing other business, attending to personal matters or working on other tasks in the field”, the Vicente brothers explain in the following video:
Connecting farmers to data
This remote management is possible thanks to the use of IoT sensors and actuators and 5G Narrow Band connectivity (NB-IoT networks) to configure a smart irrigation system that allows accurate control of the amount of water reaching each cherry tree, which is key to determining the taste of the fruit. Smart irrigation also detects over- or under-watering due to terrain, soil condition, weather or due to leaks and losses.
Thanks to this knowledge, each cherry tree can be supplied with the water it needs to achieve a harvest of organic cherries with the quality and quantity demanded by customers in Abu Dhabi, Germany, Spain and France.
Organic cherry growing requires attention, time and resources. Each tree is exposed to external factors that are difficult to predict, such as weather, and needs careful care day and night, every day. This is particularly important during the months between blossoming and the delicate period of fruit set until harvesting. This is the only way to achieve a bountiful harvest of perfect cherries.
Going digital for a more efficient, sustainable and competitive agriculture
Agriculture is a strategic sector exposed to numerous challenges: population growth, scarcity of water and generational replacement, rising costs of energy and fertilisers, nutrients or pesticides, loss of competitiveness, …
On top of this, there is the growing impact of the loss of arable land and weather anomalies resulting from climate change.
According to Ecologistas en Acción, agriculture contributes up to a third of the total greenhouse gas emissions – between direct and indirect emissions – to the process of climate change.
According to FAO, agriculture will need to produce almost 50% more food, fibre and biofuels than in 2012 to meet global demand by 2050
How digitisation is helping the agricultural sector to become more resilient and adapt to climate change
For all these reasons, agriculture urgently needs to address its digital transformation process in order to:
- Increase productivity and shorten crop cycles to meet demand, save costs and be more competitive.
- Make efficient use of scarce resources such as water and reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides to make crops more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
- Save energy and fuel in the production, supply and logistics chain to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to CaixaBank Research, the agricultural sector in Spain uses more than 82% of water usage
In this sense, new generation digitalisation technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) devices and sensors, drones, 5G connectivity or Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, among others, already make smart and precision agriculture possible in most of the crop cycle.
The overall use of these technologies already makes it possible to:
- Have a better understanding of the state of crops thanks to Artificial Intelligence and the combined use of data captured by IoT sensors and other sources of information, such as weather forecasts or aerial, satellite or drone images to anticipate and know what is always happening in the field.
- Incorporate useful and valuable data in decision-making and have powerful agronomic management tools to prevent pests or diseases in the crop and reduce the use of pesticides, fertilisers and water by applying resources precisely and selectively.
- Act with agility and adapt production processes to better manage economic, material, human and environmental resources, to increase yield and operational efficiency and to react to unforeseen events and sudden changes in the environment.
Photo: Mae Mu / Unsplash