US: How about an Internet of Tomatoes?

“About 88 percent of farms around the U.S. are small and medium size, and of those, nearly 100 percent have no instrumentation,” said Erick Olsen, whose title is smart agriculture manager for Analog Devices, a Massachusetts-based data conversion and signal processing giant that is targeted toward farmers. “What we’re trying to do is not break the system, but show that by proper measurement, a new way to look at a crop and judge its quality... farms can benefit.”

Analog Devices is testing wireless in-field sensors in Peterborough, one of 19 sites in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with the goal of growing better-tasting tomatoes and other fruits or vegetables.

Tomatoes are an obvious first target, since modern agriculture has ruined their flavor in the name of storage and transportation.

The system Analog Devices has installed at the Cornucopia Project is a prototype, or “minimum viable product” in R&D-speak. It includes sensors that can be placed throughout a field, inside greenhouses or under high-hoops systems, and which measure the air temperature and humidity and the ambient light – crop-independent information of value no matter what you’re growing.

This isn’t quite Internet of Things, since they’re not gathering data from individual plants, but it’s a start. Plus, they send the signal continually to a communications gateway, which transmits it to farmers’ cellphones or computer using whatever schedule is set. Down the road, they hope to develop a smart-mesh IP network to handle the signals, which is very Internet-of-Things-ish.

It’s true that farmers have long collected some environmental data, at the very least from rain gauges as part of irrigation planning. Analog Devices thinks it can convince farmers to kick this up a notch, placing between one and five monitors per acre to watch for variations in conditions that can occur even on a small property and have a big effect on crop yields.

“They can keep track of growing-degree days, heat stress, things like that at a microclimate level, where most farmers don’t have any instrumentation,” Olsen said.

To folks in manufacturing, shipping or logistics, the idea of sprinkling sensors throughout the work area to keep on eye on individual products is old hat. They know that gathering the right data and acting on it properly can cut costs and increase productivity, as well as handle ever-more-complicated systems.

So it makes sense to apply this idea to agriculture, which can be thought of as a type of organic manufacturing.

Click here to read the full article at Concord Monitor.

09/14/2017 - Concord Monitor

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