IoT down on the farm: Drones and sensors for better yields

Farmers have come to rely on the internet of things to help them save water, choose the right amount of fertilizer, and find out how plants in distant fields are doing.

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It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find parts of the economy that haven’t been affected by the burgeoning Internet of Things as instrumentation and networking technology combine to offer unprecedented new levels of visibility into the operation of everything from jet engines to breweries.

Even a business sector as traditional as agriculture is starting to change in response to the availability of connected sensors and machinery. We spoke to three working agricultural professionals to see how the technology of the IoT is changing the way they work.

Drones to count plants

For Caleb Hinkle, a graduate student studying crop and soil science at Virginia Tech, agricultural IoT has meant simplification and new capabilities. His work centers on comparative crop research, and one of his main IoT tools to make those comparisons is drone photography. Photographs can be analyzed to determine plant counts and surface area in large numbers of small plots, to compare which agronomic practices produce the best results.

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