Harvesting the IoT Down on the Farm

A panel discussion about the Internet of Things in agriculture reveals the ways in which farmers big and small are turning to technology to solve myriad production challenges.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 07, 2014

Macario Namie, Jasper Technologies' VP of marketing, told an audience of technologists, investors and media—at a meeting convened in San Francisco on Oct. 2—that based on what is most covered in the media, people tend to think the Internet of Things is only about talking refrigerators and smart thermostats. Yet his company—which runs a cloud-based software platform enabling businesses to manage networks of connected sensors embedded in everything from vending machines to vehicle telematics units—is seeing much broader adoption of IoT technology across industries.

One of those industries, agriculture, was the focus of the discussion, which was moderated by‎ Andrea James, a senior research analyst at investment bank Dougherty & Co.. James noted that a range of factors, from drought to low commodity prices, mean hard times for many agricultural industry players. Why, then, are these end users investing in IoT technology?

Jasper Technologies panel discussion. Left to right: Andrea James, senior research analyst, Dougherty & Company; Michael Gilbert, CEO, Semios; Charles Schleusner, product line marketing manager, John Deere; Matthew Sandink, co-founder, Smart Watering Systems; Matthew Pryor, CEO, Observant; and Michael Gomes, VP of business development, Topcon Precision Agriculture (Photo: Jasper Technologies)
Michael Gomes, Topcon Precision Agriculture's VP of business development, says interest in IoT stems from farmers' recognition that the growing global population, paired with limited natural resources, means that they must do more with less. That is why Topcon's customers are turning to precision agriculture—the practice of using precise measurements of variables, such as soil type, topography and hydrology, tracked using GPS systems and sensor networks, to optimize the inputs (water, fertilizers and pesticides) applied to crops. Topcon Precision Agriculture, a subsidiary of Topcon Positioning Systems, develops and manufactures satellite positioning and guidance systems and electronic controls, as well as mapping and monitoring systems. It uses Jasper Technologies' cloud-based platform to collect data from farm equipment, and to then analyze and share this information with its customers in order to improve input application.

"We understand the challenges of a growing population with respect to food, fiber and fuel," Gomes said. "Precision agriculture is not just about the intensity of production, but also about sustainability; it's about only putting out what we need when we need it. Sustainability is what drives their business."

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