'The Internet of Things' Creates Real-Time Farm Management: Soil Sensors, Farm Analytics, and Crate Farm Systems
Image credit: Freight Farms Urban communities and local restaurants in the city can get their FRESH produce off Freight Farms container operations in their locale. Only in the U.S. at the moment.
Farmers used to learn about seasons and get a feel for their own land through years of planting and harvesting produce. You'd hear farmers saying they'd feel it in their bones when a farm bed needed anything or when weather conditions were changing. For those among us who want to get started with home farms and urban gardens or have a beautiful homestead area to work off, The Internet of Things has allowed some gadgets and apps to help us get a feel about soil conditions and learn about current and upcoming climate conditions.
Investors from Silicon Valley are exploring start-ups that can fuel more value and returns in one underrated and often overlooked market--food farming World agriculture now employs 40 percent of the world's population and spends a considerable sum for the best food harvests. Here is a short look at the players in Farm Start-up Tech companies with an edge.
Soil IQ: Edyn Sensors Tell You Your Soil Needs Feeding
Growing food relies heavily on knowing ideal soil conditions for starting work, maintaining crops, and other plot management techniques. The high tech selling point of current Farm Start-Up tech is real-time data gathering of soil conditions using soil sensors with wi-fi built-in and apps to guide the farmer how to assess the data. Soil IQ makes a 3-inch gadget, a soil sensor, with a connected solar panel that streams data via the Wi-Fi and any connected mobile cellular network. The Edyn corporation has been featured in several trade websites as one of the better Farm Start-Up products available for both the seasoned farmer and the beginning garden grower.
Image credit: Edyn
Image Credit: Edyn Soil IQ is an embedded soil sensor that measures soil moisture as well as trace mineral content and has a live feed app for real time monitoring.
By using live feeds on soil conditions Soil IQ has an app for your mobile device that even makes ideal case suggestions when to plant and when to harvest. The app service is offered for an annual subscription fee. Soil IQ even offers vegetable and herb seeds when planting season and soil conditions are optimal. Other companies with almost similar product offerings include Easy Bloom and Flower Power.
Zukeeni (Smart Gardener): Growing Food by Making a Plan
Jason Araburur and Luke Iseman have a farm analytics project called Zukeeni which used to be called Smart Gardener. Zukeeni helps you plan your food garden and growing schedule by providing an online app that gets data from a soil sensor which helps you choose your crops.
Image Credit: Smart Gardener
Like a social media account, the service also offers seeds and plants keeps a live feed of reminders throughout the growing season to help get you as fat a harvest as you can manage.
Image Credit: Smart Gardener Smart Gardener, now rebranded as a mobile app: Zukeeni is your online vegetable garden planner and scheduler.
Zukeeni now has 160,000 registered users from when it was Smart Gardener. The rebranding makes the service less about the Tech and scaled into a simpler mobile device friendly app that works for small communal farming. All of the data from Smart Gardener is still intact, and the previous website is still active as a jump-on point for an online vegetable garden farming guide app.
Freight Farms: Move the Farm to the Zoo (the Urban Jungle that is) With all the hoopla about urban gardening, taking off-grid solutions to the next level for urban farmers is Farmeron. They provide a self-contained food factory: Freight Farms, a scalable (you can increase or reduce harvest potential by getting another freight container food lab or micro-managing the food growing towers in one container) and easy to freight truck-transport containers that are configured as a hydroponic farm lab complete with artificial UV lights and climate control systems that can be even accessed by remote control via smart phone or mobile device.
Image Credit: Freight Farms In Boston, several truck container vans that function as Food Farm laboratories growing fresh produce using artificial UV light systems.
Co-founder Brad McNamar and Grist are already rolling out 2 Freight Farms a week and have raised more than a million dollars for their Urban Agri-Tech Startup. A freight container with all the gear costs from $70,000 to $85,000. This farm-start up tech is meant for urban neighborhoods (buildings and skyscrapers) or food service locales (restaurants and hotels, school communities) that need to source fresh produce within tight urban zones and need to reduce supply grid lag time that often results in less than ideal delivery conditions for perishable food products
Image Credit: Freight Farms Inside the freight containers are vertical towers where produce is layered to grow from artificial UV light and other climate control mechanisms like an artificial green house.
Locally, in the Philippines, The Department of Agriculture is already at work designing a soil sensor for rice farms with an accompanying online app for real-time rice farm management. The soil sensor technology and app is expected to be rolled out by 2016.
If the Internet of Things allows farmers to have an easier time managing planting and harvesting cycles, we'll get a boom of both community food growers and urban farm locales making overall food production a very sustainable enterprise.
Don't believe some megacorp (under intense fire now by the smart French) telling you the Philippine food supply grid is in danger of shortages if you don't buy their 'patent tech' (glyphosate soil fertilizer--a toxic soil degrader, and terminator seeds--crops don't seed so you are obliged to buy seed from them after you harvest). Yuck. And double-yuck.
You have smarter options, for even organic farming AND heirloom seed farming.