Smart farming: how the Internet of things, digitalization and drones increase crop yields in agriculture

World agro complex gets smarter

Thanks to the development of modern technologies and the Internet of things

The Smart farming trend is actively gaining popularity, and competition in the market for smart equipment for agribusiness is becoming increasingly intense.

There are companies around the world that changeapproach to agriculture. In 2010 there were about 20 such companies in the world, but by 2016 there were more than 13 thousand projects, and every year their number increases, and at least 500 new high-tech startups with an agricultural bias appear in the world. Investments in the field of agriculture attract huge amounts: in 2015, their volume reached a historic maximum and amounted to $ 4.6 billion. Among the most active countries that change the very essence of agriculture are the USA, Canada, Israel, India and China.

Smart farmingis a concept of farming using the latest information and communication technologies.

Smart farming includes:

  • the use of drones for the delivery of fertilizers, fire extinguishing or monitoring the state of the fields;
  • software systems for managing agricultural enterprises that are capable of processing and analyzing information from satellites, meteorological stations or special local sensors;
  • precision farming, in which computer systems analyze the condition of the soil in order to achieve maximum yield from each specific plot;
  • greenhouses with additional lighting and built-in climate control systems;
  • transition of enterprises to partially or completelyan automated working cycle, implying the transfer of control over the processes “at the mercy” to modern systems using AI (by the way, this is already happening in Russia today);
  • marketplaces for farmers with whichProducers can sell their products through the Internet and deliver them to the final consumer, bypassing the intermediary in the form of ordinary food markets and retail chains, quickly agree on the transportation of their products and the delivery of fertilizers, enter into contracts with restaurants and buy or sell equipment.

What technologies are used in world practice

There are many examples of digital in agriculture. In New Zealand, farmers use drones not only for mapping and tracking the state of fields and crop growth, but also for herding work. Using a dog bark recording and a loudspeaker, they significantly reduce the time for gathering herds, although at the moment drones cannot replace 100% shepherd dogs.

American company works in animal husbandryJBM North America, which develops solutions for monitoring the state of animals in the herd. A small sensor connected to the Internet constantly monitors the location of each animal and its state of health, including the level of nutrition, which greatly simplifies the care of the herds.

Using smart farming allows moreto use rationally pastures, forests and fields, preventing depletion of the soil and deforestation for new lands for animal husbandry. In particular, the application of the program ICLFS (Integrated Crop Livestock Forestry Systems, an integrated system of sowing - animal husbandry - logging), in Brazil, where about 23% of the world cattle are grown. Moreover, with its help, farmers are actively restoring farmland, which was previously considered completely decayed.

Real Russian experience

In Russia, the course on the digitization of agrotechnicalcomplex taken at the state level. In 2018, the IT market in agriculture reached a figure of 360 billion rubles, and by 2026 this amount, according to estimates of the Department of Informatization of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, will increase fivefold or more. Also in 2017, a FoodNet food market development road map was approved, according to which, by 2035, domestic companies should occupy 5% of the world market in the agrotech sector, including smart agriculture. The main segments of this market today are marketplaces, of which there are already more than a dozen in the Russian segment, the use of IoT and drones within the framework of the concept of Smart farming and alternative farms, including greenhouses with lighting.

Alternative farms are so named because of the activeuse of modern technology as opposed to “traditional” farms with an emphasis on manual labor. For example, vertical farms are referred to as alternative, that is, multi-tiered greenhouses with autonomous lighting systems. They owe their popularity to reduced resource consumption and improved microclimate control in greenhouses, as well as the ability to build such greenhouses in almost any enclosed area.

In Russia, as well as around the world, an important elementGreenhouses today have become lighting systems, or additional lighting, which increase yields and growth rates. When growing crops, LED, gas sodium and other specialized light sources are used. Given the dependence of modern greenhouses on these lighting systems, the quality of energy supply, the continuity of the lighting and its safety for personnel (due to high humidity and the risk of electric shock) become important conditions for their normal operation.


Solutions to this problem already exist indomestic market. A unique greenhouse complex using fifth-generation greenhouses has opened in the Lipetsk region. A special feature of such greenhouses is the technology of electrically illuminating plants around the entire perimeter. This allows you to grow fresh vegetables all year round, regardless of the presence of sun and even in unfavorable weather conditions. Every year, such greenhouses produce 45 thousand tons of tomatoes and cucumbers. A high-tech approach to growing vegetables allows you to obtain environmentally friendly products. Industrial-type greenhouses use solutions with equipment that is already optimized to operate in humid and high-temperature environments.

The company "Geoscan" from St. Petersburg usesdrones to help agricultural producers to inventory their lands and create electronic maps of fields, monitor machinery and crops, and calculate various indices, including NDVI (normalized relative vegetation index).


Among Russian startups in this area you cannote the company AgroDronGroup, which is developing a system for monitoring the state of the fields with the help of drones. Since 2016, the company has become a resident of the Skolkovo Center. The Ryazan project Avrora Robotics is developing software to turn agricultural equipment and other vehicles into unmanned vehicles, and the start-up iFarm Project, which is working on solutions for vertical farms and modern greenhouses, in 2018 attracted $ 250,000 in investment. Another 2.5 million rubles from the IIDF fund was received by another Russian startup, Magrotech, which is developing a digital model of fertilizer operation that, according to the company's forecasts, can increase crop yields by 30% and agricultural producers' profits by 25%.

How do Russian companies relate to the digitization of agrotech

“New technologies are being introduced in the Russianagriculture quite actively and unequivocally give a positive result, - said Vladimir Tsanava, general director of the PCF “Greenhouse technologies”. “And this concerns not only the appearance of own start-ups, but also, for example, the transition to partial or full self-sufficiency in terms of energy supply using renewable types of energy, as part of Russian companies does.”

At the same time, digitalization and automation, according toTsanavs, while benefiting agriculture, introduce a new risk factor into this business: they increase the risk of production stoppages and downtime in the event of unstable or insufficiently efficient energy supply, and, as a result, can turn into impressive financial losses. Therefore, energy management systems are just as important as fertilizers, feed, watering and timely harvesting.

What expects agrotech in the future

Agriculture and farming traditionallywere considered "mundane" areas in which new technologies were less important than the human factor and hard work. With the advent of effective automation systems, the Internet of things and alternative approaches to housekeeping, we can confidently say that these innovations have a serious and quite measurable effect on the agrotechnical complex, so they cannot be underestimated. Moreover, according to the UN estimates, in the coming decades, the Earth’s population will reach almost 10 billion people, and food production for them will have to be increased by 70% to avoid hunger. Accordingly, the issue of modernizing agriculture from a purely economic sphere is shifting to a social one, and its importance will increase over time.


It's not just about phasing out“Manual” housekeeping, but also about the introduction of the concept of industry 4.0, in which the main tools of housekeeping, sensors and even vehicles are combined into one common ecosystem of smart devices that are interconnected and share information. And in the future, this trend will only gain momentum.

By breeding new varieties of plants andthe use of new methods of processing farmland "green revolution" in the 40s to 70s allowed to dramatically increase the efficiency of farming and the production of agricultural products. Now the world is on the verge of a second “green revolution”, but its “instruments”, including in Russia, are not tractors and pesticides, but UAVs, satellites and modern digital technologies.