Informatics & IoT Enabled Soil Testing for Smart Farming

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The agriculture sector plays a vital role in the economy of any country. Excessive use of fertilizers in the soil may deteriorate the quality of crops and decrease productivity. Therefore, it is essential to accurately quantify the nutrients in the soil through proper analytical testing. Apart from determining the amount of nutrients, the soil should also be analyzed for pH value, moisture content, temperature, and humidity for healthy plant growth.

Traditional methods used for determining soil quality are expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, soil testing laboratories need to digitally transform their operations to support smart farming. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a trend in the agriculture sector to determine weather conditions, check soil quality, and analyze crop health. IoT-based smart sensors such as humidity and temperature sensors and cameras accumulate a huge amount of data. IoT-based smart farming techniques help monitor the field in real-time, improving the entire agriculture system. IoT-enabled technologies and wireless communication techniques can help in all stages of farming from sowing and harvesting to packaging and transportation.

Smart Farming

Smart farming leverages emerging technologies such as IoT and cloud computing to determine soil quality based on various factors. Various IoT sensors are used to collect environmental and machine metrics for decision-making on improving soil quality. Big data applications also play an important role in smart farming. The IoT sensors are capable of capturing huge volumes of data for further analysis. Big data provides insights into farming operations, helps in real-time decision-making, and enhances business processes. The agriculture sector is likely to benefit significantly from the implementation of IoT applications.

Benefits of Smart Farming

  1. Enables collection of massive amounts of data through smart sensors.
  2. Reduces cost and crop wastage by analyzing potential damages at early stages.
  3. Increases production efficiency by automating processes.
  4. Increases productivity and enhances quality.
  5. Supports informed-decision making.
  6. Helps save resources such as water, energy, and land.

Soil Testing & Emerging Technologies

Soil testing laboratories play a crucial role in determining the quality of the soil. However, the turnaround time is slow using traditional testing methods due to manual processes. Furthermore, test results are reported on paper and sent manually. Due to delayed test results, farmers fail to make timely decisions on sowing crops.

Technologies such as IoT have improved soil testing using smart sensors. IoT helps connect the sensors to the cloud, enabling farmers to determine the soil parameters such as pH, moisture content, and NPK content in real-time. IoT enables all laboratory instruments to connect with different networks, informatics tools, smart devices, and also facilitates data interoperability. It helps in the digital transformation of a laboratory, increasing its efficiency. Soil testing laboratories must consider deploying a cloud-based informatics tool to support IoT for seamless functioning.

Digitization: Role of a Laboratory Information Management System

IoT sensors can measure soil temperature, NPK, moisture content, and soil oxygen levels among others. The metrics collected by these sensors are then transmitted to a central database for storage and downstream analysis. These metrics help farmers to make data-driven decisions, thus making precision farming a reality.

An Agriculture Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is essential for soil-testing laboratories for improved and digitized workflows. All analytical instruments and IoT-enabled devices in a laboratory can be integrated with a LIMS. A LIMS solution for agriculture & farming stores all data collected from different devices and analytical instruments in a common database, thus allowing easy access. It also eliminates human errors and assures data integrity as the data from the devices is automatically transferred to a LIMS. It provides real-time access to test results. A LIMS helps generate custom Certificates of Analysis (CoAs) that contain the details of samples, tests, and test results. A LIMS for soil testing labs helps comply with quality control standards to support the accuracy and validity of test results. A LIMS solution for agriculture & farming helps minimize the test turnaround time without compromising the quality of test results.

Technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, big data, and informatics solutions are revolutionizing the agricultural sector. IoT helps in precision farming and helps farmers make smart decisions before they sow crops. It provides farmers with necessary information on soil nutrients, climate conditions, soil moisture content, and soil health. The traditional soil testing methods do not provide highly accurate results and are also costly and time-consuming. Soil testing laboratories need to be digitized for ensuring the quality of test results and reducing turnaround time. A LIMS solution for agriculture & farming is a perfect data management and automation system that goes hand in hand with IoT technology. It helps laboratories automate all laboratory processes from seed to sale and meet regulatory compliance such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017, GLP, and 21 CFR Part 11.

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