, Singapore

How Singapore's agriculture industry can thrive with IoT

By George Wilson

Technology is a powerful tool. At the macro level, it can improve economic growth, whilst on a smaller scale, streamline business practices. Across the Asia-Pacific region, Internet of Things (IoT) spending is expected to reach US$7.53b by 2020. As a smart city, Singapore is at the forefront of IoT implementation with total IoT revenue in Singapore project to reach $714m by 2025, but when it comes to agriculture innovation – its counterparts like Malaysia and Thailand – have the advantage.

Globally, we are facing a global food security crisis, and though Singapore lands at the top of the index, more than 90% of its food source is imported. With a heavy reliance on neighbouring countries for its food and water source; the ability to innovate ensures greater self-sustainability.

Whilst technologies like blockchain, AI and more recently IoT have the power to transform the agriculture industry, what does this look like in practice? How can organisations use IoT to boost sustainability and give them a competitive edge?

Agriculture becoming ‘smart’
The introduction of ‘big data’ technologies has allowed businesses to better understand the state of farming in their specific industry. For example, data analytics can help prevent spoilage by moving goods faster and more efficiently.

Farmers can now harness IoT to transform the food chain and agricultural production, through simplifying the data collection process. The use of digital tools, like having sensors on fields, provides critical performance data that allows farmers to make improved business decisions that positively impact their bottom line.

Agricultural technology can also help automate multiple processes across the production cycle and create an optimised farming network. The benefits of smart farming include better control over internal processes, lower production risk, increase efficiency through automation and overall waste reduction.

The rise of precision farming
Asia-Pacific’s wine industry is booming, with Singapore emerging as the wine hub for the region. However, South East Asia’s warmer climate can be a challenge for the newly formed industry.

Increasingly, wine growers rely on new technologies, like sensors, to feedback environmental data, drone images and detailed information on the vine’s composition to a centralised cloud platform. Through real-time monitoring, active measures can be taken to prevent diseases that can harm the yield. In this example, precision farming provides the best soil condition for vines and in turn, produce better grapes.

To help farmers ensure their crops are healthy and well protected, data can provide both a holistic overview and deeper insights to guide field management decisions.

The future of farming
Investment in agriculture is on the rise, with Enterprise Singapore recently allocating $90m to agri-food tech start-ups. Further to this, the indoor agriculture industry is expected to grow 20% annually until 2023. Singapore is positioning itself as a leader in both agritech investment and the use of technology in the agricultural industry.

At its core, agritech seeks to provide solutions for everything from farm management systems and supply chain technology to network monitoring for the farm itself. By using smart devices, farmers can automate the production cycle – from irrigation to fertilisation – and provide measurements to improve their capacity.

The ability to adopt new technologies is only as effective as the level of understanding – which is increased through wider educational initiatives. As agriculture becomes normative with new technologies such as IoT, businesses must embrace the opportunity and integrate monitoring practices into their wider farming strategies. Only then can farmers realise the full potential of IoT. 

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