EghtesadOnline: Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati says use of smart technologies and Internet of Things can offer the hard-pressed farming industry a way of doing things in a more practical and economically feasible manner.
Hojjati is of the opinion that Iran’s agriculture is not energy efficient and the country will soon face a water crisis of enormous proportions. He says, modern technology will help farmers and the agro industry in more ways than one, the official website of the ministry reported.
Hojjati is not the only senior official that has sounded the alarm against the impending water crisis that many say means a drought.
The former energy minister had warned that unless water policies are overhauled and excessive consumption and waste reversed Iranian civilization would be at risk. According to Financial Tribune, Hamid Chitchian said “For the sake of sustainable development … we must curb water use.”
“In order to sustain life and our civilization, we [all relevant bodies] have to come together and offer a [workable] solution. Consumption patterns must change.”
The agriculture minister urged all relevant government bodies to push forward with the application of smart technologies in farming and make it energy efficient and eco-friendly.
He was speaking at a session with the Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on Sunday at the Agriculture Ministry.
Hojjati said, “Internet of Things is a key pillar of smart agriculture.” IoT applications allow users to monitor everything from home appliances to agricultural machinery via sensors, computers, mobile phones and other smart devices.
Smart irrigation and monitoring of farms are high on the ministry’s agenda. “Smart irrigation can play a key role in preserving our (dwindling) water resources.”
According to Hojjati, high tech monitoring systems can also enhance productivity in the sector. farmers should employ modern farming techniques and technology in order to improve the efficiency of their day-to-day activities.
For example, sensors placed in fields allow farmers to obtain detailed maps of both the topography and resources in the area as well as variables such as humidity and temperature of the soil. They can also access climate forecasts to predict weather patterns in the coming days and weeks.
Furthermore, Hojjati is of the opinion that application of smart technologies and Internet-based services can remove the avaricious middlemen and brokers in the key farming sector.
Middlemen have fleeced farmers for ages. The agriculture minister believes that following the example of other developing countries like India and Indonesia in smart agriculture, online services can connect farmers and consumers directly, remove the dealers altogether, and increase profits for farmers while cutting costs for customers.
So far, the telecoms and agriculture ministries in collaboration with local businesses and academia have launched two smart farming projects — both are in the pilot phase.
Jahromi says, “A smart irrigation plan has been launched in a 60-hectare farm in the southern province of Fars and another project in collaboration with Iran Space Research Center is being implemented in the Moghan plains [in northwestern province of Ardabil].”
Reports indicate a significant reduction in water and energy consumption in the two fields after the projects were launched.
The two ministries agreed on establishing a committee to monitor and deliver reports on the current and future smart farming projects.
Smart Irrigation in Fars
The smart irrigation project in Fars is a joint scheme between the telecoms and agriculture ministries, Shiraz-based Iran Telecommunications Manufacturing Company (ITMC), the country’s main landline service provider Telecommunication Company of Iran and universities.
The scheme was launched in mid-October through which farmers receive text messages informing them about the soil moisture and the best time for watering their fields for optimal crop growth.
Attending the inauguration ceremony of the project, Hojjati said, “Through smart irrigation water consumption can be decreased by up to 30% and crop yield can increase by 24%.”
CEO of ITMC, Mohammadreza Khodabakhsh, said, “Making use of online data portals humidity and temperature of the field will be recorded and analyzed. The cultivated data will provide farmers with the best possible farming solutions.”
Use of Satellites in Farming
Iran Space Research Center has spearheaded the “Application of IoT Platforms in Smart Farming” in Moghan Plain. The scheme was launched in October.
According to the center’s official website, the project is aimed at “using satellites for boosting agricultural productivity through monitoring soil and water resources.”
The ISRC has adopted a combination of remote and land sensing systems to measure factors such as soil moisture, humidity, barometric pressure, soil and weather temperature, wind speed and orientation and solar radiation over a large cultivated surface. Data are collected by two Earth observation satellites Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8.