The concept of farming within metropolitan cities is trending yet again. With technology transcending to an age of universal application, smart farms in cities may just be the next big thing.
Urban farming is widely acknowledged as mildly successful. Through the course of World War II, the Americans would build their own gardens in their backyards. This enabled a steady supply of homegrown fruits and vegetables to a growing nation. It was cost effective, shortened the supply-chain and efficient in the short-run. Yet, the trend fizzled out in favour of the increasingly efficient large-scale rural agricultural setups.
Despite its shortcomings in the past, urban farming is cropping up yet again. Advocates of the concept attribute this to the greater demand for food and the rise of technology. Technology is indeed what could bring urban farming back to the forefront yet again.
Smart urban farms; the next big agri-revolution?
Smart technology has already started seeping its way into every aspect of our lives. The internet of things has universal applicability, ensuring whatever it touches turns to gold. Besides being profitable in the long run, it’s prime focus is on making life easier through automation. What happens when IoT meets a concept as unique as urban farming?
In a single word; magic. Urban agricultural projects are on the rise, for various motives and reasons. For some, it’s an attempt at total self-sufficiency. For others its simply about putting available space such as unused rooftops and abandoned lots to good use. However, the progress of tech has been the greatest catalyst for urban farms. Newer technology enables people to monitor and manage growing conditions in an urban environment. This helps save on time, streamlines the seed to crop process extensively and drastically reduces crop losses. Carbon emissions caused by food production and long distance transport are cut down. Smart farms will also provide greater opportunities for employment. All this besides the core benefit of providing good nutrition at a fair price.
IoT makes urban farming economical, enables greater access to healthy food and ensures food security. With food available all year around, greater per-unit of area produce and low-cost sustainability, it’s no surprise smart urban farming is now a trend. To further cement this fact, there already exist initiatives, companies and projects seeking to work in the space. Wireless sensors, mobile applications, soil trackers and other equivalent devices have great application in urban farming. For example, Illinois based Oso Technologies has developed a Plant Link platform. The platform makes use of wireless sensors planted into the soil that feed back real time data directly into cloud storage or the platform app. This data can be accessed to regulate growing conditions for the crops. Harvest Geek is another great idea in the space. The application enables social interactions with other urban farmers, providing a channel for practitioners to share advice and experience. Similar IoT platforms such as ThingWorx help collect, manage and build efficient smart farms around data collected from the environment, by enabling farmers to visualise the data and take action based on recommendations.
The age of urban farming beckons
58% of the world’s population resides in cities and urban agriculture is already practiced by millions around the world. Armed with IoT solutions and big data, smart, connected and ultra efficient farms could well be the next big thing in the world. Aside from aiding the demand, the secondary benefits that arise from urban farming are too good to ignore. With technology, it may just enable a global agriculture in its truest sense.