Technology and the rise of all things digital has been and will continue to be beneficial to all industries, including the farming industry. Forbes puts the growth of the agriculture sector in perspective: the FAO predicts that 9.6 billion people are going to inhabit the planet by 2050 and as a result, food production must increase by 70% by 2050. This must all be achieved with limited availability of arable lands, an increased need for fresh water and other less predictable factors, such as the impact of climate change.
One way that farmers have started to address these issues and increase the quality and quantity of agricultural production is using sensing technology to make farms more “intelligent” and more connected through “precision agriculture,” or “smart farming.”
The rise of “smart farming”
The Internet of Things has opened up extremely productive ways for farmers to cultivate soil and raise livestock with the use of cheap, easy-to-install systems that provide insightful data. This smart farming technology offers useful data collection, high-precision crop control and automated farming techniques, smart farming providing the agricultural industry with a number of important benefits. Through the use of analytics, precision agriculture helps farmers make the best production decisions while cloud-connected systems assist with this maximization by automating daily agricultural operations.
Smart farming is expected to be a reliable solution to problems expected by population growth and other factors. By increasing both the quantity and the quality of agricultural products, smart farming is able to improve the intelligence of farms.
As always, there are security issues…
As Internet-connected equipment is increasingly used in many industry sectors, alerts like the latest one issued by the FBI to US farmers will continue to be regular occurrence:
“While precision agriculture technology or smart farming reduces farming costs and increases crop yields, farmers need to be aware of and understand the associated cyber risks to their data and ensure that companies entrusted to manage their data, including digital management tool and application developers and cloud service providers, develop adequate cybersecurity and breach response plans,” the FBI and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) warns.
There are a few reasons why the FBI and USDA foresee cybercriminals targeting the farming sector:
- To steal or destroy farm-level data in bulk (information about soil content, past crop yields, planting recommendations, etc.)
- To encrypt collected data and hold it for ransom
- To disrupt food production and processing by messing with plants’ Industrial Control Systems
Historically, the farming industry has lacked awareness of how their data should be protected from cyberattacks and there has been a low industry demand for security. The FBI is advising farmers to implement data back-up and recovery plans, and to keep the back-ups in separate, secure location. In addition, farmers are encouraged to monitor employee logins, train employees on security awareness and monitor their data and traffic.