Leveraging Industry 4.0 for Sustainable farming : Suggested Ideas

Industry 4.0 and our “Profitability” Silo

When we think about predictive maintenance, we think about large, heavy machinery humming of factory floors, doing their part in adding more carbon to our atmosphere. That is the first picture that comes to my mind as well. The reason is that we want to harness that technology for the betterment of our employers and/or businesses so that they can keep churning profits for stakeholders.

Thinking beyond Profitability

But what if, every time we get our hands on a new technology or technology stack, we first think about how we can leverage it for greater good of the society, like how we can tackle food shortage issue staring at us due to the rapid population explosion ?

Here is one such recommendation, to leverage predictive maintenance in agriculture. The agricultural challenges of the future are all about doing more with less in a sustainable way. It is about meeting the demand for a growing population but in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

Leveraging Industry 4.0 in Farming

There are many applications that come to my mind but all of those can be categorized in two broad buckets:

  • Managing the farm land

Data, Analytics and Technology can allow us to be smarter about every square inch of ground being used, everything from what kind of seeds to plant, how many seeds, planting the seeds properly, watering the seeds and applying just the right amount of  fertilizers.

Example: You may know that Nitrogen content of the soil is an important aspect in farming. We can model the nitrogen in the field. We can model the rainfall and understand how it disperses into the ground. That way, we can predict when and where the Nitrogen will move so that we can determine when and where to apply Nitrogen in the field.

  • Managing the farming equipment

“Train” farm equipment to perform better which will allow the equipment to think for itself while it is operating.

Example: When a farming equipment like a planter travels through a farm, it encounters a range of soil conditions (ex: soft or hard). If the planting pressure on the equipment is static, some seeds will be dispersed (embedded) better than the others , resulting in uneven growth which will not be identified until much later.

We can equip key farming equipment like planters with sensors that can take hundreds of measurements per second. This will allow the planter to monitor and manage the pressure in real time as it moves through the field so as to make sure that every seed goes into the “sweet spot”.

We can “micromanage a field”

Above two capabilities provide us the ability to micromanage a field -and this requires the same blend of Industry 4.0 capabilities needed to manage the performance of gas engines, wind turbines, nuclear generators etc.

Now think about extending this Micromanagement downstream to prevent food waste in the Supply Chain. Organizations are already running test cases of leveraging Blockchain for food traceability. What if we combined that with Industry 4.0 capabilities ? Opportunities galore – we just need to deviate some of our focus to these pressing issues.


Views my Own.

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