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How One Incredible IoT Device Could Revolutionize Farming

26848215455_b9b3107040The Internet of Things is nearly upon us. In manufacturing, many say the future is in wirelessly connecting everything in production from raw materials to shipping to customer support. But IoT and connected smart devices are already making their mark on a surprising industry: farming.

Adam Wolf, the CEO of Arable which makes the Pulsepod, found a way to receive up-to-the-minute information from the most basic of raw materials – plants. The Pulsepod allows farmers to receive hyper-local information on their crop through wireless sensors. And that could mean everything to any company that works with a farm.

When it comes to analyzing weather, some equipment like cables run thousands of dollars and can be hard to find. Being able to take detailed weather analyses of specific areas was restricted to meteorologists and grad students. The people who could put that information to use, the farmers, didn’t get the information… at least, not when they needed it.

Now, those cases full of equipment have shrunk to the size of a dinner plate. Essentially, the Pulsepod is a new smart device that tracks weather information in real time and sends it to your mobile device. Its research was conducted at Princeton, Silicon Valley and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Wolf, a biologist, found himself wasting time, money and energy collecting weather data with decades-old equipment. An expert in sustainability, he also realized that people growing food didn’t have access to information. The Pulsepod, which is a fraction of the price of traditional technology, is small enough, smart enough and affordable enough, Wolf hopes farmers in developing countries will soon be able to use his technology to make smarter farming decisions, resulting in less hunger around the world.

But what does Pulsepod do, exactly? It is a self-powered crop monitoring system that stakes into the ground, powers itself from solar panels, receives information and sends it to farmers. This IoT device connects cellular (2G/3G), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while saving the info on a SIM card. But what information do farmers receive?

Rainfall. How much rain is falling? How big is the rain? How fast is it falling? By converting each drop of water into an electric pulse, the size and strength of the pulse can be analyzed.

Sunlight. How much light are the plants getting? Measuring shortwave and longwave radiation, this sensor calculates the “net” radiation reaching each plant.

Growth. How well are the plants growing? Is the plant absorbing enough nutrients? Another sensor measures physical growth, along with water and chlorophyll levels.

Wolf said until now farmers have used their memory, their wits and weather predictions to make farming choices. He calls these “bad facts,” as the information was never good enough or local enough to know for sure what is going to happen from one farm to another.

As a biologist and a tech guy, Wolf made a solution for his problem that stares down a much bigger problem- global hunger.

Where will the next ‘Adam Wolf’ come from? Who will be the next person to create something new that can change the way an entire industry works? Students and educators today are at the forefront of the IoT, with students graduating into an IoT market potentially worth $11.1 trillion by 2025. Whether they know it or not, today’s students are familiar with the IoT, bring an average of seven connected devices with them to campus.

What do you think of the Pulsepod? What other industries do you think are soon to be affected by the Internet of Things? Let us know in the comments below.

photo credit: Gayton Thorpe via photopin (license)

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