Agriculture is the oldest human industry, but it is certainly no stranger to technological change.
The industrial revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries replaced handheld tools and horse-drawn ploughs with gasoline engines and chemical fertilisers, especially in the developed world.
Now we are on the verge of witnessing another fundamental shift in agriculture. This is due to a new industrial revolution and the upcoming technologies where agriculture engineering is leading to smart farming and precision agriculture.
Smart farming and precision agriculture involve the integration of advanced technologies into existing farming practices in order to increase production efficiency and the quality of agricultural products. As an added benefit, they also improve the quality of life for farm workers by reducing heavy labour and tedious tasks.
Just about every aspect of farming can benefit from technological advancements from planting and watering to crop health and harvesting, most of the current and impending agricultural technologies fall into three categories that are expected to become the pillars of the smart farm.
Robots, drones and sensors
They include autonomous use of robots, drones and sensors which are Internet based.
The sensor internet based technology is already being explored in Uganda at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) farm by scientists who went to study in South Korea and are implementing their practical study experience.
They have set up a smart hydroponic farm which is internet control based and one of the important tools which controls the entire greenhouse farm is the control panel.
How the panel works
Papius Tumusingiize, an expert in agricultural convergence technology, interacted with Seeds of Gold as he explains the function of the control panel in the growth process of tomatoes in a hydroponic greenhouse farm.
“The control panel contains electricity switches in an automatic mode and manual form. It contains fuses which protects the system and other sensors. This panel is designed to manage smart agriculture technology and its other function is to control the climate condition in the green house,” Tumusingiize noted.
It contains the data logger which obtains all the data about the entire climatic condition from the greenhouse and sends it to the computer.
Tumusingiize and team can operate it both manually and in automatic form as it is connected to censors which are in between the substrates including the mixed saw dust containing the plant food nutrient.
The machine is purchased from Sri Lanka and a farmer wishing to set up a smart hydroponic greenhouse must possess it because it is capable and responsible for reading the data in the green house. This will enable the farmer or hired expert to set up the right temperature and any other climatic condition for growth of the plants in order to obtain bumper harvest.
Under the automatic condition in case of any power shutdown, the panel will shut down automatically. However the manual operation is mainly applied for demonstration purposes for farmers and researchers who go to the farm for sensitisation.
Otherwise this will mean someone has to always be present to shut off the switches in case of any power outbreak.