AT&T Plants IoT Seeds in Agriculture Industry

By Ken Briodagh January 30, 2018

Rice is critically important to our global food supply. The U.S. alone currently produces more than 6 million tons of rice every month. It is also one of the most water-intensive crops, using up to 40 percent of the world’s irrigation water each year.

Farmers are turning to a method known as Alternate Wetting and Dry (AWD) to reduce water, fuel and electricity use for running irrigation pumps, and to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers. However, AWD can be challenging to execute because farmers need to carefully control water levels across large tracts of land. It also introduces risk to the rice crops, as it can be difficult to assess depth accurately with only a few measurements at various points in the fields. These barriers have slowed adoption of AWD, but with the introduction of IoT technology, some of these challenges might be moving to the past.

AT&T has said the IoT is a powerful tool that can help conserve natural resources and help farms be more efficient and so the company is teaming up with rice farmers to enable and measure water and emissions reductions in rice farming and AWD practices with IoT-connected water pumps and sensors. The formers get high-quality data so they can better manage their crops and reap the benefits of AWD.

AT&T said that if IoT-enabled AWD were to expand to all the rice farmers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, emissions could be reduced by an estimated 325,805 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

This project is part of AT&T’s “10x” sustainability goal and its “IoT for Good” initiative to show how IoT solutions are transforming the way customers and society care for the planet.

WaterBit and AT&T are enabling these solutions by adding secure connectivity to autonomous irrigation solutions. The smart irrigation solution helps farmers increase yield and conserve resources.

“With WaterBit, precision and science will better inform water delivery and translate into higher yields that can be sustained," said Chandler Bennett, production manager, Madison Farms, a WaterBit customer.

In-field data collection of soil moisture and nutrients gives farmers near real-time insight into crop conditions. Integrating data collection with WaterBit’s cloud-based software lets growers monitor and analyze soil moisture, as well as plan and control irrigation with pinpoint accuracy.

 “Western Growers is excited about the WaterBit and AT&T relationship. These types of strategic collaborations are necessary to bring IoT to the field level and can help growers drive further precision into their operations,” said Hank Giclas, SVP, science and technology, Western Growers. “The WaterBit technology for precision irrigation coupled with AT&T's focus on agriculture is a solid indicator of the future trends in smart agriculture.”

WaterBit sends data from multiple field locations to one central network gateway hub that can be installed at an off-field location and spans a more than 1.5 mile range.

The gateway uses AT&T Global SIM card and Internet of Things (IoT) Services like Control Center to securely send data to the WaterBit cloud. Data is updated every 15 minutes, around the clock.

“We’re making it easier for growers to use technology to improve labor, water and land efficiency,” said Leif Chastaine, COO, WaterBit. “To offer our clients 24/7 monitoring, we need a reliable connection and we have that with AT&T.  The AT&T Control Center gives us ease, security, scalability and more.”

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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