How IoT Enhances Pest Control on Large-Scale Farms

The Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are becoming more widespread across the agricultural sector. IoT has transformed how farmers grow crops, manage their land and boost yields. Most importantly, these advancements have enabled greater crop protection through targeted pest control.


As climate change ramps up and large-scale growers face increasing challenges to maintain adequate food supplies, IoT will continue to be at the forefront of insect mitigation efforts. Here’s how IoT is improving pest control on commercial farms.


Pests an Increasing Problem for Farmers

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the world loses 20%-40% of its crops annually due to pests, putting a significant strain on food security. The costs are astronomical, amounting to $70 billion in damages from invasive insects.


Asian citrus psyllids, giant African snails, golden nematodes, Khapra beetles and the spotted wing drosophila are among the most threatening pest species invading crop production in the United States.


Experts predict climate change will worsen agricultural pest infestations in the future — a phenomenon many are witness to today. It takes only a 10-degree Celcius increase for insects’ metabolic rates to rise, which increases their development, movements, eating habits, population growth, geographical scope and survival.


Benefits of IoT Pest Control

Farmers must meet climate change with new pest management strategies to save crop yields and feed the world population. In 2021, 11.3 billion IoT technologies were available globally — a number expected to triple by 2030. This is good news for large-scale growers who can effectively integrate these devices to manage insect outbreaks.


Agricultural IoT technologies enable greater efficiency, precision and sustainability in the field. Through data collection and analysis, farmers can improve resource management, detect pest activity, forecast future infestations and accurately automate spraying.


In turn, these IoT-based approaches enable growers to adopt best practices for sustainable agriculture by limiting their environmental impact and meeting food supply demands. As of now, farmers must increase crop production by 35%-56% by 2050 to decrease the global hunger risk.


Challenges and Considerations

While some IoT devices may be cost-effective for farmers to implement, others require an exorbitant investment. Many of these technologies are still relatively new, meaning they are more expensive than conventional tools.


However, low-cost IoT technologies are also more susceptible to security breaches; anything that connects to the internet has the potential to be hacked. For instance, a hacker might manipulate data and disrupt pest management operations, causing significant crop and financial losses. Unauthorized access to agritech may also lead to food safety issues and market manipulation.


Of course, farmers must get trained on IoT for pest control, which requires time and money. Learning these technologies and seeking support is critical to proper use, though.


Agritech: IoT in Action for Pest Control

Several IoT technologies already exist for farmers to combat pests in large-scale agricultural operations. Here are three of the primary developments making headways in pest management.


Remote Pest Monitoring

Growers use IoT sensors to detect, identify and monitor pests in real-time. For instance, smart traps work similarly to sticky or pheromone traps in the soil or air. However, farmers can gain insights into pest activity using cameras and other detection mechanisms inside the traps. Meanwhile, acoustic sensors deploy sound detection to register insect sound waves more accurately.


Drones are also commonly used to map and detect pest activity within crops. Farmers utilize drone insights to make decisions about spraying and dusting crops, limiting pest prevalence and reducing the health effects of handling pesticides.


Early Detection Systems

One of the best pest-preventative measures using IoT is early pest detection. These systems utilize sensors and image recognition to determine which pests and diseases pose the greatest threat.


Early pest detection systems monitor crops and farming conditions, using imagery and visual detection to identify insects. The earlier farmers know about potential outbreaks, the quicker they can respond with targeted pest management. This further prevents widespread crop damage and financial burdens.


Automated and Precision-Based Solutions

Agricultural pesticides and other synthetic chemicals cause significant environmental impacts. Fortunately, IoT solutions enable more precise treatment of pests, diseases and weed growth. In turn, growers use fewer toxins and adhere to sustainable agricultural practices.


In one study, researchers used a newly improved YOLOv5s algorithm for targeted spraying. They found the machine had a 90.8% accuracy hit rate at 2 kilometers per hour, significantly reducing pesticide use and exposure.


Weeds also threaten crop yields by hosting pests attracted to vegetable crops — such as white flies in tomatoes and aphids in broccoli, spinach and lettuce plants. Weeds and shrubs can also promote plant diseases, such as the tobacco rattle virus, which spread to potatoes and sugar beets in Florida in 2023.


Advancements in IoT detection and precision spraying have helped farmers make strides in identifying and eradicating weeds on large-scale farms. IoT automatic spraying enables nozzle adjustments and controlled spray patterns depending on crop conditions and however many pests and weeds there are.


In one study, scientists found the AlexNet algorithm has a 99.8% classification accuracy, while the mAP algorithm demonstrates 98.7% accuracy. Farmers can then apply targeted herbicides and non-chemical solutions to save crop yields.


IoT Solutions the Most Effective Strategy for Crop Yields

The agricultural sector is revolutionizing with numerous IoT agritech developments underway. As new solutions emerge, farmers will improve pest management, deliver an adequate food supply and cause fewer ecological effects.


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