Precision farming and produce processing presents an opportunity for low-cost embedded systems

July 28, 2015 OpenSystems Media

A recent trip to Brazil gave me a view of new opportunities for embedded computing. Many industrial processes are still handled manually due to lower cost labor, relatively high costs of technology, and the momentum of “that’s how it’s always been done.” This looks like a great opportunity for low-cost embedded systems and technology, which would allow for more efficient use of resources in many applications.

Brazil is a huge agricultural producer and has as much farmland still to be developed as is currently producing in the Midwestern Farm Belt. There are some incredibly large “mega-farms” where precision farming is almost always used. They have world-class machinery and equipment to efficiently produce on many acres of land.

Precision farming systems are used to limit the use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other costly consumables required in production. On the processing side, they use the latest systems to ensure the most efficient produce processing to increase yield and limit spoilage as it makes its way to the market.

But for every mega-farm, there are hundreds of smaller farms. Many of these are in the hundreds to thousands of acres. These farms face the same challenges of containing costs and improving yields as the mega-farms, but tend to have limited technology due to cost, existing but antiquated equipment, and low-cost labor.

It should be possible to leverage modern mobile phones, which almost every owner has, to interact with independent low-cost sensor and process-control systems. This would allow for an easy way to monitor or control planting, harvest, fertilizer, and other resource use as well as improve the currently less efficient processing systems used by these smaller farms.

By offloading the user interface to the mobile phone, costs for the sensor/control devices should remain low. The right product would do a great service for these smaller farms and could be a profitable venture. And if you have spare time, why not find a way to fix the potholes too?

Steve Larrivee is VP Sales & Marketing for Cactus Technologies and has over 30 years’ experience in the data storage market, including 10 years with SanDisk and 5 years at Seagate Technology.

Steve Larrivee, Cactus Technologies Limited
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