Internet of Underground things

Four researchers from China and Singapore have merged blockchain and Internet of Things together in 2018, creating a smart agricultural network for farmers that monitors and models the soil and ambient conditions in real-time. Internet of Things has been extensively applied to agriculture, particularly in the realm of above-ground monitoring of temperature, humidity, and precipitation; however, in this application, sensors and communication nodes are placed underground, and measure metrics like pH and pesticide concentration in the soil. The purpose of this network isn’t just for monitoring and modelling production for farmers. When combined with a blockchain, it provides a way to trace food and verify the correct usage of pesticides or other agricultural additives used to bolster soil health and yield. Nodes to the blockchain, which are essentially access points, would exist at a given farm, and be connected to a trusted blockchain network cloud platform. Nodes to the blockchain would also exist at processing plants, storefronts, and at the palms of consumers (called micro-nodes). This platform would be accessible by consumers, governments, regulatory agencies, and even supermarket chains to ensure that the products are representative of their branding and meet regulatory standards. This underground internet of things creates a nearly incorruptible way to link products to a particular soil, and the soil to the practices of the farmer or agricultural entity in charge of growing the food. There are unanswered questions about how this technology could be rolled out and effectively utilized, some of which will likely be addressed when a physical prototype of this technology is piloted. The cost of the sensors and access nodes could be economically prohibitive or impractical. The energy requirements for the blockchain and access platform exist on local or regional servers could be overwhelming for energy providers or necessitate the use of harmful fossil fuels. Even if the information is available and the ability to enforce regulations or for consumers to monitor their food sources, will there be an administrative will or public interest? Unresolved and lingering, whether or not these researchers will address these potential logistical barriers is yet to be seen.

Lin, Jun, Zhiqi Shen, Anting Zhang, and Yueting Chai. “Blockchain and IoT based food traceability for smart agriculture.” In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Crowd Science and Engineering, pp. 1-6. 2018.

Lin, Yu-Pin, Joy R. Petway, Johnathen Anthony, Hussnain Mukhtar, Shih-Wei Liao, Cheng-Fu Chou, and Yi-Fong Ho. “Blockchain: The evolutionary next step for ICT e-agriculture.” Environments 4, no. 3 (2017): 50; Tripoli, Mischa, and Josef Schmidhuber. “Emerging Opportunities for the Application of Blockchain in the Agri-food Industry.” FAO and ICTSD: Rome and Geneva. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3 (2018).


Blockchain, Ecological Modelling, Industry/Natural Commodities, Internet of Things, Monitoring