Solar-powered field sensors

Ecological monitoring is applied to immediate decision making and sustainability initiatives in solar-powered field sensors available to farmers, with the goal of dramatically reshaping and ultimately reducing how farmers allocate resources. A team of researchers from a swath of European higher education institutions developed solar-powered field sensors as a part of a larger program to create innovative technological solutions being tested and funded by the Internet of Food program, which was started by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program. Agriculture is a research-intensive industry with a lot of spillover effects to the surrounding environment; water, agrochemicals, and fertilizers can all be used in excess in order to grow as much food as possible (often the main goal with agricultural production). These solar-powered field sensors allow for real-time monitoring of temperature, humidity, PH value or nutrients, and other metrics that allow farmers to adjust their techniques and appropriately allocate resources in real-time. These sensors transmit collected data via Internet of Things technology to a database accessible by smartphone or computer, so as long as a farmer has access to the base technology, the dearth of information available can completely change operations to be more efficient and sustainable in the long term. The sensors are still under development for commercial distribution, but an initial trial of 2000 sensors showed a 30% decrease in energy use and a 35% decrease in fertilizer use, showing the efficacy of this product. It is worth considering that in rural areas, connectivity via the internet or data can be an issue because telecommunications infrastructure is not always well developed in rural areas. Furthermore, with farming already being such a costly expenditure, there is the question of whether these sensors, used en masse, would be a viable option for the majority of farmers. Fortunately, the researchers developing the solar-powered field sensors recognize potential barriers for farmers and are trying to lower the complexity and cost of individual sensors. Ecological monitoring for agriculture is important for sustainable farming and a healthier environment, but questions of viability,  data ownership, and privacy still linger.


Ecological Monitoring, Industry/Natural Commodities, Internet of Things, Monitoring, Regulation