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Christian Morales

Lead Internet Marketer at IoE Corp
Published - 02/17/2023   |   Reading time - 10 min 22 sec

The latest analysis via FAO's carbon footprint of the agri-food supply chain indicates that the agri-food system is responsible for 31 percent of human-caused GHG emissions. Seeing the numbers, in 2019, the total reached 16.5 billion tonnes of GHG emissions from global total agri-food systems. 7.2 billion tonnes came from within the farm gate, 3.5 from land use change, and 5.8 billion from supply-chain processes. Technological advancements are bringing solutions. One is the Internet of Things (IoT) for sustainable development.

IoT devices, sensors, drones, wearables, etc., inject vast data collected on-premises into all industry verticals. The dawning of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is data-driven. The players that can provide the best solutions to leverage cost-effectively, sustainably, and securely Big Data will become industry leaders. Data management solutions currently hinder the quest to transform IoT into a real asset for sustainability.

In the following article, you can learn about the specific challenges current data management solutions confront. Take a deep dive into innovative technological breakthroughs able to sustain the promise of technology to be a real asset to reduce carbon emissions. From centralized cloud service providers to decentralized networks blockchain-secured, we present a detailed account of what tech is currently providing to the agri-food system and what it can offer soon.

What is the agri-food system?

The agri-food system encompasses the whole life-cycle of food, from planting to consumption in table homes or restaurants. It includes the primary production of food and non-food agricultural products, storage, aggregation, post-harvest handling, transportation, processing, distribution, marketing, disposal, and consumption. The food system within the agri-food system comprises products originating from crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture. In recent years scientific advancements have added to the food system other sources, like synthetic biology, for human consumption.

To break it down there are three main components to the agri-food system:

The agri-food market yearly produces over 45 billion tonnes of food and non-food products (natural fibers and wood). As a result, the approximate gross value, just in the United States of America, was, in 2018, $3.5 trillion.

IoT for sustainable agricultural automation

Agriculture is the automation of processes humans invented to secure food all year round. Before agriculture, people were hunters and gatherers; agriculture opened a new way of life where settlements appeared. Archeological investigation identifies agriculture as far back as 14,000 to 15,000 BCE in Southwest Asia. By learning to use tools and the skills of tillage and irrigation, humankind stopped foraging and hunting; these primitive technological innovations released the burden of having to go out to find food.

Human intervention in food supplies was drastically reduced as irrigation systems, fences, and the domestication of plants and animals liberated people from being bound to nomadism. Automating the growth of crops, plants, and animals brought the dawn of societies and the beginning of small villages that centuries later became cities. From then on, humans continue to optimize how to supply, store, distribute, and consume food.

Today, automation resides in the possibilities IoT brings to the agri-food system. But certain historical facts indicate that automation processes are not a way to sustainable development. Some examples of unsustainable growth in the agri-food system came with the industrial revolutions. The first industrial revolution was driven by the capacity to extract coal and use it as an energy source and how it was then applied to the steam engine. The second industrial revolution brought more efficient energy sources via electricity, fed with gas and oil.

There is no question about the benefits industrial revolutions brought to society, but there is also no question about the damages they brought to our ecosystems. We are still trying to overcome these damages, starting with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals set to be reached by 2030. Consequently, the promise technology brings to reduce the carbon footprint and provide better living standards is, in many minds, doubtful. In theory, IoT can provide a wealth of information to optimize agri-food processes and be a real asset for sustainable development.

Benefits Internet of Things provides to agri-food systems

IoT can be used throughout the entire supply chain of the agri-food system, from drones offering farmers a birds-eye view of their crops or livestock to sensors in a household fridge alerting via an app of food expiring. The possibilities are endless if we add the immense capacity of artificial intelligence (AI) to process, analyze, and deliver data generation autonomously. Potential benefits include smart-automated irrigation where human intervention is not required. IoT devices with embedded AI can autonomously automate watering specific parts of the crop or plants.

Introducing these tech advancements into the primary production of the agri-food system can help save thousands of liters of water. The same can be applied to pesticides, virus containment within livestock, and machinery maintenance; optimizing these processes reduces costs, unsustainability, and downtime. In food distribution, IoT's possibilities are exponential as deploying the right data management technology injects throughout the distribution chain optimization at all levels. Setting sensors inside trucks to monitor temperature oscillation can be critical for perishable goods; it also gives consumers the journey of a product from harvest to consumption.

IoT devices can also set the geolocation for end-users to know where their purchased product is at a specific time. Helping to optimize storage space, deliveries, and communication between distributors and food retailers (supermarkets and restaurants). The primary production line can also increase the value as they can credit their product's quality by storytelling the whole process and the unique skills used. Weather forecasts can be highly optimized on specific farm grounds empowered with historical weather data and AI analytics. All in all, IoT and AI embedded into devices, sensors, drones, wearables, and machines, in theory, realize the promise of a better future.

The challenges IoT faces for agri-food sustainable development realization

The benefits IoT provides to the agri-food industry are partially theoretical and practical, as there are projects within the three components of the food supply chain already deployed. But these implementations are facing various challenges that require governments, organizations, corporations, regulatory administrations, and technology companies to unify strengths to overcome these.

As Internet of Everything Corporation (IoE Corp) is a deep tech startup providing a decentralized blockchain-secured software platform for IoT data management on-premises, we will focus on the technological challenges. But to give an overview of current issues, we can indicate that primary production requires skilled, tech-savvy labor to take full advantage of digital transformation. The food distribution phase faces problems with cost-effective IoT projects that can present tangible results to decision-makers. Household and commercial consumption concerns revolve around the integrity of the information delivered.

Although the above issues are part of a whole action process going from educational initiatives to regulatory laws, technology companies like IoE Corp play a key role.

The mind-gobbling data generation of IoT devices is one of the major problems data management systems face. Current solutions are centralized systems, i.e., cloud service providers. They were important innovations when set on the market decades ago, as they liberated companies from having to place budgets on IT departments to manage servers on-premises. The Cloud offers storage, processing, security, and data analysis via data centers, giving the end-user connectivity worldwide. A breakthrough that made workflows much easier as information was available wherever and whenever.

The situation today is different. IoT devices are not just producing incredible amounts of data, but also, this data comes from sensitive or critical locations. For example, healthcare, national infrastructure, traffic, households, and agriculture have IoT deployments constantly generating data. As such, all this critical and sensitive data is moved to server centers, creating numerous risks threatening IoT infrastructure and service. Among these risks and vulnerabilities are the following:

Before the paradigm shift IoT devices brought to industries and societies, the issues mentioned above were not as critical as they are now. Cyberattacks accessing agricultural machinery can create havoc by indicating higher pesticide doses, ruining the entire crop. Real-time data regarding weather forecasts can also be a considerable problem in preparation for heavy rains or droughts. Incorrect data influx is a huge problem that can kill livestock if diseases are not acted upon due to false data readings.

Decentralized data management systems for agri-food

Thankfully technological advancements move at lightning speeds, one of which is decentralized data management systems. Internet of Everything Corporation has developed the Eden system, which actuates IoT's challenges with cloud service providers. Decentralization provides massive IoT deployments with a network that uses the existing tech infrastructure to store, manage, process, analyze, and deliver data generation on-premises.

Deploying this innovative breakthrough benefits the agri-food industry as it mitigates the issues centralized solutions are incapable of solving. As decentralized solutions work on-premises, latency and bandwidth bottlenecks are not a problem. Data does not require to be moved through digital highways to reach data centers and then move back again. Cyberterrorists and government-funded cybercriminals can't use a single point of attack because decentralized networks use blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology provides network security by keeping data immutable and decentralizing the system. Thus, if an attack targets the network and takes control of a device, the rest of the network is alerted of that device malfunctioning. The entire network, via consensus and manifests, will confirm the deviation of the infected device and ignore it. The network can continue working properly because, with the blockchain, workloads get distributed through all the nodes (devices, sensors, and machines). In this way, the assigned tasks of the infected node can be handled by other nodes in the network. The same thing happens when there is a hardware malfunction.

Another advantage is data ownership. Keeping data on-premises eliminates third-party actors taking control of the data generated. This is a great benefit as one of the primary production concerns is the use of their data. Moving data to third-party data management solutions allows these to share (sell) critical or sensitive information. In the FAO's study of Farm data management, sharing, and services for agriculture development, one of the points indicates:

IoT and decentralization ensure the sustainable development of agri-food

For IoT's data generation paradigm shift to reach its full potential, its data management must move to decentralized systems. The sustainability of the agri-food industry's data generation lies in accepting that current centralized solutions' risks and vulnerabilities are unacceptable. Critical infrastructure like agriculture must move into digital transformation, ensuring economic and environmentally sustainable workflows.

Considering the above, agri-food stakeholders must take action and begin to turn to solutions that rise to the challenge. Industry 4.0's promise is still reachable and can positively ignite a stream of benefits impacting markets, society, and the environment. But as we have shown, in a data-driven fourth industrial revolution, smart farming, distribution, and consumption rely on the capacity of data management systems to deliver:

As mentioned, decentralized systems are ready to aid IoT for sustainable development in the agri-food system. The Eden system developed by IoE Corp is one of these groundbreaking technologies ready to be applied to agriculture's digital transformation.

How to access the EDEN system for agri-food?

IoE Corp is ready to deploy the Eden system to optimize IoT for sustainable development. To access this breakthrough, stakeholders in the agri-food industry can take advantage of IoE Corp's Planet Partner Program.

If you want to enter Industry 4.0 as a market leader and pioneer the way forward, start the journey by applying to the Planet Partner Program.

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