Canada’s Bell MTS launches IoT in agriculture initiative

Manitoba agriculture pre-IoT... © Flickr/cc-licence/Presley Perswain

Manitoba agriculture pre-IoT... © Flickr/cc-licence/Presley Perswain

  • By 2020, the precision farming market is expected to grow to $4.8 billion
  • Bell MTS and University of Manitoba launch IoT in agriculture initiative
  • $500,000 fund supports the Bell MTS Innovations in Agriculture Program
  • Student-driven development of broadband IoT solutions for agriculture

Bell MTS has announced a $500,000 contribution to the University of Manitoba's Front and Centre campaign to launch the Innovations in Agriculture Program, providing students at one of Canada's leading education institutions with opportunities to develop IoT technologies for application in agriculture and food services.

The telco believes that by enabling broadband access to real-time operational data of all kinds, IoT applications can help improve the production of food resources through managing the location and performance of farm machinery, remote analysis of soil samples, field conditions, seeding rate and crop health, and monitoring of storage and processing operations.

“Bell MTS fully appreciates the vital contributions our country's top schools are making to technology design and development," said Stephen Howe, Bell's CTO and EVP. "We're very pleased to work with the University of Manitoba to create this opportunity for students and faculty to develop new and better IoT solutions for a sector that is a mainstay of Manitoba's economy and important to all Canadians."

The University of Manitoba is one of Canada's top research institutions and the school's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences delivers specialised training each year to over 1,200 students. Understandably, given its location, agriculture plays a key role in Manitoba's economy. Agricultural production represents an estimated 5 per cent of Manitoba's GDP and the sector accounts for an estimated 33,000 jobs in the province.

“Working on IoT solutions within the agriculture, food and nutrition sectors not only offers our students a unique skills development opportunity that will support their future career opportunities, it is critical to the advancement of our agriculture and food economy,” said Karin Wittenberg, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. “It's a perfect match and we are thankful for this visionary gift.”

The $500,000 in funding from Bell MTS will advance student, faculty and public understanding of the potential for advanced communications in agriculture with mentorships, research funding, and access to new co-operative education opportunities.

Agriculture IoT facts and figures

“By 2020, the precision farming market will grow to $4.8 billion,” said Khidr Suleman, Technology Specialist at Intel, who adds that farmers will need to increase food production by 68 per cent in 2050 to meet rising global demands.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN finds along similar lines, forecasting that agricultural IoT will increase food production by 70 per cent and be feeding up to 9.6 billion people by 2050. In 2000 there were 525 million farms on record across the world, and obviously none of these were IoT enabled. By 2025 this same base of 525 million farms will be using 600 million sensors, according to a report from Beecham Research. Fast forward to the all-important 2050 date and there will be a forecast two billion sensors in use by 525 million farms.

“The demand for more food has to be set against the challenges of rising climate change and more extreme weather conditions, along with the environmental impact resulting from intensive farming practices,” said Therese Cory, Beecham Research analyst and author of the Towards Smart Farming report.

According to the FAO, 800 million people are “chronically undernourished” and one in three people are impacted by malnutrition. Water scarcity also has an impact, as agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply. Hence the need for IoT solutions, to create what is becoming known as “precision agriculture”. Research firm Markets and Markets builds on Intel’s projections and expects spending on precision agriculture solutions to grow at 13.5 per cent CAGR to create a $7.87 billion annual market opportunity by 2022.

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