Control of livestock and cereal crops are the main drivers behind the increasing use of the Internet of Things  (IoT) by farmers in the United States, according to an agricultural IoT market study from market research firm Alpha Brown. Researchers estimate the number of U.S.farmers using the IoT at 250,000,

The IoT provides potent tools for farmers, including smart sensors (measuring light, temperature, soil moisture, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, pest infestation, soil content or nutrients, location, etc.), applications and systems that save time, money and energy, the study said.

“Our research indicates that the market has much room for growth and that is certainly encouraging,” said Gil Rabinovich, the CEO of Alpha Brown, in a press release.

Agricultural IoT Market
The IoT ability to constantly assess large areas and provide other services that free up workers makes it a good fit for what farmers do. It also is useful for smaller tasks, such as those carried out in dairy, vegetable and fruit farming and in greenhouses. Alpha Brown says that its survey of more than 1,600 farmers points to a potential market of 1.1 million farms and a market size of $4 billion. More than half of U.S. farmers are interested in buying agricultural IoT solutions, according to the researchers.

Alpha Brown is not the only firm who sees the potential of the market. Last November, Berg Insight said that the installed base of agriculture-related IoT devices will grow from 17 million in 2016 to 27.4 million in 2021. Most of the connectivity will rely on the 802.15.4 standard, which is popular in dairy cow monitoring. The main areas will be machine telematics and remote monitoring via in-field sensor systems, the study said.

There also will be innovation. For instance, in 2016 IBM, WISP OnlineNW and the Dayton, OR school district jointly ran a project to control the mildew that damages grapevines. The project was based on using data generated by a mesh network of wireless sensors throughout a large vineyard. Students participated in a number of tasks, including creating mobile apps.

The use of modern telecommunications in agriculture teams IoT with other technologies. For instance, IoT can combine with drones to conserve as much as 90% of irrigation water and reduce chemical use by 30 to 50%, according to Ipsos Business Consulting. The firm said that these benefits drove investment in agricultural drone technology increases of 344% between 2013 and 2015.

Transparency Market Research agrees with the optimism. It says that that the smart agriculture market will increase 13.5% annually through 2025. It will rise from $6.5 million in 2015 to $23.4 million by 2025. This is dependent, however, on the availability of mobile broadband connectivity.