Microsoft and Schneider Electric Contribute to Sustainable Farming

Cloud insights help reduce water waste

Farming feeds the world — literally. However, farming also consumes a tremendous amount of resources. In fact, studies show that farming accounts for 70 percent of the world’s fresh water usage, and this number is only expected to increase as demand, fueled by a growing population and a growing worldwide middle class, continues to rise.

However, technology is providing a means of cutting back on water usage. While the Internet of Things paradigm is often thought of as a consumer and business revolution, it’s finding its way into one of the oldest industries on the planet. WaterForce, a water management and irrigation company based in New Zealand, worked with Schneider Electric to develop SCADAfarm, a tool that helps farmers save time while cutting back on electricity and water usage.

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On the user interface level, SCADAfarm provides robust controls for monitoring meters spread throughout vast farmland. The cloud-based design presents a centralized solution for farmers, making it easy to see data at a glance. Easy-to-use interfaces also let farmers operate irrigators, pumps, and other tools anywhere internet access is available. Managing the unpredictability of nature means farmers need to adjust to rapidly changing conditions to ensure they’re doing all they can with their water and other resources. In addition to yielding more efficient land use, and larger profits, these tools also help farmers grow more food per acre, which is essential for feeding a growing population.

When most people think of farming, they think of tractors, dirt, and a lot of sweat. But today’s farms rely on digital technology more than ever before, and sensors, many of which are now internet-compatible, are indispensible for efficient operation. Whether used for monitoring weather or to determine factors that affect soil quality, IoT devices are playing an increasingly important role.

Funny cow on a green meadow looking to a camera with Alps on the background

Data from SCADAfarm is saved on Microsoft’s Azure platform. This cloud-based design offers farmers easy access to information while in the field through smart devices, but it also provides information that’s easy to pull up on more powerful desktops and laptops. Combined with the powerful analytical tools in SCADAfarm, this data lets farmers combine their professional and practical expertise with the volume of data only IoT technology can provide.

While the flexibility of cloud operations is appealing to businesses across most industries, its role in agriculture promises to be significant. While farming and technology have historically gone hand in hand, farm operations tend to operate with a small team, and the robust internal hardware many companies in other fields use are unrealistic for many farms.

Through SCADAfarm, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, and WaterForce are showing how cloud computing can create a more sustainable planet.