The Growing Role of Industrial Switches in Smart Agriculture
When most of us envision farming equipment, it’s tractors, reapers, threshers, and harvesters that come to mind. Given recent developments, however, it may be time to take another look. Just as Artificial Intelligence (AI) has transformed manufacturing and other key sectors of the global economy, AI-powered robotics and machine learning analytics are turning the traditional notion of farming on its head, heralding a new era being dubbed “Smart Agriculture.” This market is projected to reach $36 billion by 2030 worldwide, growing upwards of ten percent annually. 
One company that has embraced Smart Agriculture is John Deere, an American icon that has been manufacturing traditional farming equipment for nearly 200 years. Deere recently announced its ambitions for the “fully-automated farm of the future,” complete with autonomous vehicles, AI assisted planting and harvesting, robots that eradicate weeds, and automating “everything on a farm that has a motor.”  Thanks to AI technologies, the classic John Deere hat may soon be replaced with the John Deere app.
Machine Learning is Leading the Way
Deere and other agricultural companies have uncovered that one of the most valuable of AI’s capabilities is machine learning. Machine learning enables computers to mathematically predict outcomes or make classifications by finding patterns in huge amounts of data. Machine learning can process hundreds of thousands of plant images or years of historical weather patterns, sort the data out through high-speed algorithms, and develop probability models for farmers to leverage. Software “learns” to continuously update identified patterns or classifications over time as new data is entered, unlike static probability models. In doing so, machine learning is alleviating problems during pre-harvesting, harvesting and post-harvesting, allowing for more efficient and precise farming methods with less human manpower and higher yields.
Machine learning also reduces the ecological footprint of farming by minimizing the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, as well as emissions of greenhouse gasses. Yet another ecological benefit is saving water. Weather forecasts and sensors that measure soil moisture mean irrigation systems are run only when necessary and for the right length of time.
For illustration of machine learning’s capabilities, let’s consider an outbreak of plant disease. Early and accurate identification of a disease is critical in agriculture. This process in the past was done by visual examination and therefore, prone to human error. Machine learning can diagnose a disease by pattern recognition in mere seconds. After sorting through thousands of photos of diseased plants, a machine learning algorithm can assess disease type, severity, and other issues the farmer needs to know. Machine learning can do the same for plant breeding by selecting and creating more efficient seeds, along with dozens of other tasks.
Industrial Networking Equipment is Key for Smart Agriculture
As the saying goes, “Information is Power.” However, Smart Agriculture is only made possible by the hardware that connects, stores and processes its data. At Antaira, we manufacture high port count industrial Ethernet switches that connect cameras, sensors, GPS guidance, soil samplers, autonomous vehicles, and other digital tools that Smart Agriculture relies upon.
Let’s look at the use of Antaira 10G industrial Ethernet switches with GigE Vision cameras required in autonomous farming vehicles. GigE Vision is an interface standard for industrial image processing that originated in machine vision. To simplify wiring, many GigE Vision cameras will use Power over Ethernet (PoE) so only one cable needs to be run to transmit both power and data. Aggregating multiple GigE Vision cameras to a single Industrial PC (IPC) will often require a 10G backbone link from the switch to the IPC running the software. For these types of applications, Antaira 10 gigabit unmanaged PoE+ Ethernet switches are the answer. Featuring up to 12 ports for maximum versatility, the industrial switches support IEEE 802.3at PoE delivering 30 watts of power to the cameras per port. For more power intensive devices, Antaira now offers industrial Gigabit switches incorporating the new IEEE 802.3bt PoE++ standard with ports transmitting 90 watts of power.
Agricultural equipment, much like other types of heavy equipment and machinery, operate in one of the harshest environments possible for electronics. Network devices need to be engineered to withstand temperature extremes, moisture, vibrations, impact and electrostatic discharge to prevent failures that will affect both the yield and profitability of the harvests involved. Antaira hardens its industrial Ethernet switches by housing them in IP30 DIN-rail metal casings. We also incorporate only quality components able to support reliable operation in freezing winter conditions and hot summer months. Need more protection? We now offer industrial PoE switches in rugged IP67 metal cases featuring M12 vibration-proof connectors that eliminate downtime when deployed in dusty, wet conditions. The M12 Ethernet switch line not only works well for agricultural applications, but also for equipment used in areas such as oil and gas, wastewater treatment, and transportation.
Failure of a single industrial Ethernet switch can quickly derail the workings of a smart farm. The more farms become reliant on connected, predictive, and responsive networking equipment to drive precision, efficiency, and yield, the more Antaira industrial Ethernet switches make sense. Whether you need a rugged M12 Ethernet switch to install inside a driverless tractor exposed to dust and rain, or a PoE switch to power surveillance cameras monitoring your crops, Antaira has the answer.
Nobody wants to spray an entire field with pesticide. And sending humans out to weed thousands of acres by hand is incredibly cost and labor-prohibitive.
But, if your farm vehicles can handle weeding in real-time while they’re doing other tasks autonomously, such as tilling, then farmers save time and labor while simultaneously increasing outputs for current and future crops.
 "Smart Agriculture Market Size is projected to reach USD 36.24 Billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.80%" Straits Research, July 11, 2022
 "How John Deere plans to build a world of fully autonomous farming by 2030," CNBC, Evolve Global Summit 2022, October 2, 2022