Cisco enhances coffee farming in Tanzania using the IoT

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Cisco has teamed up with a group of partners to use the IoT to help Tanzanian coffee growers boost yields and operate more sustainably amid the challenges of climate change.

The networking giant has joined forces with the ConSenso Project: a coalition comprising Tanzanian coffee farmers, Italian plant scientists from PNAT, and researchers from the Accademia del Caffè Espresso. Together, they are deploying IoT sensors to “listen to the plants” on a Tanzanian coffee farm.

65 solar-powered IoT sensors have been installed at the Tunasikia Farm in Utengule, Tanzania. The sensors capture a wealth of data about the soil, sun, climate, carbon capture, insects, and the electrical energy fields of the plants – which can reveal their wellbeing and needs.

After preliminary local analysis, the data is securely transmitted over long distances to researchers in Florence, Italy, leveraging Cisco’s LoRaWAN, cloud, LTE, and collaboration solutions.

“The technology permits us to understand the language of the plants,” remarked Michele Festuccia, Senior Systems Engineer Manager at Cisco Italy. “This is amazing to me, and it’s a perfect solution to help the farmers have a more sustainable footprint and the best success.”

The Tanzanian coffee growers are facing reduced rainy seasons due to climate change, forcing them to irrigate more. However, the IoT data will enable the farmers to optimise irrigation and only water when necessary – preserving precious water resources.

“We are addressing many challenges and potential advantages, for example, preserving the soil and saving water,” said Angelo Fienga, Cisco’s Director of Sustainable Solutions for EMEA. “But equally important is helping the farmers grow their businesses sustainably.”

Tanzania is among the world’s top-20 coffee producers, so boosting yields through sustainable practices is nationally significant. The researchers believe the IoT solution could be scaled to other crops and developing nations after proving successful with Tanzanian coffee farms.

The ConSenso project isn’t just about improving yields, it’s also studying coffee’s potential for carbon sequestration. “We are thinking that along with other reforestation efforts around the world, coffee plants can have an impact on climate change,” Festuccia said.

While initial estimates look promising, the researchers want to analyse three full growing seasons before making firm conclusions about coffee’s carbon capture capabilities. The first data insights will be shared in June after assimilation.

Looking ahead, Fienga is excited about the deployment of AI to extract further insights from the huge troves of IoT data. “AI, if properly trained, can extract insights from that data in ways that humans cannot,” he concludes.

(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

See also: Oil and gas industry sees rapid growth in IoT devices

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