From the Internet of Oysters, a pearl of an idea emerges…

The Internet of Things (IoT) is literally making a difference in the field. And the estuary. And the bay. Today, oyster farmers and growers are now using IoT to help them increase their yields and make the entire farm-to-table food chain more sustainable.

microsoft_barillabay_635The story of Ros Harvey’s entrée to the world of IoT and food production came in the form of a business problem: How to help Tasmanian farmers sustainably manage their oyster supply.

Always a problem solver, Harvey, CEO of The Yield, has cultivated a globe-spanning career in the worlds of social enterprise, international development and labor in the apparel industry. While not a technologist by training, she was an early adopter of Microsoft cloud technology as a way to connect, share and negotiate across continents, languages, governments and manufacturers.

When Harvey left her job with the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and returned home to Tasmania, she set her sights on helping the local economy, where agriculture and aquaculture play a large role. In 2014, she founded The Yield, an agricultural technology startup, and put her problem-solving skills to work helping Tasmanian oyster farmers deal with ongoing challenges from weather and pollution.

microsoft_barillabay_1056Oysters feed by filtering nourishment from the water in marine estuaries. This makes them particularly susceptible to pollution. So when heavy rains fall, Australian regulators shut down oyster harvesting out of concern for potential contaminants in stormwater runoff. In the past, because there was no way to assess the real danger of contaminants other than monitoring rainfall, oyster farmers faced losses of millions of dollars each time there was a heavy rain.

In order to better assess the state of the water quality, Harvey and her team at The Yield used IoT to create a sort of “Internet of Oysters” – a series of real-time sensors, powered by Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite, that sit in the oyster estuaries, monitor the quality of the water around the oysters and send the data to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform where machine learning and advanced analytics deliver data-based predictions to both oyster growers and regulators via real-time dashboards.

The system was so successful The Yield turned its attention to helping other local farmers take advantage of IoT-based tools and technologies to sustainably manage their crop production as they cope with the growing uncertainty of weather and other challenges brought about by climate change.

“The Yield has two purposes, says Harvey: “Feed the world without wrecking the planet, and create public good with private effort.”

microsoft_houstons_c1_1644Harvey sees the transformative power in IoT technology, and has focused her company’s efforts on innovating new technologies and business models that help farmers, government regulators and the entire food supply chain work together more effectively. For example, IoT sensors in fruit and vegetable fields monitor and relay the weather’s effects – at the field, row and even plant level – to help farmers make better, faster decisions about when and how to plant, nourish, protect and harvest their crops.

By taking some the guesswork out of growing through IoT technology, farmers can save money and make the entire food chain, from farm to table, more sustainable.

Read more about Ros Harvey, The Yield and the Internet of Oysters on the Transform blog. And for more information about how Microsoft IoT can transform your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.

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