What Is the Environmental Cost of Chocolate and How Is This Related to IoT?
The cost of a piece of chocolate could be greatly impacted by IoT. Check out this post to learn more about smart farming and reducing carbon footprints.
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Don't we all love chocolate? Chocolate does not only harm our teeth and our diet, but it also harms the environment, believe it or not, to the highest extent. Recently, a study of the University of Manchester drew our attention with regards to the chocolate carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of chocolate production in the U.K. The study measures that 2.1m tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) are produced annually from the UK’s chocolate industry. Just imagine how this can be translated on a global scale! And now comes the question, can IoT help reduce chocolate’s carbon footprint if integrated into the production process? More than likely, yes, and in various ways. This article takes a look at some of the most common IoT solutions available today.
Wait, What Is a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment. It calculates the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, directly and indirectly, caused by a particular human activity over a given period, and it is expressed in equivalent tons of CO2.
Chocolate, an Unexpected Journey
Let's see the essential ingredients of a milk chocolate, cocoa, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar; all these raw materials should undergo some processing until the creation of the final product.
At our hypothetical example of the chocolate life circle, we will consider the following steps to be taken. First, cocoa trees and sugar cane must be cultivated and harvested in order to extract cocoa and sugar respectively; at the same time, the cows must be reared in order to produce the milk. Second, all the necessary processing of the raw materials takes place in order to produce the final product, chocolate. Cocoa beans are transferred to the factory and the production procedure is composed of several stages; these include roasting of the cocoa seeds, grinding and extracting the “cocoa liquor," blending and mixing it with milk and sugar, and molding it to cool and take the final form. Lastly, we have to package and distribute our favorite chocolate, by various means of transport, to the supermarket shelf.
Here Comes IoT to the Rescue
As IoT is flourishing, it is a necessity that we attempt to use this technology to reduce our carbon footprint. IoT can be used in various stages of cultivation and production processes and, without a doubt, can act as a cornerstone to decrease greenhouse emissions.
An extremely common problem that requires our attention is the use of fertilizers and pesticides. The use of pesticides can be excessive, and at the same time, it can be fatal for the environment. But how will crops deter pests without their use?
Clearly, in the agricultural sector, we can identify an abundance of IoT solutions that can be applied in our case study, notably the most ubiquitous solution is smart farming.
A great number of customizable sensors nowadays allow farmers to collect a large amount of data about their crops and soil status in real time. Thus, farmers, by deploying sensors, are able to achieve better monitoring of their fields and consequently minimize the use of pesticides and their impact on the environment. Additionally, this helps them to reduce their waste resources. IoT is a technology that enables sensors to go online and provision the various measurements in the cloud, which opens a brand new horizon to the reduction of the carbon footprint of crops, something that was impossible so far.
Another striking example is smart irrigation. An important issue of crops is the control of the soil moisture, temperature, humidity, and light conditions of the environment. The most beneficial way to accomplish the proper monitoring of the arable land is the use of smart sensors, depending on the use case. Let’s examine each sensor separately in order to understand what they are able to offer.
Soil Moisture Sensors
Soil moisture sensors measure the moisture level in the soil, which is extremely important for the irrigation management and monitoring. Specifically, measuring the soil moisture condition of the crops and receiving all the data in real time is not only cost saving but it also can be a break of relief concerning the water waste. We also need to take into account that, knowing the exact soil moisture conditions, additional problems can also be avoided, such as the excessive watering and vice versa, which can be harmful to the crop. With the help of IoT, irrigation data are accessible anytime and enable farmers to make vital adjustments depending on the current needs.
These sensors can be combined with soil moisture sensors in order to get better measurements of the water requirements. If we consider our use case, it is necessary to get measurements about the soil’s temperature as well. Having as much information as possible about the crops, the farmers can not only make optimal decisions at the proper time, but they are able to respond promptly in any environmental change.
Humidity sensors can measure and report the levels of humidity, air moisture, and air temperature. Combined with the aforementioned sensors, we can have a complete solution for the irrigation requirements that can be applied in a variety of use cases.
Time schedulers are another great solution, due to the fact that it helps farmers to determine water requirements at the right time. This function is essential in our use case if we consider that cocoa trees are cultivated in tropical climates and are very sensitive to a soil water deficiency. Also, we should keep in mind that these systems help to control wasteful water consumption.
Making simple steps by controlling the water consumption through smart irrigation and regulating the use of pesticides through smart farming, we are now able to reduce the amount of energy used and, as a result, decrease our carbon emissions.
So, keep enjoying your chocolates, IoT can take care of the rest!
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