In the world of farming today, the use of the term ‘precision agriculture’ is increasing at an exponential rate and given its power to completely transform the productivity of a farm, the increase is justified and even extremely important.
In simple terms, precision farming can be defined as the use of technology and data to determine the type of farm inputs, the level of those inputs, and also the precise location of those inputs within the land.
In traditional farming, the entire plot of land is treated as one whole entity and the inputs are thus applied uniformly over the entire field. This doesn’t align with the actual input requirements for optimal production by the different parts of the land.
On the other hand, it recognizes the input requirements of each part of the land by identifying the different intra-field variabilities like the difference in soil properties, slopes, nutrient content, production levels, sunlight reception, and so on.
Precision farming is better than other conventional or traditional farming techniques because it relies on data generated by the use of technology, which is then analyzed by reliable computer programs as well as expert agronomists to make accurate predictions and recommend precision farming solutions in a timely manner to the farmers.
In fact, it can go as far as to actually make those interventions or administer the different inputs in the farm with the help of technology-driven machinery and equipment.
Some of these methods used for data collection are field-based sensors, drones, satellite imageries, etc while an example of direct input through precision-agriculture includes the use of robotic devices fitted to GPS-guided autonomous tractors.
Overall, it not only makes the farmlands and agribusinesses more profitable but also very sustainable in the long run.
How the Internet of Things (IoT) is used in agriculture today?
Internet of things is considered as the backbone of modern agriculture which is basically the act of connecting objects and devices with sensors to measure the required data and transmit the data via a network.
In case, the various things and objects that are included in the IoT include the farmland itself, the crops, weather, machinery, etc. So the use of IoT to achieve increased yield, alleviate operational expenses, and also achieve environmental sustainability is called precision farming.
The utilization of IoT in agriculture today for precision practices is mostly done through AgTech solution providers like GeoPard Agriculture because of the complexity of the processes involved in a holistic precision agriculture practice.
For instance, given the developmental stage of a plant, its level of greenness may reveal its nutritional needs.
The data on the level of the greenness of the plants are gathered and analyzed using the Crop-Monitoring solution which uses images obtained from satellites like the Landsat and sentinel multispectral images and then creates detailed maps of your land revealing its specific input needs.
Similarly, we all know that topography has a large influence on farming decisions like species selection, irrigation needs and determines the final production by controlling aspects like light reception and water retention.
So, precision farming solutions like Topography analytics lets you create very accurate topographical models of your farm using elevation, slope, and aspect data obtained from field-based GPS attached to machinery as well as LIDAR and satellite data.
Soil is the most important part of agriculture and the type and quality of soil determine the type, quality, and quantity of farm yields.
Hence, understanding your farm’s soil precisely translates to a precise understanding of your input needs for optimum production and environmental protection.
Tools like Soil Data Analytics do just that by providing you with precise locations for soil data sampling and using those sampling data combined with other data layers to create a high-resolution visualization of all the necessary soil attributes.
Based on the variability of those attributes across the land, you can obtain and plan the different types and intensities of inputs like fertilizers and cropping patterns.
The IoT tools mentioned above are only a few of the many tools you use in an integrated model of precision farming.
All these tools and the data obtained from them work seamlessly in a network that provides you with much-needed timely information to optimize your production and alleviate operational costs.
Why should you turn to precision agriculture?
Considering the global problem of food shortage and the limited availability of arable farmland, it is highly recommended to adopt it as it allows for maximum yield while minimizing overall costs.
The only obstacles to implementing precision agriculture are limited access to technology and a lack of knowledge and skills, both of which can be overcome with precision farming solutions readily available.
So let’s look at some of the reasons why precision farming is the way towards a sustainable and profitable agribusiness.
1. Precision farming reduces the costs associated with farming
This might sound counterintuitive at first since the use of technology in your farmlands obviously sounds like an expensive venture.
However, precision-farming tools like GeoPard have become extremely accessible and affordable to farmers and these costs are nothing in comparison to the numerous long-term costs you will save by optimizing the actual level of inputs like fertilizers and herbicides you need to use in precise locations of your farms.
It also dramatically reduces the ever-increasing human labor cost from the agriculture economics equation thus reducing your costs marginally.
2. Precision farming increases the yield and thus the overall profitability
As mentioned earlier, precision-agriculture increases profit by cutting costs.
But even more than that, the major goal of precision farming is to maximize the crop yields from your farmland by accurately measuring the farmland attributes, analyzing those data, and suggesting or implementing solutions that will yield the most productive in the long run.
Long-term productivity is key here because it combines spatial data with temporal data to give you precision farming solutions that are suited for your long-term production goals.
3. Precision farming ensures environmental sustainability
In contrast to conventional farming methods that often neglect environmental concerns such as pollution, nutrient leaching, and waterbody contamination, it prioritizes environmental sustainability.
This approach considers the necessary environmental standards that must be met to enhance the environmental value of products and tap into new markets, leading to potential economic benefits.
4. Precision agriculture combines technical expertise with farmers’ experience
It is an often overlooked benefit of turning into precision agriculture but adopting any level of precision farming technology in your farm means that your agribusiness will be driven by better agronomical expertise while you will retain the ability to use your experience in light of the better understanding of your own field at a higher resolution.
Especially in the case of small farms, it only provides you with accurate and detailed information and suggestions, but it is up to you, the farmer to use that information and manage your agricultural farm according to your needs which brings us to the next and final point.
5. Precision farming is suitable for all farm sizes
Large farms and farming organizations use advanced and sophisticated machines and networks as large-scale precision farming. However, the majority of the food we eat in today’s world still comes from small farms. Although the type of precision agriculture tools varies according to farm size, they are applicable in all sizes of farms.
For small farms, tools like handheld GPS, small drones, and services like mobile apps with offline capabilities, cloud-based analytics, etc. can make a huge impact on the overall operation and productivity of the farm. With increased spatial resolution and low prices offered, the small size of the farm should not be a reason to not turn into precision farm today.
How to get started with precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture, Internet of Things (IoT), advanced machinery, data analytics, and other associated terminologies might be distressing at first glance if you are not quite familiar with these terms and this is the main reason why many farmers tend to stay away from precision-farming.
However, it is simply the act of obtaining more detailed and precise information about your own farm so that you can make the best decisions. While getting started with it, you need to understand the following things for the best results.
Precision agriculture must always start with a clear understanding of your specific needs since it serves more than one purpose increasing yields, reducing costs, improving operational efficiency, and enhancing sustainability.
So first, a specific set of needs and expectations derived from a proper evaluation of your farm is the perfect way to start your precision journey.
Now you need to choose the tools that will best fit your needs. For this, you need to consult with experts, go to conferences, or simply contact the solution providers to gain information on specific tools and technologies.
While starting out on precision practices, it is always best to choose user-friendly tools that you or your staff can properly navigate and operate if needed. Also, even though you need not go on the details of the tools, it is always a good idea to have a basic understanding of how the tools and overall network works.
Finally, the actual implementation of the tools and the proper utilization of technology as well as the information obtained is the key to a successful precision farming operation.
It is also critical to understand that precision farming is a long terms approach that works best when multiple data layers are combined and tools are integrated into a common network rather than working independently.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can GPS be used in precision farming?
GPS (Global Positioning System) plays a vital role in precision farming. Firstly, GPS technology enables accurate and precise mapping of fields, allowing farmers to create digital boundaries and track field boundaries, aiding in precise farm management.
Secondly, GPS enables guidance systems for automated machinery, ensuring precise and consistent operations such as seeding, spraying, and harvesting.
Thirdly, GPS data can be integrated with other data sources like soil sampling and yield maps, providing valuable insights for site-specific management decisions. Lastly, GPS helps in creating accurate records and documenting activities for compliance and traceability purposes.
2. How much does precision agriculture cost?
The cost of precision agriculture can vary depending on several factors. It involves investments in technology, equipment, software, and data management systems. The specific needs of the farm, the scale of operations, and the level of precision desired all impact the overall cost. Additionally, ongoing expenses may include maintenance, upgrades, and training.
3. Why is precision agriculture also called site-specific agriculture?
It is also referred to as site-specific agriculture due to its focus on tailoring farming practices to specific locations within a field or farm. By utilizing technologies such as GPS, remote sensing, and data analytics, it enables farmers to identify and manage variations in soil composition, moisture levels, nutrient requirements, and crop health across their fields.
4. What is the difference between power farming and traditional farming?
The key difference between power farming and traditional farming lies in the level of mechanization and technology used. Power farming, also known as mechanized or modern farming, heavily relies on advanced machinery and technology to carry out farming operations. It involves the use of tractors, harvesters, irrigation systems, and other mechanized tools.
Traditional farming, on the other hand, often involves manual labor, basic tools, and traditional farming practices passed down through generations. Power farming enables increased efficiency, larger-scale production, and higher productivity compared to the labor-intensive and smaller-scale methods of traditional farming.Precision Farming