Over the years, the agricultural operation aspect has evolved from growing crops to selling farm equipment. It’s true, the precision agriculture will help feed the world. Our primary focus has become the technology used in farming.
Agriculture, generally, has undergone an evolution. Technology has become an essential part of doing business for every farmer, ag merchant, and an agronomist. In reality, a recent study by Hexa Reports implies precision agriculture is possible to grow to $43.4 billion by 2025. For an idea that was born in the 1990s, that’s quite impressive.
The adoption rate of technology in agriculture should not be surprising to anybody. Farmers are encouraged to use technology to improve efficiency and manage costs.
But What Does The Phrase “Precision Agriculture” Mean?
Precision agriculture is also called precision farming or precision ag. The simplest way to understand precision ag is to consider it as everything that makes the practice of farming more controlled and accurate when it comes to the growing of crops and raising livestock. A vital part of the farm management approach is the use of information technologies and a wide variety of items like robotics, drones, control systems, GPS guidance, autonomous vehicles, sensors, variable rate technology, GPS-based soil sampling, automatic hardware, telematics, and software.
The First Wave of Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture started with the introduction of GPS guidance for tractors in the early 1990s, and this technology is now so widespread that it’s possibly the most common example of precision ag today. Originally, John Deere introduced this tech using GPS location information from satellites. A GPS-connected controller in a farming tractor automatically controls the equipment according to the coordinates of a field. This lessens steering mistakes by drivers, and hence any overlap passes on the field. This leads to less wasted fuel, seed, fertilizer, and time.
Precision agronomics is another relevant term related to the combining of methodology with technology. At its core, it is about providing precise farming methods for planting and growing plants.
Precision agronomics can involve some of the following components:
Variable-rate technology (VRT) — Variable-rate technology refers to any technology that allows the different inputs and will enable farmers to manage the number of inputs they apply in a particular site. The technology’s essential components include a computer, software, controller, and a differential global positioning system (DGPS). There are three basic ways to using VRT — sensor-based, map-based, and manual. The adoption of variable rate technology is presently estimated at 15% in North America. It is likely to continue to increase over the next five years.
GPS soil sampling — Examining a field’s soil shows available nutrients, pH level, and a range of other essential data for making informed and profitable decisions. Essentially, soil sampling makes it possible for farmers to think about growth differences within a field and make a plan that takes these differences into consideration. Collection and sampling services worth the effort will allow the information to be used for input for variable rate applications for optimizing fertilizer and seeding.
Computer-based applications — Computer applications may be used to make specific farm programs, field maps, crop scouting, and yield maps. This allows for the accurate application of inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, thus helping to reduce costs, produce higher yields, and make a more environmentally-friendly operation.
The challenge with these software systems is that they occasionally deliver a narrow value, which doesn’t allow information to be utilized for making more significant farm decisions, particularly with the support of a specialist. Another issue with many software applications is poor consumer interfaces and the inability to incorporate the information they supply with different information sources to enrich and show substantial value to farmers.
Remote sensing technologies — Since the 1960s, remote technology has been used in agriculture. It can be an invaluable tool for tracking and managing water, land, and other sources.
It helps determine everything from what factors could be stressing a crop at a particular point in time to determining the amount of moisture in the soil. This information enriches decision-making on the farm and can come from several sources such as drones and satellites.
At its most basic level, Agronomics takes the role of an agronomist. It helps to make the methods they use more scalable and accurate.
The aim of precision agriculture and precision ergonomics will be to ensure efficiency, profitability, and sustainability while saving the environment. This is attained by using the big data gathered via this technology to direct both future and immediate decisions on everything from where in the field to apply a specific pace to when it is ideal for applying chemical, seed, or fertilizer.
While precision agriculture principles have existed for at least 25 years, it has only been over recent years they’ve become mainstream due to technological progress and the adoption of other, more comprehensive technologies. The adoption of mobile devices, access to the high-speed net, low cost, and reliable satellites (for positioning and vision) and farm equipment optimized for precision agriculture from the manufacturer. All these are the critical technologies characterizing the tendency for precision agriculture. Some experts have indicated that over 50 percent of today’s farmers utilize a minimum of one precision farming practice.
Advocating For Excellence
Precision agriculture innovation continues, and a growing number of farms are embracing available technology and practices. As with any other business, we need more advocates to make greater adoption and hence greater efficiency. Farmers want support to successfully implement new technologies to ensure success.
High-tech terms like robots, drones, sensors, Geo-mapping, and large data come up when talking precision ag. Not only are those theories misunderstood and complicated, but they all include a price tags– and often big ones.
All this complexity and expense has led to the relatively slow adoption of several PA practices on farms across America. Nevertheless, recently, growers big and small have begun tapping into the emerging opportunity of PA.
A United States Department of Agriculture report of 2016 shows:
- GPS-based mapping systems, such as yield monitors, are used on about 50 percent of all soybean and corn farms in the U.S.
- Guidance and auto-steer systems have been used by around 33 percent of corn and soybean farms
- Soil mapping with GPS coordinates and variable speed technology for applying inputs are utilized on 16 to 26 percent of those farms.
In 2017, 261 farmers engaged in the precision ag survey conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 65% of participants stated they strongly agree that PA is useful, while 70 percent of participants said they use farm management software in their PC.
The survey participants rated how essential reasons were for using precision ag on the farm. ‘Better harvest management,” improved tools and labor’ and how to ‘lessen crop input costs were rated as the top three reasons for embracing PA.
Why Invest in Precision Ag?
When your software and hardware can communicate with each other, you won’t need to spend as many nights as late planning your next steps–it will be managed by the capabilities of precision ag. By enhancing your efficiency, you can have food at home and make it to family events and get-togethers. The ripple impact of precision ag moves beyond your operation, providing you more than just monetary value.
But that does not mean PA won’t help your bottom line. There are a price and time-saving benefit to your farm, which may be accomplished through implementing PA. Studies indicate that the ROI in PA varies based on several factors, such as the size and type of farm, specific technology used, and how the data is examined and implemented.
However, when PA is introduced correctly and part of a general plan, various research studies demonstrate that PA technology can reduce labor and crop input costs, reduce your water use and save you headaches and time when planning and executing each farming season.
The most important thing is that to know is that PA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one may not for others. Implementing solutions that work particularly for your farm and looking at each and every operation is the only way to get a positive ROI and to utilize PA.
It’s the technology that binds your whole farm together, providing you the control and visibility you want to make better decisions. When you’re able to make better choices, you know you’re getting the most from the operation, giving you peace of mind and renewed confidence.
5 Ideas to Help You Succeed with Precision Agriculture
Trying to decide which PA technology is perfect for your farm can look like an intimidating task. However, the solutions involved in your farm can be simple and should be accurate for your operation. If you move to PA with the right approach, you can be successful and see a significant return on your investment.
1. Start With A Goal
Whenever you spend on things in which you don’t have any solution, your operation should be part of your business plan and resolve a problem. Creative problem-solving has been done on the farm for centuries. But the solution is found within a piece of technology rather than in the shop.
2. Understand The Management And Maintenance Required
Good technology should work. If you are going to spend the money on spraying, new seeding, and harvesting monitors, you have to calibrate the machines in routine, organize the data, make sure it’s accurate and take action based on the data.
Like on any piece of equipment on your farm, PA technology will need to be maintained to maximize their potential.
Moreover, it is essential to know how different PA technologies can work together to provide the best results. A seed tracking system such as the Field-IQ™ Crop Input Control System can be utilized in conjunction with the TMX-2050 ™ Display or the GFX-750 ™ Display. When used together, you can precisely monitor and map your fields in real-time and correct problems as they arise. You can even simplify the precision ag data management using attributes like Autosync™ that links to other information sources.
3. Do Not Be Afraid To Make Mistakes
As long as you are making PA decisions depending on data and not on sentiment, any missteps should be little and learned from fast. In actuality, much of the success of using PA technology is accomplished through trial and error. Recognizing the mistake and making alterations in the present moment will ensure your PA technologies are achieving their objective of higher productivity and efficiency.
4. Have A Support Network
Making the Right PA choices for your farm isn’t easy–particularly the initial ones. Having substantial help from a Trimble Vantage Reseller can be a big aid for a starting investment, as you assess your data every season and when you increase the technologies used in your farming practices.
5. Get Connected
The Internet is a powerful tool to find other farmers who are making similar decisions on their farms. Web platforms such as YouTube and Twitter can majorly expand your support network. It’s a terrific idea to look for testimonials and reviews before you invest in any technology. Farmers from all over the world post online reviews that offer the advantages and disadvantages of products and equipment, which is free and invaluable.
Instant weather reporting, traceability, and up-to-the-minute commodity marketplace information are data sets that are being addressed by the latest PA software solutions–to receive and send this information automatically and immediately from your workplace or the tractor.
A situation in the not-too-distant future may look like this: You’re seeding your land, and the weather forecast changes to a much-needed rain. With this information, you increase the fertilizer rate to benefit from the added moisture in the soil. Because your cab is web-enabled, this modification is reflected in your marketing program, cash flow, yield projections, and your fertilizer order sheet. There is no need for office work or any data entry as your entire operation is integrated and automated.
Data integration won’t only help you focus on growing crops but growing the best possible crop.
The Future’s Precision Ag Farm
As farmers embrace precision agriculture, new technologies will continue to develop. The next advancement will be the usage of artificial intelligence. While AI will never be able to replicate the kind of complicated decisions farmers are needed to make daily, it could very well be used to help make those decisions easier.
The farmers of today have access to the wealth of data. So much data, actually, they don’t know what to do with it. AI has the capability of using it to analyzing tremendous amounts of information in a brief period and suggest the best strategy. This information could be used to predict the best time to plant, to predict the eruptions of pests and disease before they happen, and to contribute in-field inventory management that could give yield predictions before harvest.
This concept’s vision is simple. It is one in which you have the right technology to address your issues, improving your farming operation and life. The continuous integration of technology on your farm enables you to turn your precision ag equipment into true decision-making tools for your agriculture. That’s the ultimate goal of precision agriculture.
We hope this gives you some knowledge about precision agriculture today and the continued significant role in the coming years. Expect industry and technology firms to continue to explore the possibilities posed by the union of technology with the requirements of the ag farmers to produce enough food to feed the world’s projected 9 billion people by 2050.