How precision agriculture helps feed our growing world

Agriculturists and professionals face a wide range of challenges including the shrinking availability of arable land and water, consumer expectations, preserving sustainability, and a steady innovation pipeline. 

On a global level, there are even greater problems at stake: According to the FAO, moderate or severe food insecurity affects one-quarter of the world population. The UN warns that there are increasing challenges surrounding soil biodiversity and productivity leading to a rapid decline in soil health, water filtration, CO2 sequestration, and other ecosystem functions.’ 

Solutions to these pressing problems must be found, sooner rather than later. While farming was once a trial-and-error undertaking, today farmers must find more guaranteed methods to compensate for diminishing resources and meet an ever-growing demand. 

In recent years, farmers have turned to precision agriculture to help solve the many challenges connected to modern-day cultivation. 

What is precision agriculture?

Precision agriculture refers to the use of new technologies and data analysis in order to create more efficient and less costly cultivation methods. One can trace back its origin to the 1990s when PDAs and laptops enabled farmers to record soil sample locations, trace boundaries, and make notations while on the move.  

Subsequently, as both software and hardware technologies became available, new opportunities were explored. Companies, consultants, and retailers began developing proprietary programs using a variety of visual interfaces, sensors, and devices. But it soon became clear that hardware and software weren’t really “speaking the same language.” There wasn’t enough compatibility between the various elements involved in field testing to obtain a complete picture for optimal results analysis.

The development of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), in addition to drones and newer mapping tools, presents opportunities to merge hardware and software and provide customized solutions for farmers and agriculture professionals seeking customized solutions for data-driven and predictive insights to increase yield, accelerate new product development, decrease costs and increase sustainability efforts. 

What tools are used in precision agriculture technology?

In the last decade, we have witnessed the development of end-to-end precision agriculture technologies and smart data inputs based on advanced precision agriculture technology and smart data input. These platforms include decision support systems for best management practices such as  

  • Data-driven analysis best practices – Information organization is vital when seeking to maximize production and reduce costs. There is no limit to the amount of data available in agriculture today. What is often missing is the ability to properly ingest, cleanse, and govern data so that real insights can be made. Such as maximizing production and reducing costs based on better analysis and data-driven decisions.
  • Yield monitoring – Increasing crop productivity is one of the main advances precision agriculture provides today. For example, grain yield monitors constantly record the flow of grain to the combine. When linked to a GPS receiver, they can also provide crucial data for yield mapping.
  • Grid soil sampling –  Grid soil sampling is an intensified form of regular soil sampling. With advanced soil sampling, GPS mapping aids in proper tracing and tracking of inputs such as fertilizers.
  • Remote sensing –  Acquiring data from locations that are typically manual in collection such as crop and field information is where remote sensing shines.  Sensors can, for example, evaluate crop health, identify pests or infestations, estimate yield, map a field, assess crop condition, manage irrigation, and identify plant stress. With advanced data analytics, information from these sensors can be layered together to provide deeper insights versus singular data points.
  • Autonomous machinery– Whether planting, applying crop protection inputs, or fertilizers, improved precision in machinery application results in more efficient use of resources and a lower environmental impact. Tractors have come a long way from just mapping the field to now being fully autonomous and even controllable by a farmer’s smartphone. They can also collect additional data such as images from the field for better analysis of crop conditions.

Why is precision agriculture important?

Precision agriculture offers several key benefits such as enabling better crop health, yield management, and meeting sustainability targets. 

  • Crop nutrition optimization – Precision agriculture  can enable the maximum utilization of nutrients. These are most notably known as the “the 4 Rs”:
  • The right source – As with most things in agriculture, “one size does not fit all.” Precision agriculture helps uncover which balance of nutrients is best for every section of a field. The proper balance ensures effective plant uptake and growth.
  • The right place – It’s not enough to have the right balance of nutrients, because the location is crucial too. Precision agriculture tools such as a GPS ensure that nutrients reach exactly the right spot where they are needed, preventing loss and damage. 
  • The right rate – Advanced soil analysis technology is crucial to determine an accurate balance between adequate nutrient quantities and necessary supplementation. The use of this tool cuts costs of nutrients and diminishes waste.
  • The right time – Applying the 3 Rs above is obviously important, but timing is no less crucial. By analyzing all of the actionable data acquired around crop uptake and field operation systems, you can accurately determine when the nutrients will achieve the most benefit for the crops, thereby maximizing outcomes.
  • Better decision-making –  Farmers and agriculture professionals have first-hand knowledge of their land’s strengths and weaknesses. Precision agriculture technology provides accurate scientific tools to better understand why certain areas of land are performing better than others. When a farmer is armed with actionable data about every aspect of their farm, along with their historical expertise, they can make well-informed decisions to improve the quality and quantity of their crops. 
  • Higher productivity – Advanced precision agriculture technology enables one to drill down and reach a deeper understanding regarding soil types and nutrient levels on their farm. The soil water-holding capability and the amounts of nitrogen mineralization may vary from one area to the next, necessitating precise settings according to localized nutritional needs. For example, the use of VR desiccation enables easier harvesting. The bottom line is that healthier crops equal higher yields and greater economic profit. 
  • Efficient use of resources –  The use of precision agriculture enables farmers to reduce consumption and waste. Thanks to actionable data, you can make the best use of nutrients in each specific area, and cut the costs of herbicides, reduce emissions, and soil compaction. Automated systems can also provide operators with more accurate recommendations on how to maximize their workforce for higher productivity and crop output.
  • Lower environmental impact – The ability to pinpoint the exact amounts of pesticides and fertilizers required for specific sites enhances sustainability and reduces the carbon footprint. The use of advanced irrigation systems supports less waste of resources and decreases runoff and contamination. These technologies help growers achieve better yields and reduce the environmental impacts of their operations. 

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Agmatix solutions: taking precision farming to new levels

Precision agriculture is increasingly becoming the norm for efficient farming. Farmers today have many new and amazing technologies available at their fingertips. However, in order to achieve maximum efficiency, profitability, and sustainability, precision agriculture must be used in conjunction with big data and analytics.

Agmatix is an agroinformatics company that uses data science and advanced AI technology to transform agronomic data into actionable insights at field-level. The platform gathers, harmonizes, and standardizes agronomic data and allows researchers, agronomists, and farmers a comprehensive trial management solution from trial design to orchestration, data collection, and statistical analysis. Thus transforming how agronomic data is analyzed today. 

The Agamtix platform can also calculate a nutritional plan for a specific crop, and estimate the carbon footprint based on the inputs and practices used at individual field levels. Its immediate impact is based on field parameters, environmental conditions, agronomic practices, crop type, fertilizer type, and timing of application. 

Our innovative data-driven ag solutions resolve issues around data standardization and remove gut decisions often taking place in agriculture today. We dramatically increase the ability of our customers to make better decisions that impact higher crop yields, and crop health, and promote sustainable agriculture practices.