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What Does Precision Agriculture Entail?

Jun 28, 2022

Satellite technology is transforming the way farmers manage crops and livestock, and it might also hold part of the answer how agriculture can adapt to the impacts of climate change – and reduce contributing to it.

What Does Precision Agriculture Entail?

Satellite technology is transforming the way farmers manage crops and livestock, and it might also hold part of the answer how agriculture can adapt to the impacts of climate change – and reduce contributing to it. 

 

Agriculture is a constantly evolving process with plenty of new technologies to help manage and optimize crop growth. One pillar to help farmers improve crop production is the concept of precision farming and the use of satellite imagery to help determine where and how much intervention is needed.

 

In this extensive article, I want to take a look at what exactly precision agriculture entails, how satellite imagery works.

 

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What is Precision Agriculture?

Precision agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes and analyzes temporal, spatial and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.

 

This definition is quite a mouthful, let’s try to make it a bit easier to understand: Precision agriculture is a farm management strategy, which seeks to optimize crop production using observable data. Thus reducing external resource input (fertilizer, water, land, pesticides) to improve field yields, plant quality, and sustainability.

 

Precision agriculture uses a huge variety of observational systems to gather as much information as possible. Some examples include:

 

● Satellite Imagery

● GPS-Managed Machinery (e.g., tractors)

● Drones

● In-field (nutrients) tests

● Weather observation

● Farming Robots

● Machine Learning

 

The benefits for large farming operations are quite obvious, but how about small-scale farms, which rarely exceed 1-10 acres? Elements of Precision agriculture have been a gold standard for anyone growing crops. Observing the weather, managing soil nutrients, and observing crop development are essential parts of a farmer’s job, regardless of operation size. Precision agriculture simply seeks to improve the decision-making reliability; however not all technologies are applicable for small-scale farms, but even small operations can see huge benefits from the ones that are!


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Potentials of precision farming 

Precision farming, or precision agriculture, has been an expanding area of technology since the 1990s. It is the use of a wide variety of tech – GPS, robots, drones, sensors – to increase knowledge and efficiency in agricultural practices. A more efficient farm will be more sustainable as farmers require less energy, and less fertilizer to gain better outcomes.  

Satellites float above us at heights of up to 36,000km. From their vantage point, they can observe vast tracts of farmland and give us insights that are harder to grasp from ground level. There are three key ways in which satellites can support farmers to make efficient, sustainable choices:  

● Mapping – understanding how large areas of land are used for different types of agriculture. 

● Measuring – plugging satellite data into complex algorithms to provide measurements on a range of properties, such as yield and crop growth stage. 

● Monitoring – over time, images enable scientists and farmers to see how land use has developed, or spot changes in rainfall and drought patterns.  


The knowledge gained from these processes can help farmers better understand a range of farming issues, such as areas in need of more or less irrigation; where their livestock roam; which fertilizer to use, and where; the impact of new weather patterns; and so much more.  


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