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Future Trends and Emerging Technologies Shaping Precision Farming

by Sunday Precious

Precision farming is now the go-to technology in the Agricultural industry. Using Precision technologies, farmers can conserve resources by applying fertilizer, pesticides, and other required nutrients in precise quantities and at the right time when plants need them. This not only leads to more productivity but helps maintain soil fertility over a long period.

While there are several technologies shaping precision farming, there are some unique tools that can completely transform the world of precision farming as we know it. Let’s consider 3 of these technologies transforming the world of precision agriculture. 

Future Trends in Agriculture

As the world’s population is going to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 (United Nations Population Division), there is a pressing need to increase food production by 68%. However, achieving this goal without compromising the environment is a significant challenge. 

In the early 2000s, technology in agriculture was marked by the use of heavy machinery and bio-engineered materials. Examples include tractors, mowers, genetically advanced seedlings and fertilizers. These technologies overtime has been frowned upon by many institutions including the United Nations as they pose threats to human health and the environment as a whole. 

However, recent developments in agriculture have shown promising results. Rather than the use of heavy machinery, the introduction of digital tools is changing the game. Innovations such as automation, precision agriculture, and advanced data analysis is revolutionizing farming practices. 

A drone equipped with a spray nozzle flies over a large farm field, precisely applying water to crops. This image represents the use of drone technology in precision farming.
Source: Midjourney

The employment of robots, drones, and self-driving tractors is streamlining farming operations, making them more efficient. Furthermore, precision agriculture provides a way to conserve resources by precisely applying water, fertilizers, and pesticides according to the unique needs of each crop. These technological advancements are slowly changing what we used to know as agric-technology.

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Importance of Precision Farming

Precision farming has become crucial to modern agriculture. Here are four reasons why:

1. Optimisation of Resources: With the advent of precision farming, farmers can now use resources like water, pesticides, fertilizers, and fuel more efficiently. By applying farm resources precisely where you need them, and in the correct quantities, farmers can minimisewastage and costs.

2. Increased Productivity and Crop Quality: By providing real-time information about crop health, soil conditions, moisture levels, etc., precision farming empowers farmers to make data-driven decisions. This results in an improve in crop yield and quality as farmers can easily carry out interventions like irrigation, fertilization, and treatment application base on the specific needs of the crops, rather than on a uniform basis.

3. Protection of the Environment: Precision farming significantly contributes to environmental sustainability. Reducing the overuse of fertilizers, pesticides, and water, helps to minimisesoil degradation and water pollution, preserving the environment for future generations.

4. Soil Health Maintenance: Overuse of agricultural chemicals can potentially harm the soil microbiome, reducing soil fertility over time. Precision farming techniques strategically apply these materials, ensuring effective pest control and crop nutrition while preserving the soil’s health and productivity.

Knowing the importance of precision farming, let’s consider 3 top emerging technologies shaping the future of precision farming.

3 Technologies Transforming Precision Farming

Here are 3 technologies shaping precision agriculture;

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI Technology)

Artificial intelligence (AI) software used in precision farming to analyze data and improve agricultural decisions.
Source: Getty images

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technological branch that replicates human cognitive functions through artificial means, primarily via digital machinery, robotics, and sophisticated computer systems. Central to the concept of AI is Machine Learning (ML), a mechanism that employs algorithms allowing systems to comprehend data, discern patterns, and undertake decisions with minimal human engagement.

In precision agriculture, an extensive quantity of data is collected through diverse sources such as remote sensing technologies, soil monitoring devices, GPS, and Internet of Things (IoT) equipment. These data are then processed through statistical and mathematical methods using AI tools, leading to insightful interpretations and reliable forecasts.

This knowledge-driven approach plays a pivotal role in assisting farmers to fine-tune resource allocation and improve productivity. Here is how AI can be leveraged in precision farming

How It Works

Here are some ways AI can be utilized in different stages of production.

  • Pre-planting: Using Artificial Intelligence farmers can predict crop yield, carry out soil property evaluation, and find out irrigation requirements before planting. This improves the efficiency of resource use and potentially increases yields through better planning and soil management.
  • Growth Stage: After planting, AI assists in disease detection and weather prediction. Identifying diseases early can enable swift response and potentially minimise productivity loss. Additionally, accurate weather forecasting can profoundly impact farming activities planning.
  • Processing Stage: Artificial Intelligence is critical in estimating production requirements, and ensuring the delivery of high-quality and safe products. This use extends to the distribution cluster, where ML algorithms aid in storage, optimizing transportation, and detailed consumer analysis.

2. Blockchain Technology 

Blockchain technology changing the game in precision farming through improved storage and Integration with IoT for Data Collection and Verification

Source: Adobe stock images

If you have heard of Bitcoin, then you’ve probably seen or read an article about blockchain. But blockchain is not only relevant in the financial industry, it can also be utilized in the agricultural sector. Blockchain technology can be defined as a decentralized, secure, and transparent digital ledger system that records transactions in a series of interconnected blocks across a peer-to-peer network. It ensures that data is immutable and traceable, making it an invaluable tool in various sectors, including agriculture. 

Using blockchain technology in precision farming helps improve the precision and dependability of data related to crop health and the efficient management of this data. It allows for seamless collaboration and data sharing among farmers, suppliers, and consumers, while improving food safety through traceability. As blockchain technology evolves, its integration into precision agriculture promises increased efficiency, automation, and innovation, significantly impacting the future of sustainable farming practices.

How it Works

There are various ways blockchain technology can be utilized in precision farming. They include:

  • Integration with IoT for Data Collection and Verification: Blockchain serves as an essential technology in creating a secure and verifiable network of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices. This network continuously collects and records vital agricultural data – including soil conditions, weather patterns, and plant health – onto a Blockchain. This integration ensures that the data is not only tamper-proof but also easily verifiable, providing reliable digital proof for all recorded information.
  • Real-Time Crop Health Monitoring: Blockchain, when combined with IoT, enables farmers to monitor the health of their crops in real time. This synergy facilitates swift, informed decision-making for timely actions that support crop health.
  • Decentralized Imagery Data Storage: The technology offers a decentralized storage solution for imagery data gathered via drones or satellites, significantly reducing storage costs. This makes sophisticated predictive analytics more accessible to farmers worldwide and integrates seamlessly with Web3 platforms for data ownership, trade, and monetization opportunities.
  • Enhanced Supply Chain Communication: Blockchain improves communication within food supply chains by using sensors to quickly and securely relay information about potential issues, enabling faster response times to prevent losses and ensure food safety.
  • Traceability and Transparency: It provides a transparent tracking system for agricultural products from farm to market. This traceability enhances consumer trust by allowing them to make informed purchases based on the origin and quality of the products, thereby ensuring food authenticity and safety.

3. Satellites Technology 

Satellite technology in agriculture aiding in real time analysis of farmland and decision-making for precision farming
Source: Anka geographic information

The use of artificial satellites in orbit around the Earth for data collection and transmission is another key technology currently being utilized in precision farming. By harnessing the potential of satellite imagery, along with the capabilities of GPS and GIS tools, farmers can conduct real-time analysis of extensive farmland.

The integration of satellite technology is a crucial step toward agricultural modernization, allowing for precision, sustainability, and efficiency in farming practices. Farmers, using data from satellites, can provide more targeted treatments to distinct areas of their fields. This results in effective utilization of resources, decreased waste, and reduced environmental footprint.

How it works

Here are some ways satellite technology can be useful in precision farming:

  • Real-Time Field Monitoring: Satellite technology gives farmers an aerial view of their fields. It provides high-resolution images equipped with details on crop health, moisture levels, and vegetation density. The advanced sensors on satellites further deliver real-time data, empowering farmers to make well-informed decisions. This helps to swiftly address potential issues such as crop diseases, pest infestations, or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Autonomous Tractors: Using data obtained from satellites, as a farmer, the integration of autonomous tractors will become easier. These tractors use satellite-guided systems to navigate optimal routes through the fields, enhancing efficiency and reducing wastage by ensuring precision in their paths. This reduces the need for manual labour in farming.
  • Sustainability Monitoring: Satellites enable continuous monitoring of the environmental impact of farming activities, tracking changes such as soil erosion, deforestation, and land use. This vital data aids farmers in adopting sustainable land management practices, helping mitigate the adverse effects of agriculture on the environment and promoting eco-friendly farming.
  • Irrigation and Fertilization Optimization: By providing detailed insights into soil moisture content and nutrient levels, satellite technology is crucial in refining irrigation and fertilization practices. Farmers can utilize this data to customize their strategies, ensuring that crops receive the precise amount of water and nutrients necessary at the optimal time, thereby maximizing yield while conserving resources and reducing environmental footprint.

Additional Technology To Note

Aside from these 3 technologies listed, there are other innovative tech solutions making waves in the agricultural landscape, one such is the use of Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Drones play a significant role in precision agriculture by providing aerial imagery and data collection.

They can survey land quickly, monitor crop health, assist in the precision spraying of fertilizers and pesticides, and even in planting seeds. Their capability to cover large areas swiftly and gather detailed imagery helps in identifying issues like irrigation problems, soil variation, and pest infestations. (Read more here

Take Home Points

Conclusively, the agricultural landscape is undergoing a significant transformation, and only those who jump on this moving train will be able to increase productivity while also mitigating the negative impact agriculture has had on the environment in previous years.

 By embracing these emerging technologies and trends including blockchain, AI, and satellite technology you can contribute to a healthier planet. For updates on technologies and trends that have the power to reshape the landscape of Agri-technology, subscribe to our newsletters!

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