Precision Farming - Modern Agriculture Revolution
THIRD MODERN FARMING REVOLUTION
The world is at the edge of the third modern farming revolution and precision farming is an important part of it. The first farming revolution that occurred from 1900 to the 1930s, mechanized agriculture leaving each farmer able to produce enough for 26 people. Long after that, it was the 1990s when the second revolution known as the Green revolution took place. Due to scientific progression genetically modified newer sets of crops that are pest resistant and needed less water were introduced, leaving each farmer able to feed 155 people. The global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and food production must be double the current levels to feed every person. Advanced analytical capabilities and constantly improving IoT will be key elements in the third revolution, making each farmer capable of feeding 256 people.
What is Precision Farming and its Importance in Agricultural Revolution?
Understanding precision farming definition in the true sense of the term is crucial for farmers as well as their associated brands. It is a farm management concept that revolves around the process of observing, measuring, and responding to various inter-and intra-field variability inputs for modern agriculture.
Popular definitions of Precision Agriculture (PA), Satellite Farming, or Site-Specific Crop Management (SSCM) describe the term as ‘a technology-enabled approach to farming management that observes, measures, and analyzes the needs of individual fields and crops’. According to McKinsey, the Precision farming invention is shaped by two trends: Big Data and Advanced Analytics Capabilities, and Robotics — aerial imagery, sensors, and sophisticated local weather forecasts. In simple words farming that collects and uses data from plots for managing and optimizing the production of crops is known as predictive farming.
Predictive farming is analogous to taking a pill to target an ailment. The solutions are highly tailored from the type of crop suitable for a plot to the use of pesticides in targeted regions only. Adopting precision agriculture and modern farming reduces the production cost and wastage, as the tailored needs of each plot are catered to. Precision farming is practiced by adopting analytical software and the use of technical equipment. Rigorous data collection is done on soil testing, plot measurement, weather pattern analysis, and crop analysis through sensor-equipped devices placed on the fields. The data is calibrated to devise conclusions and based upon those results a very detailed and precise set of practices can be adopted.
NEED FOR PRECISION FARMING
In developing economies, 32% of food losses occur during food production as analyzed by McKinsey on FAO data.
Conventional farming practices are area-centric. There is a general set of crops cultivated throughout an area. All the farmers in that area follow the same procedures with respect to the sowing, nourishing, irrigation, and harvesting period. What these practices result in is: unpredictability, overuse of resources, and uncontrolled waste production.
Before the use of tech in agriculture, a farmer’s probability of yielding good produce was as good as tossing a coin and wishing for heads. Since farmers had no information on their farms, there was no way of learning the causes of crop loss. This practice pushed the farmers towards losses and debt. Advancements in big data analytics, IoT, and accessible satellite imagery created optimism for the agriculture sector, thereby combating the issue of unpredictability.
Benefits of Precision Farming
Since details of areas in a single farm can be traced, precision farming benefits farmers in several ways. Discussed below are some of the key advantages of precision farming:
- A refined set of cultivation practices and choice of crops based on suitability of land
- Elimination of volatility and risk
- Waste management
- Reduced production costs
- Minimum environmental impact
- Optimized use of fertilizers
- Water management
Precision farming examples include the adoption of highly precise set of practices that uses technology to cater to the needs of individual plots and crops. Big data analytics software such as Cropin or robots such as drones can be used to get detailed information on the plot, soil type, suitable crops, irrigation, and fertilizer needs. The information obtained is used to tailor a very unerring selection of crops, fertilizer quantity, and watering needs. Precision agriculture helps farmers live a debt-free life as production costs and losses are reduced and overall environmental impact is also minimized.
What tools do I have to adapt for precision farming?
Precision agriculture and modern farming focus on reducing production cost and wastage, as it is tailored to the needs of each plot. It centers on data collection and analysis of farm pIots which comprises sensors, drones, and robots for recording the data, and software as a service (SaaS) can be used to adapt to precision farming systems.
Although IoT is still at a nascent stage, the governments of agriculture-dominant economies do invest in other cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to make smarter agriculture solutions. In countries like India, the implementation of IoT in agriculture has its own set of unique benefits and challenges.
Firstly, the farmers fear upgrading to agtech as they lack knowledge about the applicability of the technology in agriculture. Besides this, the sensors, robots, and drones are expensive, have high maintenance, and require technically trained labor to operate. Further, the captured data needs to be analyzed in a lab or using specialized instruments on the farm. Also, a variety of sensors are required for collecting data on different parameters, which need to be analyzed separately, hence driving operational costs higher. Therefore, the solution must be cost-effective and highly scalable, considering the various sizes of farms.
A more economical, scalable, and accurate solution is cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service). SaaS solutions used in agriculture technology focus on providing modern farming solutions that help farmers, agribusinesses, and other stakeholders to make smart decisions based on the analysis of data. Cropin is at the forefront of making agriculture smarter with the use of satellite imagery, weather analysis, and machine learning for monitoring, detection, analysis, and prediction. Cropin’s smart applications can be integrated with already installed software and sensors through APIs. The data gathered on soil or moisture levels, temperature changes, or crops can be processed using the capabilities of big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to provide actionable insights based on the accuracy of collected data.
Can Digital Economy Help Agriculture?
The recent rapid digitalisation has reduced the exhaustive paper work in banks, hospitals and most private and public sector organizations seems to diminish as their businesses move online. Digitisation has reduced the manual work - which was time consuming, error prone and inefficient - thus saving millions for corporations. Digitization of the economy has broken the barriers and has successfully curtailed the fear of tech dependency, especially among the farming community. Digitalization is slowly also revolutionising the vast and complex Agriculture sector.
The United Nations projects that by the year 2050 the population of the world will be 9.7 Billion. With the relevance of over 60 percent of the world population on agriculture for food, the pressure to increase production to meet demands doesn’t seem to ease. Coupled with climate change, which is leading to rising global temperatures, levels of carbon dioxide, and frequency of droughts and floods, along with increasing labor costs, high production cost, and unpredictability poses a major challenge to the future of agriculture. Hence, the goal is to increase productivity in a sustainable way.
The recent and rapid digitalization has reduced the exhaustive paperwork burdening private and public sector organizations in diverse sectors, like finance and healthcare. Digitization has reduced the manual work, which was time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient, thus saving millions for corporations. Digitalization of the economy has broken the barriers and has successfully curtailed the fear of tech dependency, especially among the farming community. It is also slowly revolutionizing the vast and complex agriculture sector.
The United Nations projects that by the year 2050 the population of the world will be 9.7 Billion. With the relevance of over 60% of the world population relying on agriculture for food, the pressure to increase crop production to meet demands doesn’t seem to ease. Coupled with climate change, which is leading to the rise in global temperatures, levels of greenhouse gases, and frequency of extreme weather events like droughts and floods, along with increasing labor costs, high production costs, and unpredictability, poses a major challenge to the future of agriculture. Hence, the goal is to increase productivity in a sustainable way.
Authored by Pragati Shah