Canaan Bridges Consulting Inc. | Long Read
Precision agriculture (Ag Tech) uses technology to manage agricultural production. It’s different from traditional farming practices, which are more labour-intensive. Precision agriculture involves using technology to optimize a farmer’s resources to maximize crop, yield and production growth. These modes of agricultural management often use geospatial technologies to boost productivity. They include drones, remote sensors, geographic information systems (GIS), and geographic positioning systems (GPS). A growing number of high-tech companies are driving innovation in the sector and offering their services and products to farmers. By 2027 the market value of precision agriculture is forecast to be worth almost USD15 billion.
How Ag Tech Works
With precision agriculture, farmers can use land (in the case of crop farming) and resources more efficiently, focusing their help to get the best outcomes. For example, drones are dispatched over arable land to find poorly irrigated areas.
The system sends crop data back to farmers for analysis and evaluation. Agricultural sensors collect and send soil moisture, temperature, and humidity information to farmers. Together, these two technologies help farmers make decisions and develop crop management plans that address specific issues with greater precision, covering targeted sections of crops where attention is needed. The goal is to reduce costs and increase production growth. Using autonomous vehicles to spray fertilizers and fungicides on unwanted weeds is another way precision agriculture can operate on farms. Artificial intelligence allows these autonomous vehicles to quickly identify and differentiate between weeds and actual crops and spray large areas.
The deployment of precision technology to livestock farming is another current trend. For instance, the technology monitors cows’ activities, behaviours, and milking patterns to detect diseases early.
Mainstreaming Ag Tech
Ag Tech will only benefit small-acreage and low-revenue farmers if they have the expertise to understand how the technology works and how to adapt it to their farms. The use of these advanced farming technologies generates a lot of raw data. These extracted data are likely of little use in making decisions about farm productivity if they cannot be tabulated, analyzed, or applied correctly.
Making sure farmers know how to set up the technology and handle the data is essential. In economies where farming is vital for national income, local state agencies might find it worthwhile to invest in training farmers in new technologies, especially if they show positive returns. This is done in India, where its government has developed precision farming development centres to create, share knowledge about the technologies and advocate for their sustainable use.
Acquisition and Sustained use of farming technology
Ag tech is a capital-intensive sector – money and infrastructural developments are essential to build and leverage its connection with farms. There is a higher adoption of precision agriculture in North America and Europe than in developing countries. Several developing countries use the technology, but resource constraints and interoperability issues will be more visible and present in many of them. Ag tech systems often rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) tools to collect and transmit data between integrated networks. Low or non-existent internet connectivity in rural areas challenges this adoption. In addition, mountainous or forested regions can challenge GPS reception, affecting farmers’ ability to gather and monitor soil or crop conditions effectively.
Big data storage is a concern in every sector, and precision agriculture will be no different. If farm technology use is to become a sustained practice, small acreage and low-revenue farmers will have to find the means to include securitization of big data as an everyday concern of their operations. Financial and interoperability concerns are a challenge to this goal.
Research indicates that farmers’ age can influence whether the choice is made to use precision agri- technologies on farms. For example, in Southwestern Ontario, younger farmers were more likely to use farm technology than older persons. However, younger farmers were less likely to adopt the technology in another part of Canada. This indicates that socio-cultural tendencies and “geographic-specific factors” may impact the adoption of precision agriculture technologies.
There needs to be a clear definition of the scope and limits of what farmers can do with farm technology.
Recent calls for right-to-repair legislation or reform in some jurisdictions (such as the European Union and Canada) to allow consumers to repair specific malfunctioning licensed or purchased devices without the risk of copyright infringement also impacts tech farms. For example, clarification on how particular aspects of copyright law impact farmers’ ability to fix hardware without resorting to the manufacturer (and thereby incurring repair fees) are issues that need to be decisively addressed. A proposal on common rules that promote the right to repair was recently developed and adopted by the European Commission. A right-to-repair bill was introduced in Canada by an individual. It has not had significant traction to date.
Farmers’ adoption of precision agriculture so far is not mainstream, despite its increasing use in North America, South America and Asia. The capacity of small farmers to use technology to leverage farming depends on several factors. Some of these were identified above. Overall, it is clear that the sector will likely benefit from strategic public-private partnerships to ensure sustainable approaches are used.