Agriculture is one of the oldest industries which has been in existence since the beginning of humankind. Even with a centuries-old history, however, agriculture is no longer conservative and conventional. Smart farming is gaining more attention and adoption than ever, especially amongst small farmers, significantly transforming the way they treat their crops and manage farms.
In the past, most small-scale producers and agribusiness owners had been operating with limited resources, lots of guesswork, inaccurate information from fellow farmers, and almost no machinery. Thanks to cutting-edge advancements in agriculture sector over the years – including IoT agriculture devices, artificial intelligence, drones and sensors and satellite imagery, small farmers are able to collect and analyse data to optimise their production practises and make their business more streamlined and profitable.
Let’s explore some of these emerging technologies that help today’s small farmers to achieve precision in agriculture practices and ensure high productivity.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has created a lot of buzz around smart agriculture over the last few years. In its most basic sense, IoT refers to connecting varied internet-enabled devices to collect and transfer data.
Today’s farmers have to ensure high production amongst challenges like declining land availability, deteriorating soil fertility and increasing weather fluctuations. IoT-driven agriculture improves crop, farm and cattle monitoring; with access to real-time information on weather conditions, pests and diseases, soil condition and more, farmers can react immediately, make informed decisions and minimise risk.
AI Robots and Drones
As world population continues to increase, land, water and other resources are becoming insufficient for farmers to ensure enough production to support the demand-supply chain. So, they need to be more strategic, more efficient and smarter about how they use the land and the available resources to maximise production while minimising risk.
With the help of remote sensors, satellites and drones, farmers can capture huge amounts of data from the field and guide a wide range of routine tasks. Predictive analytics and farm insights provide farmers with a better understanding of the situation on the ground, so they can determine what crops will be most profitable at what time, identify areas that need irrigation, fertilisation or pesticide treatment, minimise the risk of crop failures and diseases.
Soil across large tracts of lands may have spatial variations of the type, moisture content, pH level, nutrient availability and more. The use of geographical information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS) and remote sensing allows small-scale growers to capture such soil data and determine productivity differences within different parts of a field to build a plan for effectively using resources such as pesticides, fertilisers, and herbicides, and, most importantly, water on the field. In simpler terms, farmers use varied remote sensing devices to find out what resources to put exactly where and in what quantities, resultantly increasing efficiency in the application process, reducing operational costs and boosting yields.
Proper integration of remote sensing and geospatial technology on farms assist in creating a competitive and profitable agriculture system which promotes the conservation of environment, improves agriculture sustainability and is capable of providing excellent food quality to the consumer. Moreover, increasing productivity and income of smaller segments of the agricultural population has been a constant challenge. Application of GIS and GPS systems help address this.
Why Adopt New Technologies in Agriculture?
Creating a sustainable and precise agriculture environment requires increased adoption and integration of new technologies by small farmers and agribusiness start-ups. This will allow small-scale producers to overcome their long-standing farming woes and boost outcomes from their limited farmland by turning them from small to smart.
However, the cost of equipment and tools used in precision agriculture as well as limited ability to use data convince many small farmers to stick with traditional practices and low-return production options. That said, it is important for manufacturers to design inexpensive, smaller versions of technological devices to meet the needs of small-scale farmers. Likewise, agriculture data service providers should consider providing smallholders with access to farm and market information at reasonable rates.
Arianne Riley is a data analyst by profession and a passionate blogger by choice. With her years of experience in analysing farm data, which comes from working with Australia’s largest agriculture data service provider – KG2, Arianne helps small farmers and agribusinesses alike in making informed decisions and strategies with her informational blogs and advice.