Precision agriculture helps boost a farmer’s bottom line and keeps workers safe, but it could also be a key driver in solving the global food crisis.
Precision agriculture gives farmers the tools, data, and resources they need to make critical decisions about their crops. And even though one of the significant advantages of tech-aided farming is cost savings, there’s much more to it than boosting a farmer’s bottom line.
For example, farmers worldwide are using Precision Ag to address the global hunger crisis. By streamlining farming processes and reducing food waste, precision agriculture will likely become a considerable component of agricultural operations in the future.
Solving global hunger and reducing food waste are two significant areas where precision farming can help.
What Is Precision Agriculture?
Precision agriculture aims to increase crop yields and profits by measuring and analyzing critical data points using the latest and greatest tools and technology. Farmers use helpful devices like drones, in-ground sensors, and even farm robots to revolutionize farming and keep workers safe.
As with many other industries, making data-driven decisions is quickly becoming the norm in planting, monitoring, protecting, and harvesting crops.
What are the types of Precision Agriculture?
Examples of precision agriculture (commonly called precision ag) include:
- Measuring soil levels
- Pest and insect monitoring
- Seed and pesticide distribution
- Hydration monitoring and application
- Predictive seed planting analysis
- Optimum crop harvesting time
What are the benefits of Precision Agriculture?
Precision agriculture aims to increase a farmer’s bottom line and give them access to the best data possible. But the benefits of precision ag go further than that.
Other advantages include:
- Farmers can reduce pesticides by applying them to targeted areas instead of mass-distribution
- Cost savings on fuel and fertilizer
- Safer working conditions for employees
- Less food waste and more efficient crop yields (which could help combat global food insecurity)
How Can Precision Agriculture help with global food insecurity?
Global food insecurity exists even in established countries. Six hundred ninety million people worldwide (according to the United Nations) suffer from hunger and malnourishment. Twenty-two percent of children younger than five are developmentally stunted due to malnourishment and underfeeding (according to Our World In Data).
Yielding more crops faster can put more food in hungry mouths, which only stands to become a more significant issue as time goes on. After all, our world’s global population, currently sitting at around 7.9 billion, could be almost 10 billion by 2050.
With more mouths to feed, the agricultural industry as a whole must look deeply at how farmers can provide enough healthy food for a larger population. This is where specific aspects of precision farming become relevant.
Farm Robots Can Slash Labor Costs
Growing a surplus of healthy food is one thing, but paying for it is another genuine concern for many. The CDC cites cost and lack of accessibility as two primary reasons many Americans eat unhealthy low-nutrient foods.
As it stands, farm-fresh vegetables and fruit often cost more than fast food, which isn’t healthy but is more filling for American families.
Farm robots remove the need for farmers to weed, apply fertilizers, and perform many of the rote tasks a farmhand once did. This lowers operating costs for the farm, which could pass on savings to consumers.
Efficient Farming Increases Yield and Reduces Waste
Sensor-driven precision ag features like tractor guidance and precision steering allow for more accurate processing of crops. This reduces waste and produces more crops, which is a big deal for farmers and consumers alike.
Plant pests alone kill as much as 20 to 40 percent of crop yields globally every year. To quantify that, consider that 240 million bushels of apples are produced in America annually. That could equate to as much as 96 million missing pieces of healthy produce!
Agricultural Sensors and Drones
The FAA hasn’t approved drones for personal farming use yet. However, this could change in the coming years as lawmakers monitor the benefits of precision farming.
One concern about monocropping (a reasonably common practice employed by farmers where the same crops are grown in one area year after year) is that it depletes soil quality, which not only lowers crop yields but reduces nutrients in the final product itself.
Agriculture sensors and drones combat this by monitoring climate change, assessing weather patterns, and measuring soil levels from the air. Interactive maps generated from these devices can help farmers make critical insights about rotating crops, where they’ll plant in future seasons, and which farm areas may need treatment to ensure a quality end-product.
What is the future of Precision Ag and global hunger?
As more data is collected and precision ag becomes more refined, expect precision farming to become highly specific about all aspects of growing and harvesting crops. In addition, the IIoT (industrial internet of things) will also grow substantially, bringing together information from millions of more intelligent devices being used on farms worldwide.
We also expect a push towards more eco-friendly initiatives. Precise data can help bridge the gap between providing healthy food for the world’s population and protecting our earth.