In the past, the term agriculture was practiced by virtually every household with little or no knowlege of what is called Precision Agriculture. It is the basic means of livelihood.
Over the years, the operation evolved from growing crops to selling farm equipment to today, where our primary focus has become the technology used in farming. This evolution has occurred because farming is highly land and labor-intensive. Farmers are driven to use technology to increase efficiency and manage costs.
Precision agriculture (PA) is an approach to farm management that uses information technology (IT) to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. The goal of PA is to ensure profitability, sustainability and protection of the environment.
PA is also known as satellite agriculture, as-needed farming and site-specific crop management (SSCM).
Precision agriculture was born with the introduction of GPS guidance for tractors in the early 1990s by John Deere.
A GPS-connected controller in a farmer’s tractor automatically steers the equipment based on the coordinates of a field. This reduces steering errors by drivers and therefore any overlap passes on the field. Consequently, this results in less wasted seed, fertilizer, fuel, and time.
Precision agriculture relies upon software, IT services and specialized equipment such as GPS guidance, control systems, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, variable rate technology, GPS-based soil sampling, automated hardware and telematics.
Some of the technologies exploited in Precision Agriculture includes;
1. Drone Technology:
Drones are proving to be beneficial in places where man cannot reach or is unable to perform in a timely and efficient manner.
Drone is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard and can fly up to 400 feeds without the need for special clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.
At this altitude, higher resolution images can be obtained. Drones can be used to count number of crops, apply pesticides and fertilizers, scan soil health, water the field (irrigation), monitor crop health and estimate yields.
2. Sensors and Remote Sensing
Wireless sensors have been used in precision ag and/to gather data on soil water availability, soil compaction, soil fertility, leaf temperature, leaf area index, plant water status, local climate data, insect-disease-weed infestation, and more.
3. High precision positioning systems (like GPS)
GPS is used to achieve accuracy when driving in the field, providing navigation and positioning capability anywhere on earth, anytime under any all conditions. The systems record the position of the field using geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude).
Robots are taking on many tasks in agriculture these days (with varying levels of success), including planting greenhouse crops and pruning .
5. Variable rate technology (VRT):
VRT refers to any technology that enables the variable application of inputs and allows farmers to control the amount of inputs they apply in a specific location. The basic components of this technology include a computer, software, a controller and a differential global positioning system (DGPS).