Precision Agriculture Using New Age Technologies

Supriya Ananthakrishnan

World population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, boosting agricultural demand. This is, however, challenged by the loss of biodiversity, the spread of pests and diseases in plants and animals, and most importantly, the challenge of agriculture competing with other industries for shared natural resources such as water and land. Hence, the question arises, can we scale up production when we are already facing a shortage of land and water resources? 

Another crucial factor is, any more pressure on natural resources can have a cataclysmic effect on climate change as well. 

Precision agriculture is the science of improving crop yields and assisting management decisions using technology. It is an approach that uses information technology to ensure crops receive exactly what they need for optimal growth and productivity. It relies on specialized equipment, software, and IT services.

In the agri value chain from soil to sale, there are multiple touch points where technology can be interfaced. Precision agriculture provides farmers with a wealth of information to:

  1. Get better insights on plant needs
  2. Have a record of their farms
  3. Improve decision making
  4. Have a greater traceability
  5. Enhance the quality of farm products

Technologies used in precision agriculture 

There is a myriad of technologies that are used across the agricultural value chain that helps in precision farming. But some of the key technologies and their usage are described below:

  1. Sensor-based technology: Wireless sensors have been used in precision agriculture 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.
  1. GPS/ Satellite based: Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable the coupling of real-time data collection with accurate position information, leading to efficient mapping and analysis of large amounts of geospatial data. GPS-based applications in precision farming are being used for farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping.
  1. Farm Automation/ Robots: From planting greenhouse crops to pruning vineyards, farm robots are taking on many tasks in agriculture today. The biggest push has been for autonomous machines that are remotely controlled by telematics. Agricultural robots automate slow, repetitive, and dull tasks for farmers, allowing them to focus more on improving overall production yields. Some common robots used are for harvesting and picking, weed control, autonomous mowing, pruning, seeding, etc.
  1. Drone Technology: One of the latest developments is the increase in the use of small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, for agriculture. Drones are remote-controlled aircraft with no human pilot on board. These have a huge potential in agriculture in supporting evidence-based planning and in spatial data collection.
  1. Artificial Intelligence: AI is and can be used in a number of applications in the field of agriculture such as water and crop management, yield prediction, crop quality, and disease detection.

The penetration of these technologies on a large scale is yet to be seen in India, but there are high advantages to using technology in agriculture. Apart from higher crop productivity, and decreased use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, technology can also change the mindset of new-generation farmers, and make farming more exciting and viable. Today, mobile apps, smart sensors, drones, and cloud computing makes precision agriculture possible for even small farms.

At Outgrow, we enable precision agriculture, through the deployment of IoT and AI-based technology that enables farmers to take proactive, preventive, and accurate decisions. This leads to a reduction of inputs and resource savings, leading to better crop yield and price realization for farmers.

References

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