26 Sep Future fields: big data applications in precision agriculture
As the population grows, resources decrease and land farm abandonment increases, especially in western countries, making most of agricultural resources a priority. How can big data and precision agriculture contribute to make it easier?
Nowadays, the main challenges of food sector concerning farming are reducing waste, optimizing production and minimizing the use of precious resources such as water. Therefore, traditional agriculture processes are becoming insufficient for the future market. And analytics are key to improve the results and rethink the agricultural supply chain.
Investment in agriculture technology is increasing in recent years, notably in data-enable devices. Farmers are using high-technology to extract meaningful data about soil conditions, water needs, fertilizer requirements or weather forecast, in order to make accurate decisions about their production. Precision agriculture uses hardware and software solutions to process data.
New tools for new processes
Sensors on field provide precise and reliable data about soil moisture or humidity, water requirements or weather conditions. They allow farmers to make more accurate and efficient decisions about their crops’ irrigation or fertilization. Agricultural machinery companies, as John Deere and New Holland, have already started to incorporate sensors in their equipments. They take measurements of parameters of soil moisture and yield.
On the other hand, agricultural drones can monitor crops conditions as well. Drones are used to map and survey the field, and take pictures to control its evolution. Also, they can be used to fertilize crops from the air, avoiding the toxic impact of fertilizers in farmers. Drones can be paired with data processing platforms to analyze flight results as well. Analytic services such as FarmLens are integrated to drones like eBee SQ, from SenseFly, and provide ample data about the harvest as well as digital scouting and health reports.
Satellites can be at the service of precision agriculture, too. Companies such as FarmLog have developed a technology which detects relevant changes in field by using satellite imagery. They can identify crop threats as nutrients deficiency or insect damage. Global Positioning System is using in farming likewise. Mapping, machinery guidance and crop exploring can be possible, likewise working with low visibility.
Platforms and data for precision agriculture
Furthermore, several big data platforms have emerged to help farmers and retailers to analyze crops and predict threats. This is the case of Fieldprint Platform who launched de Fieldpirint Calculator, a tool which allows farmers to analyze their resources and improve yield efficiency. Also, CGIAR’s platform uses big data to make more sustainable the food supply chain and reducing hunger and land degradation.
However, agriculture approaches to Internet of Things is still facing some challenges. Security and privacy issues, expensive devices or data management are just a few examples that will be addressing at their time. So far, in any case, those tools are a good starting point.
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