The Future of farming with precision technologies
As smart electronic devices continue to decrease in size, the applications for use are becoming widespread from measuring parked cars on the road, to tiny robots that can sniff out crop disease. Big data and the “internet of things” enable numerous sources of information to be analysed by intelligent software to help farmers see crop and livestock performance. Precision Farming is predicted to be a 4.80 billion dollar industry by 2020, with the expanding global food demand playing a large factor in the need for an increase in farming.
Helping farmers make decisions
So what type of information do farmers need to know? According to Moran (2000) they need to know three things 1) which conditions are relatively stable during the growing season 2) which conditions change and 3) information to identify why their crop is thriving or not.
These technologies can help farmers re-adjust practices based on real time data produced via satellite imagery from drones, to sensors that measure moisture levels in the soil. Farmers now have the ability to oversee how well their farm is doing on a grand scale and also at the small scale allowing them to be strategic and precise.
Measuring the invisible
Farmers access information from their tractors by using software with satellite imagery that identifies where the field is moist, eroded and areas that have low performance. The farmer could then assign tasks to employees for example increasing or decreasing irrigation.
After planting new crops farmers can also use remote sensors to measure crop health, fertilization rate, pesticides and soil quality. Allowing farmers to act quickly and apply fertilizers to areas that need improving saving time, and increasing crop yield over time.
Fitness tracking for livestock
Other applications such as Connecterra, track the fitness of livestock to help monitor dairy activity and offer actionable insights to increase productivity per animal. Connecterra have created algorithms based on in-depth research of a ‘cow’s wellbeing’ from walking, eating, ruminating etc. This information is then turned into health insights about the cow, in order for farmers to make decisions on labor costs and improve the animal’s health and productivity.
Forecasting projected harvest yields
Overtime as more data is collected and analysed from the farm, software applications will be able to produce future projections for harvest yields and livestock performance. This will enable farmers to plan better and enhance harvest yield and maximise revenue opportunities.
What features could add value to software applications providing precision farming data?
One stop shop – bringing together all the relevant information in one place saving farmers time and allowing them to cross reference important factors.
Online /offline access – designing applications for online and offline access could improve consistency of software and keep the user momentum going.
Accessibility – designing responsive software for multiple devices, mobile, tablet and laptop will allow farmers accessibility out and about but also be able to view large amounts of data on larger screens. But also considering technology in third world countries such as text messaging.
Multiple views – allow for flexibility for numerous users with different views for example employees being assigned to particular assets or fields.
Weather – Providing precise weather information and measuring against other important factors.
Compliance and guidance – providing guidance material on the latest compliance information.
Recommendations and social interactions – human to human recommendations on products, fertilisers, methods and knowledge sharing could add a social aspect.