Precision agriculture aims to reduce the use of agricultural inputs in agricultural plots. Thanks to different means and methods, it locates the intra-plot heterogeneities, adjusts the dose of agricultural inputs at the right place in due course in order to try to improve the agronomic, economic, and environmental impact of agricultural holdings.
By collecting data from field tools (on-board GPS, connected weather station…) or thanks to remote sensing (images from drones or satellites) its goal is to adapt the farmer’s intervention on agricultural spots. These data are processed using specialised firmware to control actuators (spreaders, sprayers, seeders…) and are centrally recorded to view and analyse the completed operations. This approach may also be applied to precision to precision breeding (feed concentrate vending machines…).
Precision agriculture aims to better to understand and analyse the physiological requirements of the crops as well as to develop decision-support tools for users. Breeders can use it in order to describe plants easily and quickly by reducing the workforce, especially in tedious tasks (manual counts, disease detection…). Researchers may use the significant data to develop models and improve the efficiency of precision agriculture. Professional agricultural organizations use it in a way to give clearer advice by producing plots modulation maps for various farm tasks (seeding, treatments, fertilization…) in order to help farmers interpret their data. The question of the property of these data is a very sensitive issue today because of a lack of regulation.
In an agroecological context, precision agriculture positions itself in a technological approach that requires more or less expensive materials and software on the farm and collective infrastructures whose investments and functioning costs (positioning satellites, GPS, centralized servers for the treatment of massive data) are difficult to estimate both financially and environmentally. Besides, the efficiency of this type of agriculture beyond big farms is questionable.
References to explore
DeJoia A., Duncan M. 2015. . What Is “Precision Agriculture” and Why Is It Important? “Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!”, Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).
Schmaltz R. 2017. What Is Precision Agriculture? Agfunder.
Trimble agriculture. 2018. What Is Precision Ag?