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The Role of Smart Farming in Developing Sustainable Agriculture

Updated: May 30, 2019

The challenges foreseen in agriculture as far as the need to double food supply is concerned are now putting agricultural sustainability at par with ensuring food security. There is a need for a resource efficient global food system that takes into consideration the aspect of sustainability. For example, if you are struggling to ensure efficiency in how you use water in your farm, ways of reducing soil erosion and ensuring minimum degradation, or even minimizing energy input, you are not alone. Every farmer all over the work hopes to achieve all these and other goals at the minimum possible cost. However, such goals post some of the highest requirements in agriculture which cannot be achieved successfully through traditional approaches of farming.

With the increase in the demands and the need for sustainable agriculture, it is becoming really necessary for farmers and the associated stakeholders to invest a lot in knowledge and more sophisticated machines and devices. In this article, we discuss, in depth, the subject of smart farming and its role in developing sustainable agriculture.

Overview of Smart Farming

Smart farming is a modern farming concept that looks into the use of technology to improve agricultural production while at the same time lowering the inputs significantly. As it is, smart farming is an information-driven farming approach, which increases the need for it to be observed. This approach applies measures that are economically and ecologically meaningful to achieve improved output in production.

Smart farming runs on the principles of precision farming such as the use of GPS guidance in the application of measures that are site-specific. However, given that precision farming is primarily focusing on the adoption of certain farming technology, the implementation of auto-piloted harvesters and tractors, among other devices and farm machinery, shifts the approach to an holistic and more rounded approach where the focus is not only on spatial precision but to smartest treatment.  

The typical issues that smart farming targets to solve include aspects such as how much fertilizer one needs to apply, time of application, and the specific area to be applied, which resources are needed for plant protection, and related aspects. However, the field of agriculture faces a manifold information challenge. Most farmers have very small plots where they produce food; a situation that leads to the implementation of high spatial and temporal measures on any monitoring system used. In addition, complex information is needed for better results where smart farming is used.

How does smart farming promote sustainable agriculture?

Smart farming and sustainable agriculture rely on the availability of data. Smart farming supports sustainable as well as cost-effective agriculture through the combination of navigation satellites, and earth observation input to make it easy for farmers to make informed decision when farming. For example, the use of sensors helps farmers make decision on how, where, and when to allocate certain resources to improved ecological and economic outputs.

In addition to genetic modification and crop selection, smart farming seems to be taking the green revolution route through the use of innovative farming techniques and tools. For example, farmers can now use drones, geolocators, and sensors to improve their farming practices. Generally, this approach involves the use of networked technology to achieve certain production goals and in the process support sustainable agriculture. Trends indicate that the continued implementation of smart farming in agriculture will help in the alleviation of some of the food security problems experienced in different parts of the world nowadays.

Sustainability in agriculture can be achieved through proper use of data in decision making. In fact, innovative farming is considered an offshoot of data analysis and mathematics. Each day, farmers experience a series of variables ranging from diversity in the composition of soil to change in climate. Such variations need proper analysis for the right farming practice to be implemented. Smart farming which emphasises on the use of big data in decision making can help deal with some of these problems appropriately and achieve any set production goals.

Earth observation has been used since the olden days but the advanced in technology as presented in smart farming approaches has ensured the collection of quality satellite data. Such advancement accounts for excellent time series of data such as biomass development, crop types, farming practices, and calamities.

Unlike in the past, nowadays farmers can use smart farming approaches to collect data and make informed decision from it. There are are diverse data analysis techniques that farmers can use. For example, though smart technology, farmers can establish the fertility of their farmland through the analysis and the comparison of satellite images and in the end use the data to derive the yield potential of a given land.

With smart farming farmers find it easy to measure variables and process data with precision. This is aimed at ensuring tasks are much simpler, improvement of yields, and cut costs and move towards sustainable agriculture. For example, smart farming practices can be seen in the use of GPS technology as applied in tractors. With such approaches farmers can transmit data on the vehicle’s position and be able to cultivate land uniformly allowing you to save greatly on fuel.

Smart farming opportunities

Smart farming comes with so many opportunities with the aim of reducing ecological footprint. The use of inputs that are site-specific or minimal use of resources such as pesticides and fertilizers can help in the mitigation of leaching problems and the release of harmful greenhouse gases to the environment. ICT improvement now allows the creation of a sensor network whereby farmers can interconnect and view the status of the soils, animals, and plants and align it with production inputs’ needs like medications, fertilizer, and water.

Secondly, with smart farming, it is easy to achieve profitability in agriculture. The use of certain techniques to reduce resource inputs can ensure that farmers save immensely on labour and the need for reliable spatial data in risk reduction. This is attributable to the fact that smart farming encourages the use of technology in site-specific weather forecasts, probability mapping of disasters and diseases, and yield projections.

Information technology does not count like hurdles to the adoption and the implementation of smart farming. What most people should embrace is the knowledge and understanding of how this concept works. Smart farming has a lot of potential in making agriculture profitable and sustainable, boosting consumer acceptance, reducing resource inputs and cost.

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