Top 10 Things We Are Noticing About Precision Agriculture
Updated: May 30, 2019
Farming is an occupation as old as time itself, over the course of history there have been many major milestones and changes in the farming world which have revolutionised the way farmers grow produce and look after livestock. Technology has always played an important role in these changes, had it not been for the invention of the steam engine then farms might well be relying on horse and cart instead of the modern tractors we see today.
We take a look at the top 10 current trends in the farming industry and look at how they are changing the agricultural landscape as we speak.
1 – A Generational Transition
Farming is primarily a family business, when one farmer retires or passes away they pass the farm on to their children to continue the work and carry on the farming legacy. Something that is very interesting is that there are a high percentage of older farm owners that will soon be retiring and passing on the baton. With an average age of 60 worldwide, farmers are soon to be passing on their expertise and knowledge to their children. This is expected to cause a large shift in farming perceptions and practices as the younger inheritors look to take on their farms and expand their knowledge further in order to thrive in a competitive and modern economy.
2 – Rapid Growth in the Technology Sector
Whether a farmer adopts precision farming practices or not is becoming largely irrelevant to the technological sector, more and more farm equipment is come pre-packed with software and data analysis tools to enable those that do adopt precision farm practices to complete their work in a more efficient way. Those that don’t actively precision farm will soon find themselves challenged as the equipment begins to do things differently to the traditional equipment they are used to using, this should see a lot more farmers taking up precision farm practices (albeit reluctantly) as they update their farming equipment.
3 – Ethical Farming Practices
In the last decade there has been a huge shift in public perception of the food they are consuming, this has meant that they are more selective about the quality of produce that is being sourced as well as how that produce was grown. Whilst it is not likely that GMO will disappear anytime soon due to scalability and cost factors, there has already been a trend towards reduction of GMO and in a number of years as technology to increase yields improves further it could be done away with altogether.
4 – Farms are Finding Their Niche
Many farming enterprises have begun to specialise in certain areas to target better sales returns and improve the profitability of the farm overall. With many opting to overhaul entire farming processes and provide organic produce, there are also farmers finding far more specialised areas to operate in. By finding a specialism that is not common they are reducing the competition they face and can in turn increase the price of their produce. Non-GMO, specialised crops and special breeds of livestock are all being used by farmers to increase profit margins within a less competitive sphere.
5 – Growing Demand for Food
One trend that never seems to abate is that globally there is a significant population growth and that means a lot more mouths to feed. Farmers continue to try and boost outputs to keep up with demand and on the largest scale as an entire industry, farming is losing the battle. As more farmers adopt precision farm practices to increase yields and expand their farms however, the expectation is that this margin will reduce and perhaps disappear altogether as farmers keep up with the growing population. Precision farming could be the key to ending starvation the world over and that is a very noble endeavour.
6 – Rapidly Changing Economies and Trade Areas
Traditionally countries would have trading partners that they exported to regularly but with recent political shifts there have been vast changes in exports and imports for most major nations. With Brexit occurring in Europe and Trump levying against countries trying to import into the US there is a rapidly changing face of global trade. This is opening up doors for many farmers in countries that would ordinarily be overlooked as for the first-time large economy countries are looking elsewhere to source their food. This also has a very profound impact on farmers domicile in these countries as they are expected to fil gaps in demand from within the economy.
7 – Odd Changes in Meat Consumption
As mentioned earlier, people are becoming more and more focused on the things that they are consuming, unfortunately in some countries, meat has taken a knock as more people turn towards vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. As much as 6% of the US population now claim to be non-meat eaters, a staggering rise of over 600% in a few short years. Conversely, in the far east, meat consumption is growing significantly, with the China and India relying heavily on meat to feed their huge populations. This has changed the dynamic of meat farming and farmers are finding themselves exporting meat to different locations than they would of historically. With such a sharp increase in plant consuming humans, crop farmers are having to keep up with a growing demand in the UK, EU and US.
8 – Animal Welfare and Livestock Conditions
Some groups and organisations have become militant in finding out how farmers are looking after animals behind closed doors. Unfortunately, a minority of farmers are causing a bad reputation for the majority of farmers that treat their livestock well and with respect. But never the less, there are some bad apples within the farming community with little to no ability to look after animals in a humane way and this is causing waves of negative publicity. This increased scrutiny is leading to tighter regulation across the livestock industry and farmers are finding themselves more accountable than ever before for the way they look after and treat their animals. Many precision farmers use drones and other technology to track and monitor animals, leaving them to graze freely and in complete safety.
9 – Looking After the Environment
The environmental issues caused by farming are being largely addressed and remedied by precision farm techniques. With a focus on reducing environmental damage and improving farm outputs, the technology is driving forward towards a cleaner farming landscape. This all comes in good time as recently there has been a lot of attention on how farming can reduce its carbon footprint and regulation has been tightened in many jurisdictions to keep farmers accountable for any negative impact they have on the environment.
10 – Increased Profitability for Precision Farmers
The last trend is a welcome one, with the majority of farmers that adopt precision farming practices seeing an overall increase in their profit margins. This means that they are being rewarded for all of the hard work they have put in and seeing the return on investment for any precision technology they have purchased. As the precision farming community grows and technology becomes more accessible and simpler to use, this profitability should increase further and create a very lucrative farming industry for many decades to come.