Precision farming is a management concept giving crops, livestock and the agro-ecological environment the right treatment at the right time, place and intensity, optimizing economical, ecological and social objectives by combining technology with agro-ecology.
Many experts believe that the next big break in agriculture is using precision farming and its use of data and analytics to optimize decision making.
With global population growth and climate change challenges, there will continue to be increasing pressure on farmers to maximize the land base they have available and one way to address that challenge is making more precise use of data and inputs.
But is the current technology being used? Although they are a big part of the agriculture industry, more than half of the Canadian farms still are not using digital agriculture record keeping, according to Darcy Herauf, director of the FCC AgExpert team.
Through research and surveys, there seem to be three main reasons why the growers aren’t using these resources:
- The current technology is too complex. Customers don’t find it easy to share, and too difficult at times to access.
- They don’t understand the return on investment, in terms of money and time, with these programs and platforms.
- Trust is a large concern. The growers are not sure who they can trust. As the new technologies are available, the farmer’s data is in a cloud, and the question is who should most be trusted with it.
In 2018, FCC put together a research team to understand the status of agriculture data in Canada. The team asked the FCC Vision Panel its questions and received 2,000 responses and 5,700 comments.
They found the agriculture industry is no further ahead with trust in 2018 than in 2016, when the last survey was completed. One quarter of the respondents were less comfortable with sharing their data of their farm with organizations in 2018 than in 2016, says Herauf.
Seven out of 10 farmers say the conditions governing the use and treatment of their data are very important, especially when considering which technology or service provider to use and only one quarter of farmers understand who owns their data and not many companies are clearly or formally asking for approval.
It’s imperative that all agriculture data companies are more transparent with their customers. Farmers are willing to have their data used, but are more concerned about being taken advantage of.
It may take a few years, but it seems that precision farming technologies will become the norm in Canada.
In the 20th Century, spraying Roundup on a growing crop was a process growers used with caution and doubt. Much like Roundup, precision agriculture is a fairly new and foreign process. Now, Roundup is a staple in the producer’s tool box, much like digital ag is becoming.
How you can help – The University of Guelph Study
University of Guelph researchers want to hear from farmers about their use of precision agriculture technologies.
A research team of University of Guelph graduate students in the Geography, Environment and Geomatics Department is conducting the survey. The lead researcher is master’s candidate Sarah Marquis and the lead academic advisory is Evan Fraser.
Results will be used in a master’s thesis and various PhD theses looking at the use of technology in agriculture.
The survey takes about 30 minutes and looks at use of precision agriculture technology, digital agriculture data and understanding of rights relating to digital agriculture data.
Some participants will be invited to participate in a follow-up interview.
The research is being conducted because the researchers say there’s little research on Canadian farmers’ use of precision agriculture technology and its impacts. The aim is to have the surveys completed by Oct. 31.
Survey can be found at: https://uoguelph.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8DlMUAPDuEjqoxn
Sources: University of Guelph and farmtario.com