The benefits of Precision Ag in small farms

By Ben Watts

Fri, 7 Sep 2018

Precision agriculture is usually accompanied with thoughts of endless fields, giant tractors and specialist drones monitoring overhead. On the other hand, you have an image of a man ploughing a field on a small plot of land which typically is the image associated with smaller farmers. Due to smaller farmers working with typically limited resources and machinery the images they hold could not be any more of a contrast. Giving them similar access to precision AG as larger farms is possible and could be a major positive in reducing poverty as it’s brought about a wealth of innovation in making farming and its operations smarter. The concept of precision AG, despite the associations is not limited to large farms with giant tractors and can be applied to farms of 2 acres or 2000 acres. 

Precision AG is the modern approach of farming in which data is analyzed and optimized to produce the best outcomes and solutions. Data can be measured by using sensors and images taken remotely by satellites or drones as well as from research and public sources. Using these methods farmers should be capable of producing extensive data on soil quality, the weather, plant growth and hydration. The benefits of gathering this data are that it guides important decisions on where you plant crops and apply fertilizer chemicals or water. As a result of this farmers can make the most use of the resources they have, no matter how small.

Making precision AG available to smaller farmers is not without its obstacles, especially in low-income countries. Accessibility of data is a key factor for smaller farmers not being able to develop. Without the required technology such as drones, sensors and satellites, data on macro parameters such as soil and weather will remain very much limited.  A majority of smaller farms are located in demographically rural areas with limited access to internet. Participation of government organizations is essential for making data more accessible for smaller farmers. Expensive equipment such as drones and internet enabled tractors will simply be too much for smaller farmers to attain with no excess to invest the necessary funds to improve their productivity.

Smaller farmers typically work at a higher risk as they have a limited ability to manage issues within the business. Farmers who are not tech savvy rather understandably choose to stick with organic and traditional low production returns, as they choose to accept this methodology over technologically intensive ones for which they have no knowledge or access to. This widespread lack of knowledge and experience with tech and the cost to use these new technologies are the biggest challenges dividing smaller farmers with precision AG. Trust could also present an issue due to bad past experiences with technology and farming precision solutions.

Methods to overcome these barriers include developing new cost effective AG technology suitable for smaller farms. Precision AG has not always been economically viable for small or medium farming. With AG equipment becoming less expensive however smaller farms can now start to make a profit off using technologies which improve production efficiency. As the cost of tech and AG equipment is going down it can present smaller farmers an opportunity to try and develop a trust with precision technology. A good example of this are small farmer’s in rural Ghana who are using ‘AyaPump’ which provides them with affordable ways to water their crops during dry season at under $50. Social enterprises are providing a great way to provide data, market advice and advice on AG practices. Developmental organizations are also supporting farmers in adopting more productive methods. Due to the problems with network in rural areas operators are choosing to invest in those areas. The internet currently reaches 41.3% of rural areas in the world at the end of 2017, by the end of 2022 it’s estimated that an additional 2.6 billion will have broadband internet.

In order for farmers to understand the benefits of precision AG they need access to components of data, machinery, inputs and markets all at the same time. Regardless of size every farm can be managed precisely depending on their needs. Small farmers often have detailed knowledge of their lands solely based on personal observations and can modify their land accordingly. If they choose to embrace and use appropriate technology this task could prove to be easier and more efficient. Larger famers have successfully chosen to use more advance technology to get the necessary data for better management decisions. Regardless of farm size, AG precision will produce better short and long term efficiency, profitability and environmental quality.   


Our Agriculture 4.0 workshop mission is to help farmers better engage with the latest technology available in the market and present a wide range of solutions for the modern farmer.

To address these challenges, we have developed AG40 workshop, a programme designed around bringing key stakeholders from throughout US agriculture together to tackle the most issues in relation to the stability of the market. To find out how this will be achieved, and whether you can be involved in this, follow the link here and below:

www.challenge.org/ag40


ABOUT AG40

Challenge Advisory is bringing together AG40, a unique workshop where organisations will have the ability to network amongst each other for precise and profitable resolutions across the entire industry. There will be panel discussions and workshop sessions designed to create partnerships and profitable business development, helping to find cross-specialism solutions to current sectoral challenges.

Join Challenge Advisory and all our stakeholders for education, interoperability and investment relating to the latest technology in digital agriculture – click here to find out more:

www.challenge.org/ag40

 

 


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Ben Watts

ben_19watts@hotmail.co.uk

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