UK Collaborating With China To Develop ‘Precision Agriculture’ Technologies

Dan Butler
Tue, 19 Jul 2016
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Engineers from Loughborough University are attempting to remotely collect data in China using ground and aerial drones to boost ‘smart farming’ and sustainable agriculture.

The aerospace engineers are using a $1.3 million grant to develop unmanned and autonomous drones in a project called ‘Enabling wide area persistent remote sensing for agriculture applications’.

The project is being co-funded by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council under the auspices of the Newton Fund.

The UK team is collaborating with Prof. Wen-Hua Chen and his research team from the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering and other international stakeholders. The partners aim to improve agricultural resilience and food security by collecting large amounts of observational data to gain a better understanding of agricultural science, particularly the nature of pests and diseases.

The ultimate aim of this project is to ensure China is able to sustainably meet its population’s increasing demand for food.

‘Smart farming’, also known as ‘precision agriculture’, can help increase productivity and reduce the need for agricultural inputs by using sensors to provide specific data that can inform smarter farming decisions.

For example, camera drones can detect a pest or weed amongst the crops and inform nearby mechanical weeders who can then treat the crop. “This not only prevents loss of productivity due to crop damage and spoilage,” explained Karveh Cavalieri, Managing Partner at Challenge Advisory. “But it also reduces the need for herbicides and pesticides that can significantly harm China’s already damaged environment.”

“Agriculture is facing serious challenges around the world due to increasing and aging populations as well as a growing global demand for energy and fresh water,” commented Professor Chen.

This not only prevents loss of productivity due to crop damage and spoilage, But it also reduces the need for herbicides and pesticides that can significantly harm China’s already damaged environment.

“The likelihood of extreme weather events occurring more often also threatens food production, which is why remote data collection to evaluate soil and crop health has an important role to play in developing sustainable agriculture for rapidly developing countries like China.”