What is precision agriculture and how to get started?

February 1, 2023
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Experience and expertise are for sure two important elements in agriculture. Farmers need to know their fields, in order to react properly to the needs of cultivations and soil. Nevertheless, changing climate situation and more demanding market requirements make optimized results crucial to be successful on the market. Therefore, farmers can't rely only on their experience anymore and have started looking for solutions providing them data and information on their cultivation, in order to have scientific-based tools to make the best decisions. In this article, we will walk through a short description of what precision agriculture is and its main applications and state-of-the-art technologies.

Precision Agriculture - What is it?

In this context, precision agriculture (PA) helps growers and farmers build decision support systems (DSS) based not only on historical data but also on predictions on future developments. Satellite images, GPS locations, and sensors are only some of the tools and practices that are normally used in fields, orchards, and greenhouses.Precision agriculture helps not only keep an eye on each aspect of a farm�s management and potential outcomes but also improve the agronomic impact of farmers on their cultivation, better identifying each crucial requirement.That is how two sectors apparently quite far from each other, agriculture and technology, become closer. The proof is that the precision farming sector was valued at $4.7 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow by 13% until 2027.

Technology in agriculture

The spread of precision agriculture started back in the 80s in the context of a better use of chemicals in the fields but had the first fast development in the 90s. This is when the Global Positioning System (GPS) became available for civilian use. The GPS was exploited in monitoring crop yield and mapping the variations.New systems and technologies started then to be crucial to fulfill the expectations of farmers, who also started using sensors and other tools to constantly keep an eye on their fields. After the strong development in the grain industry, PA started to spread in other types of cultivations as well, like viticulture and horticulture.

Precision horticulture: main applications

The basic activity related to precision agriculture and horticulture is the collection of data directly from the fields, that is analyzed or presented, in order to provide insightful information.

  1. One of the main applications of the data is yield monitor, which helps keep control of the yield during the harvesting process. From the count of fruit bins to the estimation of production per tree, monitoring the yield helps get an overview of the final season's results. 
  2. To collect data from the environment, remote sensors are usually installed in orchards. Thanks to the sensors, it is possible to get information on soil conditions, weather, and other specific variables without even entering the orchard. 
  3. Quality check is in horticulture a crucial aspect to evaluate the production. Variables like size and color are used to divide fruits into different categories, with different prices. Therefore, little tools as sensors and spectrometers are quite commonly used to have an overview of the general condition of the production and make all the quality tests at the end of the season easier. 
  4. Pest detection and fertilization management gained room in the precision horticulture techniques since they can help identify in advance, thanks to a change in colors or little spots on fruits and leaves, diseases or pests in the orchard, and provide information on how it is better to manage the fertilization.

What's new in precision agriculture?

Information on what is currently going on in the orchards is for sure already a good step. But to be always competitive and get better profits, the need to act on time is becoming crucial. Therefore, predictive models and software for yield estimations are becoming more and more popular.Plus, the hardware side is developing considerably, especially considering that going around with tools and sensors is sometimes troublesome for growers. In this sense, drones, field sensors, and other tools to be fixed on machines are some of the current solutions. Even if growers and farmers are getting used to them, eliminating hardware (and related costs) is still a preferred solution.

Pixofarm: the state-of-the-art technology in horticulture

Pixofarm wants to be one of the main solutions in this sense, focusing on the development of a technology, which is able to provide analysis and predictive information, without even installing a sensor in the orchards.

What are the main benefits of the solution? Orchardists are enabled to get steady results, based on which they take decisions. This leads to fruits in the perfect size, higher harvest volume, and higher turnover. Being provided with the most relevant data, they can keep an ongoing control over the orchards, directly from a smartphone. Plus, Pixofarm keeps the level of investment low and eliminates any maintenance cost - avoiding any type of sensor or hardware.

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