Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

What is Precision Agriculture?

What do you think of when you hear the words “precision agriculture”? Huge fields owned by big companies and large-scale producers? Multi-million dollar machinery? Drones buzzing overhead mapping large swaths of land? During the Global Farmer Roundtable* at the World Food Prize, a group of producers discussed the potential of precision agricultural in a variety of contexts, small and large.  

These farmers, representing a variety of landscapes from around the world, specifically discussed the role of precision agriculture for making farming more efficient in light of climate change. Precision agricultural is not a silver bullet, though the integration of technologies can help farmers find efficiencies that make it more profitable, which is a strong motivation in any context.

In Uruguay, for example, one farmer described how the use of drones helps his company determine just the right amount of fertilizer to use, and the best placement of the fertilizer in the field. The data collected from the drones enables decision making about efficiencies that also meet the needs of soil heath and overall environmental sustainability.

In Kenya, another farmer is using smart technology to track the cumulative amount of milk each of his cattle produces, as well as how many are pregnant at any given time. He can then strategically plan when to inseminate cattle, creating efficiencies and saving money across his production activities.  

In India, over the last 2-3 years, one farmer explained, producers are using their mobile phones to access farming services. For example, a farmer can send a photo showing a pest or disease to a central telephone number. They then receive a call-back or text message with step-by-step instructions about how to manage the challenge depicted in the photo.

Overall, precision agriculture has the power develop and use resource-conserving agricultural management practices. The experience of the farmers at the World Food Prize provide a variety of examples, and there many more stories to tell about how precision agriculture can revolutionize global farming practices. Do you have one? Share below in the comments section, or by tweeting @Agrilinks.

* Hosted by Truth about Trade and Technology

This post is based on proceedings of 2015’s World Food Prize (WFP) and its yearly set of panels and workshops. The 2015 WFP included participation by farmers from Iowa to Mozambique, academics, NGO and local CSO staffers, students from high school to graduate school, CEOs and senior fortune 500 senior staff, former Presidents and Heads of State, local Des Moines policymakers and U.S. ambassadors. Two of Agrilinks’ own, together with Feed the Future team members, joined in the intellectual games of the 2015 WFP: Borlaug 101, which examined the basics and not-so-basics of food security around the globe. Learn what we learned and don’t hesitate to post comments, questions, and examples from your own work.