Will precision agriculture ever be adopted?

Precision agriculture – the use of a network of sensors to respond to changing variables, and thus make agriculture more efficient and more sustainable – has significant potential, especially in the food supply chain.

However, adoption, along with integration, remains a key challenge. How can the data be integrated? And will farmers adopt the methods?  

At an event in the Italian embassy this week, a panel discussed the implications of technology within the agricultural sector, and how to adopt precision agriculture well.

What can precision agriculture do for agriculture and food?

Precision agriculture​ has many benefits. “The first question that the farmers ask is: is it economic,” said Carlo Bisaglia, director of technology at Italian research organisation CREA.

“We have seen that there is a big growing interest in efficiency that we can introduce via precision farming.” For example, he said, you can save 20% of fertiliser by using an intelligent machine; you can save 8% of fuel by using auto steering. By making such savings, it’s both more cost-effective and, crucially, more sustainable.

However, one of the main benefits precision agriculture is what it can do for the food supply chain.

Data captured from the field provides suppliers with a greater level insight into the future. “Data provides a lot of information for the supply chain, especially with the fresh produce industry, things like strawberries. Retailers want to see what their supply will look like three weeks in advance, and that’s almost impossible . . . they can only make a best guess. They don’t know what the weather is going to do,” said Duncan Ross, business development manager for crops and horticulture at the UK Agri-Tech Centre.