Precision agriculture adoption on the up

Harvesting data is the key to precision farming

Machinery
DATA HARVEST: Farmer and PCT AgCloud product manager for Sata Maps Ben Boughton believes data collection is a key factor to the success of precision agriculture.

DATA HARVEST: Farmer and PCT AgCloud product manager for Sata Maps Ben Boughton believes data collection is a key factor to the success of precision agriculture.

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Harvesting data is the key to precision farming

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There is a common perception that farmers have been slow to adopt precision agriculture tools.

But one industry expert and farmer believes it depends on how you define precision agriculture, and either way, adoption is on the rise.

Moree, NSW, farmer and PCT AgCloud product manager Ben Boughton is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the debate, having completed a Nuffield Scholarship exploring the role of precision agriculture in farming and founding the successful satellite imagery company, Satamaps, which was integrated into PCT AgCloud last year.

Mr Boughton said precision agriculture was about being able to measure and record variability, activities, inputs and outputs on a farm in a spatial manner so that management decisions could be made on a smaller scale, ultimately resulting in increasing returns. He also said it was about encompassing the technology that enabled the precise application of inputs.

"Precision agriculture has allowed us to add a spatial component, giving the ability to micro manage within a paddock," he said.

"I often use digital agriculture interchangeably with precision agriculture, in my mind they have to integrated.

"Many of the tools come bolted onto the tractor now, we can't forget those."

Mr Boughton said there were many quick wins in the area of precision agriculture and these already had high adoption rates.

"Obviously auto-steer delivered benefits to farmers and was highly adopted, it was a big win," he said.

"Auto shut-off on the sprayer is fantastic, depending on how many point rows you can be saving a stack of chemical inputs, with added benefit of no overlap on residual herbicides for crop safety. An added benefit from getting a RTK base station is that you have extremely accurate elevation data that can be used for farm design.

"Satellite imagery is cheap insurance, you can monitor your fields, see what is going on and make sure you aren't missing anything."

Mr Boughton said the influence of agronomists was driving accelerated uptake of precision agriculture.

"Historically one of the issues with the adoption of precision agriculture was companies tried to skip over the trusted adviser or agronomist and market straight to the grower," he said.

"We are seeing more uptake now because the precision agriculture supply chain, when done right, now involves the soil and plant scientists - the agronomists."

Mr Boughton said farmers could expect an exponential improvement in satellite technology and algorithms.

"I think in the next few years we will see more affordable, high resolution imagery available," he said.

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