Precision Agriculture and Big Data Gaining Traction Fast

Example of how farmers can use iPads to track data around his operation
Technology is going mobile, allowing growers to access information in the field from tablets or phones.
Photo courtesy of Highland Precision Ag

This year, the iPhone will celebrate its 10th birthday. In only a decade, smartphones have found their way into just about everyone’s pocket and have fundamentally changed the world. Looking back 10 years ago, one wonders how anybody ever got by without these little computers that fit in the palm of their hand.

The data-driven age that will unfold over the next decade will take society to even greater heights of automation and intuitive technology aimed at making life easier and more productive. Challenges and questions of ethics will arise as new innovations occur — as they always do — but the technology train is barreling forward and the pace will only quicken as computing power increases and the Internet of things spreads.

Technology has spread through agriculture as well, most notably in the form of precision agriculture practices. For big-acre row crops, precision ag is much like the iPhone — just a normal part of daily farming. Variable rate applications, auto-steer, field mapping, and yield monitoring have become standard operating procedure for many of the commodity crop growers.

Catching on Quickly

While specialty crop growers have generally lagged behind in the adoption of precision agriculture practices, the segment is catching up fast. In the past few years, Florida growers have been adding various facets of the technology to their operations. Auto-steer is common and grid mapping is catching on, allowing more variable rate applications to be applied.

“Precision ag is kind of nebulous term that doesn’t really describe the industry that well anymore,” says Robert Saik, Founder of the Agri-Trend Group (now part of Trimble Navigation) and an agricultural futurist who tracks farm technology. “There is so much wrapped up in that term now and it can mean so many different things to different people.”

Growers also are getting a grasp of how this concept of “big data” can be used to improve the productivity and sustainability of farms.

“The biggest decision a farmer will have to make in the next three years or sooner is the data platform he or she chooses to run their operation,” Saik says.

Regardless what platforms growers choose, Saik says agriculture is embarking on exciting times as growers learn to harness the power of data being collected by fertility grid sampling, sensors, and imagery captured from unmanned aerial systems (UAS, aka drones), planes, or satellites.

“First, we need a system to capture all the data, then we need a way to make sense of it all,” Saik says. “That is where algorithms come in to assimilate all the information. That’s what many of the technology companies are focusing on now. He who has the best algorithm will win.”

He adds algorithms will be able to analyze factors like weather, soil moisture, plant growth stage, and fertility as crops develop. Also, as data is collected over time, it will allow “machine learning,” meaning a computer platform will recognize problems developing that it has observed before.

“The future vision of these systems surround anomaly detection,” Saik says. “I don’t need to be told everything is good. I need to be told where problems exist. There is far too much information for a human to possibly deal with. That is where algorithms and machine learning will come in.”

Saik says the technological revolution approaching agriculture is being driven by computing power.

“Computers are pulling us along,” he says. “By 2023 or sooner, a $1,000 laptop will be have the computing power of 10 to the 16th power. That is the same computing speed as the human brain.”

Saik says these capabilities will unlock the ability to “variable rate everything” based on a crop’s needs throughout its development. Variable rate planting, fertilizer, weed control, fungicides, and irrigation will become common. Robotics will follow to address concerns in the labor area.

Topics: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Precision Agriculture and Big Data Gaining Traction Fast

Citrus Stories
honeybees
Citrus
May 23, 2017
Webinar Series Highlights New Research on Honeybee Health
National Pollinator Week webinar showcases research to improve honeybee colony health by 2020. Read More
stack of lemons
Citrus
May 23, 2017
California Lemon Growers Sue USDA
Lemon industry files suit against rule allowing importation of Argentine lemons. Read More
Bee Vectoring Technologies experimental hives
Citrus
May 23, 2017
Insects (Bad and Good) Make for Interesting Field Trips
Disease-fighting bees and the deadly citrus psyllid were at the center of two recent, research-fueled out-of-office adventures. Read More
Tango mandarin orange sliced in half
Varieties & Rootstocks
May 23, 2017
In Quest for Low-Seeded Citrus, It Takes Two to Tango
Momentum for viable mandarin hybrids for Florida reaching a peak in the land down under. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2017
Short on Water, Florida Growers Know How to Dig Down Deep
Through drought, smoke and brush fires, it’s plain to see you farmers have been doing your part to conserve and preserve one of our most precious resources. Read More
seattle port shipping
Citrus
May 20, 2017
USDA Creates Undersecretary for Trade
Reorganization puts trade, farm production as top priorities for the agency. Read More
2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines
Citrus Achievement Award
May 18, 2017
Meet the 2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award Winner
Cheers to Ed Pines for putting the positive back in citrus. Read More
Sugar Belle oranges
Varieties & Rootstocks
May 18, 2017
Unique Citrus Variety Standing Up to Deadly Disease
University of Florida researchers are peeling back the layers to find out what’s helping specific mandarin hybrid hold serve against HLB. Read More
Citrus
May 16, 2017
First California Red Scale Aerosol Mating Disruption Product Approved
EPA, California officials grant Semios approval of pheromone pest control solution for widespread citrus problem. Read More
Citrus
May 16, 2017
EPA Seeks States’ Input On Waters of the U.S. Rule
As the agency considers scaling back the water rule, states are asked to define protected waters. Read More
Orie Lee, 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner
Citrus
May 15, 2017
Florida Citrus Innovator Passes Away at 90
Orie Lee spent half his life cultivating the industry he cared deeply for. Read More
Burn ban sign posted along S.R. A1A in Flagler County, FL, due to drought conditions
Citrus
May 15, 2017
Drought Conditions Deepen Across Central Florida
Water Shortage Warning Order expanded to all counties within St. Johns River Water Management District. Read More
Citrus
May 11, 2017
Late Season Rally in Forecast for Florida Orange Crop
Latest estimate from USDA reveals first increase in several months; grapefruit continues to sour. Read More
Citrus
May 9, 2017
Barn Owls Can be an Effective Control for Rodents and Gophers
The predators are already getting results in vineyards and orchards. Research is showing they’re just as effective in vegetable and fruit fields. Read More
Citrus
May 5, 2017
USDA Angers California Lemon Growers
Industry leaders extremely disappointed by Argentine lemon rule. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
May 25, 2017
Are We Overstating the World’s Ove…
If growers can’t achieve a fair return on investment and stay in business, it won’t matter what the population is in 2050. We all will be trouble. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2017
Falcons Scare off Other Birds at Duncan …
It collaborates with a firm that uses trained falcons to intimidate and scare off nuisance birds such as the horned larks and pigeons that frequent the area. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2017
Search is on For Next Crop of Florida Ag…
Nomination period now open for longtime industry honor. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2017
Webinar Series Highlights New Research o…
National Pollinator Week webinar showcases research to improve honeybee colony health by 2020. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2017
California Lemon Growers Sue USDA
Lemon industry files suit against rule allowing importation of Argentine lemons. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2017
Insects (Bad and Good) Make for Interest…
Disease-fighting bees and the deadly citrus psyllid were at the center of two recent, research-fueled out-of-office adventures. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2017
Short on Water, Florida Growers Know How…
Through drought, smoke and brush fires, it’s plain to see you farmers have been doing your part to conserve and preserve one of our most precious resources. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2017
USDA Creates Undersecretary for Trade
Reorganization puts trade, farm production as top priorities for the agency. Read More
Citrus
May 16, 2017
First California Red Scale Aerosol Matin…
EPA, California officials grant Semios approval of pheromone pest control solution for widespread citrus problem. Read More
Citrus
May 16, 2017
EPA Seeks States’ Input On Waters of the…
As the agency considers scaling back the water rule, states are asked to define protected waters. Read More
Citrus
May 15, 2017
Florida Citrus Innovator Passes Away at …
Orie Lee spent half his life cultivating the industry he cared deeply for. Read More
Citrus
May 15, 2017
Drought Conditions Deepen Across Central…
Water Shortage Warning Order expanded to all counties within St. Johns River Water Management District. Read More
Citrus
May 11, 2017
Late Season Rally in Forecast for Florid…
Latest estimate from USDA reveals first increase in several months; grapefruit continues to sour. Read More
Citrus
May 9, 2017
Barn Owls Can be an Effective Control fo…
The predators are already getting results in vineyards and orchards. Research is showing they’re just as effective in vegetable and fruit fields. Read More
Citrus
May 5, 2017
USDA Angers California Lemon Growers
Industry leaders extremely disappointed by Argentine lemon rule. Read More
Citrus
April 29, 2017
Florida Ag Commissioner Pushes for Probe…
With a focus on Mexico, letter sent by Adam Putnam to the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary stresses need for level playing field. Read More
Citrus
April 28, 2017
EPA Approves New Plant Growth Stimulant
RIO from Arysta LifeScience North America is labeled for use on citrus, vegetables, tree fruit, strawberries, grapes, and nuts. Read More
Citrus
April 27, 2017
The California Citrus Grower Defines Lea…
While HLB wreaked havoc elsewhere, the California citrus industry came together and formed an action plan. Read More