Precision Ag Isn’t Just About Production Ag Anymore

Diane Martin, President/CEO of Rhea & Kaiser, attended the PrecisionAg Vision Conference in Phoenix. She recently wrote this article, featuring the event:

Recently I attended the inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference with two colleagues from Rhea + Kaiser. It was an industry conference – not a farmer conference – focused on the possibilities and future of precision agriculture throughout the food and fiber value chain. Admittedly, some of the technical discussions were way above my ag tech, IoT, Big Data, agronomic and economic understanding. Still, I have a few insights and observations to share.

What will we call it in the future? Precision ag is earning new monikers such as digital agriculture and data-driven agriculture. I think I heard at least five different labels. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but to me it suggested that the ag industry is embracing Big Data and the Internet of Things, advancing well beyond the practical on-the-farm applications of precision farming.

It’s more than precision farming. The long-term value of precision ag may be upstream rather than on the farm. Integrators like Smithfield use precision ag to ensure feedstuffs for its hog units are grown to its quality and sustainability specifications. Food processors like Campbell’s are tapping into the track-and-trace capabilities of precision ag to validate sustainably sourced claims.
Precision ag is an important risk management tool. Crop insurance companies collect and aggregate the data to inform trigger yield charts and guide claims adjustments. For farmers and retailers, the years of data they’re collecting arms them with compliance data required by regulatory bodies like EPA or NRCS.

Sensing is the next frontier in precision ag. Data from soil-moisture and soil-nutrient sensors to inform irrigation and chemigation are only scratching the surface. We saw a presentation, “The Internet of Tomatoes,” that suggests in-field sensing may help growers consistently produce tomatoes with packers’ desired processing characteristics.

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