What is precision agriculture and why we need more of it?

What is precision agriculture and why we need more of it?

Many farmers around the world benefit significantly from adopting precision agriculture practices. The main benefits of it involve reduced costs and environmental harm, as well as the ability to produce much healthier crops. Let’s dive deeper into these issues and discuss what precision agriculture actually is and how it helps farmers optimize their production processes.

So what exactly does precision agriculture entail?

Precision agriculture or precision farming is a modern agriculture trend, which allows farmers to fertilize their crops with a much greater accuracy and, in turn, optimize the crops production. The processes of precision farming involve sophisticated technologies, like satellite systems, that analyze the fields and give farmers exact recommendations of how much fertilizers they need to use for the specific plants.

Significant benefits of precision farming

1.) Precision Farming Increases Plant Health

Simply put, farmers who use precision agriculture technologies can provide a much better care for their fields at a smallest possible scale. The satellite systems divide fields into smaller units, analyze them individually, and provide farmers with detailed plant health analysis, which helps them understand the varied conditions within their fields. The technology also gives farmers exact recommendations of how to fertilize their crops in a most efficient way. This, in turn, allows them to produce much healthier plants that eventually becomes our food.

2.) Precision Farming Increases Fertility of Our Soils

Precision agriculture equipment takes great care not only of the plants but also protects our soils, rivers and, lakes. Currently, about 60% of nitrogen fertilizers, which is the most common fertilizer in the world, go to waste. This happens, because without precision agriculture tools farmers spread their fertilizers rather blindly – they do it evenly across the field. This results in the over-fertilization of our soils, which negatively affects its quality and fertility. A significant amount of unused nitrogen also leaches out into our lakes and rivers, causing them a major harm as well.

Precision farming equipment can prevent all these issues by enabling farmers to use just a right amount of nitrogen and stop the over-fertilization of their fields.

3.) Precision Farming Is Much Cheaper

Numerous farmers around the world have noticed reduced costs after they have started applying precision agriculture technologies to their crops production. Up-to-date satellite nitrogen recommendations save up to 40% of the fertilizers usage, which accounts for a major proportion of the farmers’ variable costs. For a medium-sized farmer, who works in a field of 250 hectares, precision farming would save around 15 thousand euros per year – the money that can definitely be put to a better use.

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How do we analyze the health of your crops from space?

How do we analyze the health of your crops from space?

The process of precision agriculture can seem daunting at first, but in reality, it provides farmers a very simple way to achieve better results. Precision agriculture equipment indeed does nearly all the work for a farmer and requires a minimal effort to enjoy a much better quality yield for a less cost. But how exactly do we examine the quality of the crops and provide farmers with the precise nitrogen recommendations?

How exactly does it work?

Weirdly enough, the process of healthier plants production actually begins in space. In order to unravel how the quality of crops can be measured and evaluated from such a far distance, it is first important to understand that everything on our planet from objects to plants or humans, has a specific spectral signature. In our day-to-day lives, we only use a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum called Visible Spectrum. Our eyes detect electromagnetic radiation, process it and create our vision of the world. Any object that reflects red light in the visible spectrum appears red to us, an object reflecting green light will look green and so forth.

In the same way that electromagnetic radiation enables us to differentiate between objects, we can differentiate between crops by looking closely at their spectral signatures. Plants are made up from biomass, which is largely composed of such elements like carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. However, during certain periods of the growth of a crop, it utilizes different kinds of nutrients. A deficiency of any of them emits a special spectral signature that can easily be detected and measured.

How do we get the data about the field?

Here at Vultus we primarily utilize data from NASA and ESA space programs. With these sources, we receive data 2 or 3 times a week on every piece of land across the globe at a resolution of 10m. What is most important to us, is that the quality of this data is incredibly high, as it allows us to provide farmers’ with as precise nitrogen recommendations as possible.

To help us efficiently and easily deliver processed and analyzed satellite data to the farmers, we have built a serverless processing pipeline. Simply put, it fetches data from NASA and ESA, selects a specific area of interests, performs calibration and corrections, processes our vegetational indices and applies the nitrogen models when specified. The engine is triggered through a GeoJSON application programming interface.

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