How digital farming is transforming agriculture
Thousands of years ago, there were no farms on Earth. Today, farmland takes up more than half the world’s arable land. However, with the expected growth in the global population, agricultural productivity will have t increase too if we want to safeguard our food supply in the long term. Digital technologies and data are not only assisting us in efficiently and sustainably deploying our resources, but they are also helping farmers to get the most out of their fields and deal with changing climate conditions.
Some technologies that are being used for digital farming include sensors, communication networks, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and many more. Applications of Internet of Things (IoT) are included in many agricultural processes and have been very beneficial in agriculture and smart farming over the years. Each of these provides something valuable to farming, from data collection through to management and processing, as well as guidance and directions. These integrated systems provide new insights that improve the ability to make and implement decisions.
Let’s think, for instance, of seed identification via GPS. The ability to know the precise location where seeds are planted allows farmers to come back to the same seed with the appropriate amount of water and fertilisers at various stage of development. Today, the precision obtained thanks to GPS mapping makes farmers more knowledgeable about their crops, which in turn helps them to strategically manage more acreage and grow more crops.
Smart irrigation systems are widely being used in farms. The large watering sprinklers move over fields and know exactly how fast to move and where water is most needed at any given moment. Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) systems use information on crop type, development stage of the crop, soil type, grade of land and weather to distribute water as effectively as possible. This allows farms to control water distribution and prevent watering areas that don’t need it.
Mobile 4 and 5G networks, remote satellite sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), IoT, AI, and cloud computing are great assets to agriculture and farming, even for smallholder farmers. Farmer Charlie is working on ways to help farmers, especially smallholder ones, to improve their agricultural activities, allowing them to manage input, achieve better yield, be more connected, receive real-time information through digital technologies, advanced sensors in the fields, data from space, and digital communication channels. Applications and tools can easily be integrated in Farmer Charlie, which is an open, adaptable, and low-cost platform.
-Farid Ibtida Tashbeeh