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Creating a Precision Agriculture Strategy

Precision agriculture has become a hot topic among farmers. The idea of using data to maximize food production, minimize environmental damage, increase productivity and cut costs has many farmers deeply invested in the concept.

Precision agriculture involves firstly capturing and compiling data, ranging from soil quality to topography maps, and then using that information to determine how to farm most efficiently, such as where to grow crops, how much pesticides or herbicides to use, when to water certain areas, and much, much more.

Precision agriculture will change how you run your business. But where do you begin if you want to join the legions of agricultural specialists already committed to precision agriculture?

Set your priorities
As with any strategy, you need to decide exactly what you hope to gain from your precision farming efforts. Are you looking to cut your overall costs? Reduce your environmental footprint? Increase your crop yields? Do you want easier collaboration with your employees? All of the above? During the planning process, establish goals as well as benchmarks that you will use to evaluate your progress.

Establish your budget
Precision farming requires investing in technology. You will need to purchase farm management software, place sensors around your property, perhaps even buy a drone. The return on investment is not immediate however, so don’t go hog wild and buy up a bunch of gizmos that will break the bank.

Once you have set your goals, figure out which equipment and software you need to meet them, and then research which technology meets your needs, and that you can afford.

Figure out your training needs
Think about who will be using your new equipment and software, and before you buy your first product, plan how you will train those people to use the equipment. Will you need to hire an outside firm to train employees? How long will training take? What challenges does that present, given the time of year, necessary work output and more? Can you handle a downturn in productivity while everyone learns the new system?

Failing to take training needs?and the learning curve required before the technology is fully maximized into account, is a big mistake too many business owners make.

Establish an implementation plan
It takes time to ramp up the process, get all your employees on board, and start to realize the benefits of precision agriculture. Establish a timeline for adopting the new technology, which could even extend over more than one growing season. Give yourself time to tweak the process and become comfortable with the new equipment.

Invest in farm management software
Precision agriculture is all about evaluating data to make strategic decisions about how you manage your crops and/or livestock. It’s impossible without the right technology to compile the data and make it easily analyzable. Farmlogs and Cropio, for example, are the farm management software that captures satellite maps and data such as heat accumulation and rainfall? Among other things, to enable you to make informed decisions.

Purchase the right mapping software
The range of mapping software available runs the gamut from low-end options that simply map your fields, to high-powered options that have robust data-processing capabilities. When researching mapping software, consider not just your budget. You want to evaluate the product’s statistical analysis, data editing, and interpolation and contouring capabilities.

The goal is to map out high and low production zones across your farm, so you can identify factors that affect your yields negatively or positively.

Upgrade your equipment
While your trusty old John Deere may still get the job done, today’s newest farm equipment comes with built-in sensors that track everything from plant height to soil quality while it moves through a field. That data is then compiled, aggregated and sent directly to your P.C., tablet or smartphone so you can plan how to treat, water, fertilize, and grow your crops.

Precision agriculture is an evolving process requiring you to continually make changes to improve your results. While a return on investment can be hard to quantify, the benefits to the environment can’t be denied, and many people see a full return in as little as a year.

(Source – http://www.consumerelectronicsnet.com/article/Designing-a-Precision-Agriculture-Strategy-4132557)

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