In South Africa, the grain sector (a traditional crop for AFGRI) faces undue pressure to produce maize profitably at export parity prices. In an effort to sustain profitable production, producers need to use the latest technology available – from seed to chemicals and mechanisation to training, including precision agriculture. It’s a case of maintaining a competitive advantage in a competitive global agricultural market; it’s not just a ‘nice-to-have’.
What is enabling us to produce more precisely?
With swarms of satellites, drones and sensors in our cadre, globally we are well equipped to engage in precision agriculture, aka satellite farming or site specific crop management (SSCM).
There is a wave of innovations – from satellite geomapping developed by the US’s NASA to drones used to collect aerial data, to sensors used to collect moisture, temperature and other weather data on the land – provide insight into the health of the land on a real-time basis. Technologies such as advanced sensors and monitoring equipment now enable farmers to monitor crops more precisely and continuously, thereby enabling more strategic decision-making to increase productivity, with a reduced impact on the environment.
What can we do now that we could not do before, you ask?
From manipulating the growing environment to producing low-potassium lettuce to attaching sensors to cows to identify potentially sick animals, there is little question that the second green revolution holds the potential for remarkable results. Beyond increasing agricultural productivity, there are proven examples of increasing the nutritional value of food. For example, Fujitsu has produced a raw lettuce with less than 80 percent of the potassium content of traditionally grown lettuce; high potassium is unhealthy for people on dialysis or suffering from chronic kidney disease.
Summary of field-level management optimisation and information gains through precision agriculture:
AFGRI’s belief in precision agriculture
AFGRI has proven that it is ahead of the curve through its 50% investment in GeoAgro, our very own satellite technology farming partners. GeoAgro’s key mandate is in “managing the farm’s information in maps; remote management of crops via satellite; generating maps for seeding, fertilisation and yields; as well as recognising zones for productive potential in order to optimise management decisions.’’
Virtually every industry that brings consistently advancing innovation to its customers divides its customers into categories of adoption, from innovators to early adopters to early and late majority and laggards. There is still greatly untapped potential to get more of our farmers informed and buying into GeoAgro’s offering. The challenge lies in showing our farmers the value of the service, and that it will not replace the need (and joy!) of getting his hands dirty in the field, but that it can be used in addition to his hands-on way of doing things in order to do things better and more efficiently. Furthermore, if the farmer goes on holiday, he/she can relax a bit more knowing real-time visual oversight of his fields and operations is one ‘click’ away. So think about this over your December holidays, whether you’re at home, on the farm, or driving somewhere seeing the drought-ridden and drought-relieved areas in our beautiful country.
Key takeaways and tags
Management zones; farming efficiency; precise decisions; site specific crop management; smart farming.