As the world population increases, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) says the agriculture industry is looking at satellite-enabled technologies to maximise yields and improve efficiency.
By 2050, the world’s population is predicted to increase by 2 billion, reaching a total population of 9 billion people. To cope with this reality, the agriculture industry must maximise the use of available resources. Precision agriculture, which uses satellite navigation to help increase crop yields and improve efficiency, will play an important role in this effort – and an increasing number of precision agriculture professionals are already relying on EGNOS.
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“Farmers are early adopters of precision agriculture, and the GSA is strongly committed to the farming community,” said GSA Head of Market Development Gian-Gherardo Calini, speaking at a conference entitled Risk Management and Climate Change: Tools to Support Farmers to Produce Food and Public Goods, held in connection with Expo Milan. “Their needs are becoming more sophisticated, leading to high productivity and farm profitability.”
While the technology has a variety of uses, the main application is tractor guidance. Positioning applications can be used to guide a tractor around a field and minimise the effort exerted by a farmer, thus increasing efficiency and reducing labour costs.
EGNOS can also be used to help farmers enhance crop management and improve position-based tasks like spraying insecticides and pesticides and harvesting crops. In turn, this increases yields and helps provide much-needed food supply around the world.
A Need for Advanced Applications
As precision agriculture technology becomes more widely available, farmers are demanding advanced applications of satellite technology and are looking for entire farm management solutions. Farmers want technology that allows them to make better decisions and have more predictable outcomes.
Unmanned drones, or UAVs, are aiding in this effort. When combined with remote sensors, UAVs can be used to determine crop progress as well as crop deficiencies and the presence of disease and water monitoring. This information could lower pesticide usage, thus decreasing the environmental footprint of agriculture.
One example of this is FieldCopter, an EU-funded project where UAVs fly a pre-determined pattern and collect data from agricultural land. Another is the Mistrale project, which seeks to provide soil moisture maps using GNSS Reflectometry, helping farmers maximise water efficiency. The Mistrale project was successfully tested in 2015 and is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.
This cutting-edge work has gotten the attention of organisations around Europe and the world, as they can see the benefits that the technology can have on agriculture.
“Coldiretti (Italy’s national confederation of agriculture entrepreneurs) is extremely interested in innovation and the benefits that European GNSS can bring to agriculture,” said Calini. “From a farmer’s perspective, GNSS is only one satellite technology amongst others. For example, Copernicus complements positioning with remote sensing information.”
The crop insurance industry can also benefit from positioning and earth observation tools, as the technology creates better models to predict weather patterns and determine crop yields. With that information, crop insurance companies can set predictable rates and manage profits.
“By harnessing new technologies and accessing more precise data, we are increasing production and improving the efficiency of our work for the benefit of consumers and society as a whole,” Calini concluded.
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