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GIS Technology: Enabling Pinpoint Precision

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Unraveling the complexities of modern agriculture, it’s crucial to understand the recurring expenditures that the farming community shoulders each season. At the heart of these are the procurement of seeds and fertilizers, key expenses that can make or break a harvest. Traditional farming techniques rely heavily on manual methods, increasing the expenses braced. Its efficiency and productivity directly result from the skilled labor acquired to run a farm. This results in a best-case scenario that revolves around the farmer’s skill in uniformly applying fertilizers, pesticides, planting seeds, and more. It does not account for variability within the same field. The soil compositions, microenvironments, and microflora often differ even if they are in the same vicinity and are factors that cause this variability. This landscape diversity inevitably necessitates tailored approaches in terms of both the type and quantity of farming inputs, adding yet another layer of complexity to this age-old occupation.

So how does precision farming account for this variability? GIS technology, metrological inputs, and custom software are all leveraged by precision farming to boost production by accounting for temporal and spatial variability, assisting farmers in making automated decisions to lower expenses and inputs while maximizing profit. The system cumulates multiple input points like weather data, soil data, tissue sample results, and more to create different types of prescription(s) for the fields. These inputs are fed automatically to the planter, which can apply the product using GIS technology. These systems can also display historical crop data and yields through their sensors located throughout the field.

 

GIS Technology

 

The Role of GIS Technology in Precision Agriculture

Best case scenario: these seeds are planted uniformly across the field. Variability in the soil composition and growing conditions produces variability in yield outputs from various field zones. Applying fertilizer uniformly also has the same effect. Historically farmers have studied yield maps of their fields to create management plans based on historical yield data. GIS technology ensures optimal productivity from the soil by inspecting every square unit in detail.

Based on soil data, weather data, and in-season satellite imagery monitoring of plant growth, GIS technology allows a farmer to focus on the best-yielding areas within the field, ensuring optimum use of resources and helping in averaging the yield from all variability zones. The reverse is also possible, with farmers minimizing resource allocation in low-yielding zones and saving on seed and fertilizer costs.

 

GIS Technology use cases:

  1. Satellite images or NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) images:  Users can see satellite images of their field showing how a crop is performing and take action accordingly
  2. Drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) images: Drone images are another way of checking crop health. Users can fly drones and see high-resolution field images during the growing season
  3. Rx maps(prescription map also called variable rate prescription): Using drone and satellite imagery, users create variable rate prescriptions, similar to how a doctor would prescribe medicine, except this is for the soil, with the focus being maximized yield.
  4. Boundary management through GIS tools: User can manage their farm/field and boundary using any GIS tool (e.g., a custom tool built using open layers). Users can then draw boundaries using the GIS tool or import limitations from other devices to map out their fields perfectly.
  5. Scouting: Technology partners like Tavant can build custom applications that help take pictures of the crops and maintain notes. Enabled with predictive AI algorithms, it can detect potential diseases.
  6. Tissue sampling: The user can take tissue samples during the growing season and make result-based informed decisions.
  7. Water management: The user can place sensors in the field to turn on sprinklers based on moisture presence.

 

Benefits of GIS/Geo Spatial Technologies in Precision Agriculture:

  1. They help locate precise positions on a field, allowing for mapping creation. E.g., farmers can draw their fields geospatially on any map (such as Google Maps). There are open sources like Open layers, which provide Java Script libraries to display map data from different sources without requiring code change on the change of map provider.
  2. GIS tools/technologies help fetch satellite images from various satellite providers, intersect based on field boundary, display maps (such as NDVI), and more as a layer on the field. Users can see in-season images corresponding to their fields remotely. Depending on the requirements, private and Govt satellites (e.g., Landsat in US and Sentinel in Europe) are used to access these images of specific resolutions.
  3. Users can fly drones with high-resolution cameras over the field and get in-season images to take appropriate actions (E.g., a particular field area may need pesticides or any other special treatment). Going to every site to identify the insects/disease could be tedious. Identification is resolved by looking at high-resolution pictures provided by these satellites and identifying potential diseases. Custom apps are built with disease identification as the objective by feeding the image to machine learning models to determine the cause. Users can also use drones to spray fertilizers remotely with precision and efficiency.
  4. Not all areas within a field are the same, and different areas/zones may need additional treatment/seeds. E.g., we could put high population seeds in more fertile areas and other seeds in less productive areas. GIS tools (requiring custom implementation) allow users to divide fields into multiple zones/areas and write a prescription map for the entire field. Users can assign different seeds/products to various locations. This prescription map goes as input (through USB or cloud – in case the planter/combine has internet) to the GPS-enabled planter, and it automatically applies the product (along with the prescribed quantity) as per the prescription. Farmers can sit in an auto steering planter and physically see the planter driving independently and applying different seeds in different areas accurately. Users can also see the real-time output on the monitor, which applies to applications like liquid/solid fertilizer during the season. This data transfer from the planter cloud system to the precision ag application that farmers may use can also be automated.
  5. Farmers can plan to take tissue samples from different areas of the field (based on the NDVI image) during the growing season and drop pins at those locations while sitting at home or office. Technology providers like Tavant can build mobile applications that take users to those exact locations where users can collect samples. These samples could be submitted to the lab automatically, and the results, linked to the mobile app in real-time.
  6. Farmers can use data sources such as field boundary, weather, and tissue/soil sample data and combine it with the field model to see how much water/nutrient like Nitrogen is required.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, GIS and GPS technologies help reduce expenses and time while improving crop yield. Its accuracy, convenience (remote usage), and consistency help farmers make informed decisions on the crops within their mapped regions from the comfort of their homes. The farmer only needs a few resources like seeds/fertilizer/water to improve crop productivity. Its high focus on sustainability helps farmers improve crop yield responsibly and directly addresses the challenge of feeding a growing population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050.

What’s Next?

Tavant’s goal is to help enhance productivity and efficiency while lowering the environmental effect of food production. Tavant’s solutions encompass the agriculture ecosystem, such as farm management, precision agriculture, and predictive/real-time analytics. With these solutions, you can predict and measure farm revenue, integrate with agricultural equipment, analyze yield potential, and much more.

Visit us here or reach out to us at [email protected].

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