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Global Precision Ag Market Only Going Upwards

Global Precision Ag Market Only Going Upwards

Predictions expect that between now and 2028, the worldwide precision farming market will exceed $20-billion, noting that Canada has been slow to adopt the technology

Andrew Joseph

Pssst… the global precision agriculture market is expected to reach US$16.35 billion (~CDN$20.25 billion) by 2028, expanding from 2021 by a rate of 13.1 percent a year.

That’s the prediction contained within the Global Precision Farming Market 2021-2028 report via 

We all know just what precision agriculture farming using high impact technology can do—help farmers evaluate their own specific fields to make a more informed decision on how best to proceed—and when—and even more precisely to determine how different parts of the same field may require different ways to maximize it. 

The report points out that over the next few years, more and more people will learn of the benefits of precision ag technology and will utilize it. Or at least that’s the hope—and why shouldn’t it be?  

It’s like fishing. You could stand on a riverbank and blindly cast about hoping that whatever you have used as bait and whatever fishing style used will attract a fish lurking nearby and that you hopefully are able to hook and then bring ashore. Or, instead of blind luck, one could use technology better, such as utilizing a deep-sea boat with sonar and maps, study weather conditions and water currents, and yes, physical fishing technologies to fill your vessel with a large haul. 

The example cited is an over-simplification of the use of technology, but the notable take-away is that while one is for fun, the other is a better way to run a business. 

While farmers are certainly allowed to have fun, the business of running a farm is survival of the fittest. Why not use the best materials available to your advantage to maximize the pluses and to minimize the negatives? This is the allure of precision ag technology.  

Per the Global Precision Farming Market 2021-2028 report, it expects to see a continued growth in the application of telematics in agriculture. 

Telematics is the broad descriptive term for technologies that are used to capture data from precision ag equipment—like a tractor—via sensors installed on it to monitor how well the equipment is performing, and to then transfer the data to the farmer in a near-real time fashion, who can access by computer, pad or phone from the field or any place on the planet. Adjustments can then be made via software inputs to alter the farm equipment’s performance to ensure best results are achievable.   

The telematics aka precision farming technique uses sensors, antenna, access points, automation and control systems to create analyzable data, which is then applied via technologies such as robotics, automation and bioengineering. Voila! Precision ag technology.  

Quite naturally, the Global Precision Farming Market 2021-2028 report states that agriculture equipment companies expect telematics adoption to only increase and to drive the market moving forward. 

The report says that increased applications of telematics will further drive the demand for more precision farming. It cited the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) being used as being a great way for precision ag farmers to track the positioning of the machinery et al as a key management tool to ensure a larger crop yield is attainable while wasting fewer costly resources such as fuel usage, or by better distribution of seed, water, herbicides or fertilizers. 

From start-ups to well-established major firms, agriculture equipment manufacturers are utilizing telematics services to help their customers achieve better farming efficiency.

According to a recent report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), American farmers using precision ag technologies gained: 

•    4 percent increase in crop production 
•    7 percent reduction in fertilizer usage
•    9 percent reduction in herbicide application
•    6 percent reduction in fossil fuel required
•    4 percent reduction in water use

It’s a farm management tool that uses information technology to provide a farmer with better assurances of crop health and productivity.  

While your performance may vary relative to the reductions in environmental impact regarding fertilizer, herbicide, fuel and water usage, farmers employing telematics will also achieve cost savings. 

While we can not state that you will see crop production rise—we are slaves to weather, after all—precision ag telematics dictates that yield increases are in the forecast. 

Using precision ag technology—such as an autonomous (no-human driver required) vehicle, farmers will be able to apply seed perfectly in a field, as well as to properly apply just the right amount of plant care items to give you a chance to produce a larger crop over the entire field. By using the precision ag technology, farmers will be able to move their equipment effectively to ensure fuel usage is spent judiciously. 

Technology-wise, several platforms exist that provide access to near real-time weather conditions in a farmer’s region and across the province, and to see accurate and timely daily and hourly forecasts. Farmers can analyze their field history of tillage and agronomic information to plan for the planting and growing season, with the ability to share data with their agronomist, ag-retail seed or chemical representatives. 

And then there’s drones—drone technology is taking off. 

We’re not talking about those old remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters here—we’re talking about drones decked with technology and operated with software specific to the ag industry.

Use of drone technology will offer a farmer many different things to contemplate. There are already quite a few ag drone firms out there, with more expected to enter the market over the next few years—with anticipated newer and different technologies. 

Canadian firm TerraNova UAV said its UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles aka drones) use special cameras and software to provide real-time insights on crop hydration, level of vegetation development and sanitary conditions. The ground-level operator will later present a full report or analysis of the inspected area allowing the farmer to provide timely irrigation, fertilization and sanitary treatments.   

On the downside, the Global Precision Farming Market 2021-2028 report acknowledged that as of 2021 there is still a low adoption rate of precision ag technologies by farmers in North America and the world, and could, if not corrected, hamper the financial expectations of seeing a +$20-billion industry. 
Funding and how to spend available finances were seen as pitfalls to further tech adoption. Yes, purchasing precision ag technology is expensive in the short term, but long-term of even a few years can see an ROI. 

But, the report noted that ancillary tools are lacking, such as the lack of independent consulting and advisory services, which it said was due to an absence of validated agronomic models for Variable Rate Technology to allow for best decision on these capital investments. 

The report correctly opined that independent services not linked to co-ops, farm associations or the government would allow farmers to gain more information before purchase of the technology, types of technology and what would best suit their own farming circumstance.

The Global Precision Farming Market 2021-2028 report also suggested that both Europe and Asia would see the biggest leap in demand for precision ag technology. 

It cited the digital revolution in the agricultural sector and government financial incentives to European farms as a key driver, while Asia might see the fastest growth owing to the availability of the largest agricultural land providing growth opportunities in countries such as China, India, Australia, and Japan. 
But what about Canada? 

A different 2021 report from the Delphi Group in collaboration with Bioenterprise Corporation said that while adoption rates vary by province, Canada itself has been slow to latch onto precision agriculture technologies relative to European nations and the U.S. 

The report examined the tech segment on behalf of the B.C. provincial Ministry of Agriculture – Precision Agriculture Technologies for Nutrient Management in British Columbia. 

It said that four chief barriers continue to stop a wider adoption of precision ag technology in Canada: 

•    Not enough education or understanding of the tech and its various applications; 
•    High costs to purchase; 
•    General farmer risk aversion; 
•    Data access and data ownership concerns. 

All valid points and concerns, but Canadian agriculture will need to adapt quicky to keep up with consumer demands and regulatory requirements to name just a few.  

As stated, precision agriculture technologies help a farmer to apply water, pesticides and herbicides when and where needed in an exacting manner that boils down to fewer wasted resources and less fuel used which means fewer GHG emissions and less environmental impact. 

With the need pending, all the barriers noted can be removed or at least lowered. 

Having more education can also reduce risk aversion, though some farmers will always prefer to do things as they have always been done. 

While the global market for precision agricultural technology seems poised to leap forward over the next few years, it is wholly-dependant on the Canadian agri-retail tech market to ensure its farmers do not get left behind. 

This article was included in the 2021 December Precision Agriculture Digital Digest — view it here.

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