Sustainable Agriculture: 12 Technologies You Can’t Ignore
Agriculture 4.0, also known as digital agriculture, is based on cutting-edge technology, process automation, and large-scale data analysis in agricultural production. When applied together, these techniques contribute to sustainable and increasingly productive agriculture.
The main objectives of this technology are:
- improve agricultural productivity and efficiency in the use of inputs;
- reduce costs;
- increase worker safety;
- reduce the environmental impacts of agricultural activity.
Agriculture 4.0 emerges as an essential tool, as applying sustainable techniques in the field is no longer a “revolutionary trend” and has become imperative and a guarantee for supplying the food production chain for the next generations.
Digital agriculture has the potential to optimize the use of natural resources and increase productivity while minimizing impacts on the environment. This includes techniques for genetic enhancement of seeds and biotechnology to create more productive cultivars adapted to the environment, specific farming interventions, and logistics improvements in transport and distribution of production, among other things.
The new world of sustainable agriculture
In the following section, check out 12 sustainable agriculture technologies available on the market that you should no longer ignore!
1. Discover precision agriculture
Every agricultural manager knows that the characteristics of planting areas are not uniform. Each piece of farmland needs different amounts and types of inputs.
However, the idea of understanding large areas as homogeneous, used on a large scale by farmers, leads to the application of equal amounts of fertilizers, green manure, and inputs throughout the farm, considering the average. The result? Discrepancies and non-uniformity of production.
This is precisely where precision agriculture comes in. Using referencing and positioning technologies provided by advanced GPS systems makes it possible to manage the field meter by meter.
This way, the exact amount of inputs, fertilizers, and pesticides are applied to each area at the most appropriate time. The use of precision agriculture generates financial savings, spares the environment, and considerably increases the productivity of the areas.
2. Get ready for the autonomy of agricultural machines
The futuristic scenario in which robots do much of the manual work has already reached agricultural production. Prototypes of tractors, harvesters, and ploughs that can be controlled remotely have already been launched.
Through these machines, the operator is replaced by intelligent systems, sensors, radio, data, and GPS that respond to previously configured commands and are controlled by tablets and smartphones. This technology is considered an evolution of precision agriculture.
3. Map out your harvest
The first step to using agriculture 4.0 to your advantage is to check how your land is doing. Knowing precisely how much each area is generating makes it possible to investigate the reasons for low productivity in a given location, managing it accordingly.
It is precisely this information that harvest mapping can provide. Through harvesters equipped with GPS (which marks the position of the machine) and sensors (which measures the amount of grain harvested in each position), you will be able to determine the spatial variability of production within your farm.
4. Use performance indicators based on the data collected
Future agriculture is not only aimed at increasing productivity without limits. To maintain a productive area over time, it is also necessary to increase the efficiency of land use and financial resources and minimize the environmental impact as much as possible.
How to manage all these variables, knowing exactly where and how to intervene? The answer lies in the analysis of suitable indicators.
Using integrated systems and precision agriculture leads to data generation, allowing you to handle each production-related issue in the most efficient and straightforward way possible. This generates savings in time, workforce, and natural and financial resources.
5. Let the sensors do their work
Optical sensors linked to computers with artificial intelligence and internet access can work practically independently, leaving you free to deal with other agricultural management issues.
Irrigation control and application of inputs and nutrients in previously configured periods are just some examples of the great help that sensors can provide.
6. Get used to drones flying over the crop
Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are another amazing tool brought by the development of precision agriculture. They can be coordinated remotely, either by people or by pre-programmed automatic controllers.
The great versatility of this equipment is worth the investment. With drones flying over the areas of the farm, it is possible to analyze the plantation, detect pests and flaws, demarcate planting areas, monitor the crop development and deforestation levels, find water sources, find fire spots, among many other functions.
7. Don’t be afraid of Big Data
The concept of Big Data — which, in short, refers to the storage, organization, and analysis of large volumes of data — is still viewed with suspicion by many agricultural farmers. However, know that adopting Big Data can generate real benefits for your business!
It is humanly impossible to gather and analyze harvest and production data manually, relating them to geomorphological soil characteristics and meteorological data to design appropriate management strategies.
Big Data does all of that for you. With its support, it is possible to anticipate the occurrence of diseases and pests — considering the levels of air humidity, the presence of the pathogen, and the temperature at specific periods —, to simulate the probability of an infestation in the plantation and to determine the appropriate defensive measures to be applied. Amazing, isn’t it?
With Big Data, it is also possible to properly manage water resources. Depending on the soil texture, certain areas can store more water than others, requiring less irrigation.
Saving water and inputs: it’s good for you and great for the environment. Sustainable agriculture is here to stay, benefiting the planet and farmers!
8. Establish partnerships by adopting the Integrated Crop-Livestock systems (ICLS)
Technologies for sustainable management of Integrated Crop-Livestock present excellent results, especially when it comes to using the available space without the need to seek new areas to be deforested.
This system consists of adopting agricultural and livestock activities in an integrated way in the same area in a rotation or succession model. This leads to a lower impact on natural resources and reduced degradation processes.
ICLS aims at diversifying production to optimize the use of resources while generating income for the farmer. Thus, it is possible for those who are already cattle ranchers to enter agribusiness with a larger production scale, with pasture areas already available. By leasing the land, it is possible to open the door to partnerships with other rural farmers.
ICLS technologies primarily offer the following benefits to farming:
- savings in pasture recovery or renovation;
- provision of residual fertilizers that will be applied to grain crops, such as soybeans and corn, and used by forage crops;
- forage production in critical seasons;
- enhancement of physical, biological, and chemical soil attributes through Brachiaria pastures;
- reduction of weed in the area in the long run;
- reduction in the need to apply herbicides to control weeds.
9. Implement management software to operate business activities
The quality and efficiency of operations on the farm are the result of strategic decisions taken by management. Undoubtedly, a lot of information and records must be considered to run a business.
Therefore, several software and apps help the farmer to organize his activities. When using an agricultural management system, the farmer inserts all his production data, and the software notifies him about the different stages of production. That way, the farmer does not miss the right moment to apply pesticides in the fields, irrigate or plant.
This technology goes beyond the management done through spreadsheets and papers. The system performs automatic calculations and issues reports, and everything can be stored and accessed through a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
This allows the farmer to have, right at hand, complete control of the inputs on his farm and their other assets. What does this have to do with sustainability in agriculture? A farm management software represents:
- lower production costs;
- more financial security;
- more quality in the production;
- more productivity in all aspects of the business.
10. Get connected to the Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is a concept that encompasses several other technologies and devices: artificial intelligence, 4G internet, wireless, GPS, etc. Within the agricultural scenario, this includes drones, sensors, tractors, automobiles, among others. The idea of IoT is that all these devices are connected, exchanging information.
With all of the software and devices connected to the internet, these “things” can generate an unimaginable volume of data in real-time, gathering important information for the decision-making process, including records about soil, crops, machines, weather, and plants.
Think, for example, of the temperature and humidity sensors that can automatically activate sprinklers according to the needs of the crop. This is one of the most basic applications!
11. Revolutionise your production with transgenics
Transgenics is a type of genetic improvement that alters part of the DNA of plants through the insertion of new genes from other plants or different species. The goal is to add new characteristics to the cultivars in terms of taste, resistance to pests, adverse conditions, or any other desirable attribute.
This success, a result of biotechnology, is well perceived by the potential of soy in Brazil and its position in world agriculture. About 96.5% of the area planted with soy in the country is transgenic. This genetically enhanced product:
- reduces the use of pesticides;
- reduces environmental impact;
- protects the health of farmers who have to deal less often with pesticides;
- reduces crop losses and increases productivity.
12. Don’t start the activities without first performing soil chemical analysis
Monitoring cropland fertility conditions is the most accurate way to assess soil nutrient levels. The chemical analysis of the soil according to an agronomist’s recommendations will guide the farmer on the quantity and nature of the fertilizers and correctives that must be applied to improve the quality of the soil.
It is worth mentioning that this nutritional balance is essential to achieve high crop productivity levels since the healthy development of plants largely depends on the stock of nutrients present in the soil.
For this, soil samples are collected and transported to the laboratory, which will have the results after at least a week.
Georeferenced soil sampling, which combines chemical analysis and GPS location, is one of the precision agriculture strategies that allow for the construction of plot fertility maps, ensuring that fertilization operations are even more specific and sustainable.
Entering the age of Agriculture 4.0 for a more sustainable agribusiness
The path to adopting technologies that contribute to sustainable agriculture is not that complex. However, it is necessary to carry out the proper planning so that investments are well-targeted.
- invest in modern machines, with attributes that allow the adoption of precision agriculture strategies — many of them already include solutions such as sensors, GPS, on-board computers, among others;
- train your employees for the most advanced technologies, as there is no point in having the tools and not having professionals who know how to operate them to extract the maximum of productive efficiency;
- respect environmental standards to ensure that the procedures adopted are aimed at preserving natural resources;
- deepen your management knowledge to leverage data favorably.
The manager and rural farmer must keep up with trends in the sector to ensure the adoption of the best practices and tools within their reality and their farming needs. This is the right path towards sustainable and more productive agriculture.
Now that you are familiar with sustainable agriculture technologies, how about understanding the advantages of digital agriculture? Read our post about the topic and learn what it is, its benefits and how to apply it!