Precision farming utilises six ultra-modern technologies:

  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which provides a navigation system to establish a position of a tractor or combine anywhere in a land within less than 2 meters on a latitude-longitude grid overlay.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – GIS Computers capture, manage and analyse spatial data related to crop productivity and field inputs.
  • Variable Rate Technology (VRT), which provides “on-the-fly” control of field inputs.
  • Optical satellite imagery – provides real-time monitoring of crop development and anomalies due to variation in soil potential, physical or climatic variables, pest and diseases, or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Satellite Imagery and Aerial Imagery
  • Near Infra Red (NIR) Ortho rectified Imagery. This is becoming a very important technology – initially with timber and wine farmers but spreading to all farmers.

Information derived from these technologies allows farmers to:

  • apply inputs such as fertilisers and seed at variable rates exactly where they are needed
  • make more efficient use of these inputs

Precision Farming promotes good stewardship of the land for future generations, and preserves its potential for multiple uses.

At a time when the farmer is faced by decreasing profit margins and changing climates, precision farming is a smart way to farm.

Autonomous tractors and robots

See the “Digital agriculture” page.

Role players

 

Training and research

Johan van Biljon at ARC-Agricultural Engineering researches how drones assist with precision farming. Write to vbiljonj [at] arc.agric.za.

 

The ARC-Soil, Climate and Water (ARC-SCW) has a section focusing on precision farming research and implementation. Specialised equipment, together with an extensive database of satellite imagery, is used to develop products to assist farmers in improving their profitability through precision farming. Take a look at www.arc.agric.za, write to iscwinfo [at] arc.agric.za or phone 012 310 2500.

 

Companies involved supply training in their products. Find their details under “Companies”

 

Elsenburg (Western Cape Department of Agriculture) Mike Wallace (dr): mikew [at] elsenburg.com, FC Basson: fcbasson [at] elsenburg.com, www.elsenburg.com

 

The North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, runs workshops on precision farming. Astrid Hattingh from HANDRID Flora is the contact: contact details are under the “Companies involved” heading over the page. Alternatively, email Carina.debeer [at] nwu.ac.za.

 

The Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom does research on soils and can help with precision farming and fertiliser recommendations. Call PW van Deventer at 018 285 2267 or write to him at 10058591 [at] nwu.ac.za.

 

University of the Free State Department of Agricultural Economics Tel: 051 401 2824 / 3864 www.ufs.ac.za/agri-econ,  www.ufs.ac.za/agriman

 

Agricultural Management, a division of the Department of Agricultural Economics, does research on precision farming. Find the many papers and publications done on this topic on the website.

 

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Bioresources Engineering Tel: 033 260 5490 BioEng [at] @ukzn.ac.za and http://bioeng.ukzn.ac.za

 

University of Pretoria Department of Plant Production and Soil Science Tel: 012 420 3809 / 3223 www.up.ac.za

Find details of the other universities and short course providers on the “Agricultural education and training” page.

 

Companies involved

 

Climate monitoring systems can halve the use of water for farmers. Find companies who offer weather services in “Weather and climate”.

 

Associations

  • South African National Space Agency (Sansa)www.sansa.org.za Read about the Enhancing Food Security in African AgriCultural Systems with the support of Remote Sensing (AfriCultuReS) project on the website or at www.africultures.eu.

Websites and publications

Refer to the websites listed earlier in this chapter.

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