From plows to drones: farming will be precision farming in the future

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Precision farming is becoming a new practice, especially at large organisations that have important financial resources to use. How is the situation in Europe? What are the future developments? The foresight study "Precision farming and the future of farming in Europe", European Parliamentary Research Service (Eprs) to the​​​ Scientific Foresight Unit (Stoa), seeks to analyse the state of the art in the field.

Precision farming - also called site-specific farming management - allows companies to compensate for the resources used and the results obtained by reducing costs and the impact on the environment, combining profitability and sustainability. One of the leading technologies of this inevitable evolutionary process are certainly drones, which collect raw data and transform them, through a series of algorithms, into useful information. From the analysis of plant health to the presence of parasites and infections, from anomalous foliage to the height and density of plants, up to their water and nutrition needs: drones help farmers optimise the use of seeds, fertilizers, water and pesticides in a more efficient way. This predictive activity allows for the timely protection of crops, saving time for the analysis of the most appropriate cultures and production costs.

The collection of accurate and reliable georeferenced data which are turned from raw data into a business intelligence instrument, is used to optimize not only crop productivity but also strategic resources and corporate income: in a few words, drones are progressively imposing themselves as an important tool to take farming to a whole new level. And how about farmers? Will they be able to keep pace? The future challenge for them is similar to that of all the other professions: more skills - environmental, technological and managerial skills.