Smart Farming represents the application of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into agriculture, leading to what can be called a Third Green Revolution.
Following the plant breeding and genetics revolutions, this Third Green Revolution is taking over the agricultural world based upon the combined application of ICT solutions such as precision equipment, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and actuators, geo-positioning systems, Big Data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), robotics, etc.
Smart Farming has a real potential to deliver a more productive and sustainable agricultural production, based on a more precise and resource-efficient approach. However, while in the USA possibly up to 80% of farmers use some kind of SFT, in Europe it is no more than 24%.
From the farmer’s point of view, Smart Farming should provide the farmer with added value in the form of better decision making or more efficient exploitation operations and management. In this sense, smart farming is strongly related, to three interconnected technology fields addressed by Smart AKIS Network:
- Management Information Systems: Planned systems for collecting, processing, storing, and disseminating data in the form needed to carry out a farm’s operations and functions.
- Precision Agriculture: Management of spatial and temporal variability to improve economic returns following the use of inputs and reduce environmental impact. It includes Decision Support Systems (DSS) for whole farm management with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources, enabled by the widespread use of GPS, GNSS, aerial images by drones and the latest generation of hyperspectral images provided by Sentinel satellites, allowing the creation of maps of the spatial variability of as many variables as can be measured (e.g. crop yield, terrain features/topography, organic matter content, moisture levels, nitrogen levels, etc).
- Agricultural automation and robotics: The process of applying robotics, automatic control and artificial intelligence techniques at all levels of agricultural production, including farmbots and farmdrones.
Smart Farming applications do not target only large, conventional farming exploitations, but could also be new levers to boost other common or growing trends in agricultural exploitations, such as family farming (small or complex spaces, specific cultures and/or cattle, preservation of high quality or particular varieties,…), organic farming, and enhance a very respected and transparent farming according to European consumer, society and market consciousness. Smart Farming can also provide great benefits in terms of environmental issues, for example, through more efficient use of water, or optimisation of treatments and inputs.