How precision agriculture can help combat climate change
  • Agribusiness solutions

How Precision Farming Fights Climate Change

Climate change is a normal process on our planet. However, the pace and scope of changes in Earth’s climate have been magnified during the last century. Being heavily dependent on natural conditions, agriculture is the first industry to feel the impact. Yet, in all fairness, it should be added that industrial farming applying intensive agricultural methods did its bit in aggravating climatic problems the world community has to deal with. Luckily, state-of-the-art technologies enable people to alter traditional approaches to farming, implement sustainable agriculture practices, and achieve better results while minimizing environmental abuse.

We asked Oleksandr Dzhevaga, Account Executive at EOS Data Analytics, to weigh in on how climate change affects agriculture, how precision farming deters global warming, and the results farmers can get utilizing agtech solutions.

What Are The Causes Of Climate Change?

Scientists say the main culprit of climate change induced by global warming is the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gasses, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide accumulating in the atmosphere, trap the sun’s heat, preventing it from returning to space. The researchers state that the average temperature will increase by one and a half degrees in the next thirty years. Human activities induce CO2 emissions contributing the most to global warming — according to recent estimations, the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere showed a 48% increase compared to the pre-industrial level. Greenhouse gases are produced due to deforestation, burning fossil fuels, agriculture and animal husbandry and cement production, among many others.

What Are The Consequences Of Climate Change For Humanity?

Climate change can disrupt food production and availability and compromise food quality. The projected temperature increase, lowering precipitation level, extreme weather events, and water scarcity will significantly reduce agricultural productivity. The forecasts warn that agricultural productivity will drop by 17% in the following decades affected by global warming. Though the biggest concern is soil degradation, the occasional floods also pose a threat to successful crop growing.

Climate Change And Agriculture Are Interconnected. So How Does Industrial Agriculture Influence Climate Change?

The truth is that agriculture and overall food production are responsible for more than 25% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from crop growing and nutrient management, and animal breeding. The predictions are also not that optimistic — the demand for agricultural produce is expected to go up by 70% between 2000 and 2050, seeking to fulfill the growing food scarcity induced by the swell in the world’s population.

Another problem is air pollution. Agricultural machinery engaged in field activities throws into the air fossil-fuel emissions, and dust from chemical applications contaminates the atmosphere with hazardous substances.

What Regions Are The Most Sensitive To Climate Change?

Climate change impacts the world differently. Some areas can experience more droughts, whereas others receive unusual downpours. Perhaps, Africa is the most vulnerable region in need of drinking water and daily bread — the dry climate makes it tough to produce crops, resulting in food shortages. Also, some Asian countries feel a deficit in clean water, taking the risk of poisoning and intestinal infections. Changes in Earth’s climate affect even the developed countries with the powerful agricultural industry. In the US, for example, the droughts are getting more frequent in the southwest, complicating growing certain crop types.

What Difficulties Does Farming Face In Terms Of Climate Change?

Considerable changes in weather patterns make it difficult to keep up with the standard crop-growing methods. Temperature fluctuations, frequent and intense weather extremes, and CO2 emissions could complicate crop cultivation and reduce yields. The thing is, every crop has its optimal conditions — temperature, moisture level, soil nutrients, and the amount of sunlight — vital for growth and reproduction. This fragile balance can be easily disturbed, resulting in yield decline. For example, cold spells can significantly harm crops even to the point of yield loss. On the other hand, warm and wet climates induce the proliferation of weeds and pests, and the increased CO2 level may lower the protein content in rice, soybeans, and wheat.

When We Hear That Climate Change Impacts Food Security, Does It Only Mean The Reduced Production Volume? And What About Food Quality And Price?

Not only does climate change impact the food supply, but it also affects crop nutritional value. For example, I’ve learned that under high CO2 levels, the concentration of minerals in some crops is 8% lower than the norm.

The price increase inevitably follows reduced agricultural output with global food demand in the background. In its turn, food production suffers from water scarcity caused by droughts and more intensive water usage to ensure sufficient irrigation. Also, farming productivity may drastically decrease due to unexpected weather conditions leading to yield loss and, correspondingly, price swings.

What Is Precision Agriculture Or Smart Farming? Can You Briefly Explain The Concept?

In a nutshell, precision agriculture (PA) is the farming approach using cutting-edge technologies such as remote sensing to monitor crop health, make informed decisions, and achieve high yields. Employing analytics based on processed satellite imagery allows farmers to enhance farm productivity, reduce input costs, and minimize the detrimental impact on the environment.

What Are The Main Goals Of Precision Agriculture?

Given that humanity is now facing a food shortage induced by the unprecedented growth of the world’s population, precision agriculture aims to secure food availability, giving farmers effective tools to be productive and profitable.

This goal comprises economic, ecological, and social aspects precision agriculture rests on, namely:

  • Supporting smallholding farmers and large agricultural enterprises;
  • Improving farming activities to achieve higher crop yields;
  • Reducing the impact agriculture makes on the environment;
  • Ensuring the preservation of soil fertility and biodiversity;
  • Fostering people’s responsible approach to the use of natural resources.

Also, precision agriculture allows farmers to retrieve valuable insights from vegetation indices, weather analysis, and field historical data for smart farm management.

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What Advantages Does Precision Agriculture Bring Farmers And Other Agricultural Stakeholders?

First and foremost, farmers will be able to produce more with less — precision agriculture enables growers to achieve higher yields using fewer inputs. For example, VRA (Variable Rate Application) maps help agrarians boost soil fertility by calculating the necessary amount of fertilizers and applying chemicals strictly where needed.

Remote sensing techniques allow farmers to regularly monitor vegetation state and take actions early on to avert issues threatening crops. Farmers, agri-banks, cooperatives, and input suppliers can access the accurate data to understand farms’ cropping ability and predict yields.

Undoubtedly, precision farming is more environmentally friendly than industrial agriculture. It takes care of air, soil, and water conditions seeking to preserve natural resources and leave a healthier Earth for our descendants.

What Are Smart Farming Technologies That Help Farmers In Their Daily Activities?

The VRA (Variable Rate Application) technology I’ve already mentioned is one of the most helpful precision agriculture tools used for the differential application of seeds and fertilizers. It helps manage soil nutritional balance and define the number of seeds to sow in a particular field area.

Smart irrigation techniques optimize water and energy consumption which is especially important in arid regions. Also, a sustainable approach to irrigation implies planting the types of crops resistant to drought and requiring less water for their vegetative growth.

And the last thing I want to highlight but not less important is historical field data crucial to evaluate a farm’s health and determine its cropping power. In the context of one field, historical analysis can show what crops were grown there and whether crop rotation took place. This knowledge is needed to decide on the next crop type and predict field productivity in the future.

How Do Remote Sensing Technologies Contribute To Averting Climate Change?

During the last 50 years, the use of fertilizers increased eightfold, resulting in rich harvests. However, it carries a high price for the environment. In intensifying crop cultivation, farmers employed more agricultural machinery and applied massive amounts of fertilizers that led to soil degradation, water pollution, and accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Precision agriculture practices may help lower CO2 emissions and save soil and water biodiversity. Assuming that 15-25% of farms would implement smart farming techniques, the yields can reach 10-15% growth worldwide by 2030. These figures should be motivational enough for agricultural businesses to seriously consider replacing intensive farming with more sustainable practices.

What Features In EOSDA Products Are The Most Valuable For Preserving The Environment And Mitigating Climate Change?

EOSDA Crop Monitoring is a feature-rich satellite-driven analytics platform with numerous functionalities applicable to various agricultural use cases, and all of them do their bit in helping farmers follow the way of precision farming.

But if to highlight the most important ones, I would name vegetation indices, soil moisture monitoring, and zoning.

  • Soil moisture monitoring tracks water usage across the field and spots water-stressed areas. This feature checks the moisture level in soil, root, and leaves with the help of NDMI (Normalized Difference Moisture Index);
  • Zoning based on VRA (Variable Rate Application) maps allows for rational application of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides reducing water pollution and soil depletion;
  • Vegetation indices provide farmers with critical information on the current and historical state of crops and field productivity to make informed decisions beneficial for both the business and the environment.

EOSDA Is Launching An Agri-Focused Satellite Constellation Soon Under The EOS SAT Project. What Is The Biggest Value Of Agri-Satellites For Farmers?

The uniqueness of EOS SAT rests on its concept — the first-ever agriculture-focused satellite constellation launched by the company utilizing remote sensing technology in its products.

The constellation is designed to supply farmers with better quality satellite imagery and AI-powered analytics for streamlining farming operations.

Here are the key benefits farmers (and not only them) will get from EOS SAT:

  • Get multiple data points from one source;
  • Streamline operations by leveraging accurate data;
  • A unique set of 11 agri-related spectral bands;
  • Exclusive data ownership for some territories;
  • Get critical information in time.

How Can EOS SAT Contribute To Sustainable Agriculture Development And Environmentally Friendly Production?

The first thing to mention is soil moisture monitoring since sufficient soil and root moisture is critical in each plant growth stage.

The EOS SAT data can be used to forecast root-zone soil moisture levels using an improved AI-powered model. This data will come in useful in areas where farmers lack reliable precipitation data.

I’ve already touched upon the detrimental impact of excessive CO2 emissions. With this problem in mind, we created AI and machine learning algorithms to measure the carbon amount in soil and vegetation. The received data may be used in carbon management that is instrumental in combating climate change.

And finally, EOS SAT will provide advanced weather forecasts to notify users about the upcoming extreme meteorological events. Machine learning and our proprietary forecasting methods will predict heat or cold stress, helping farmers take necessary precautions to make the most of their crops.

In the face of topical issues such as climate change and global food demand, a shift to precision agriculture practices leveraging cutting-edge remote sensing technologies will help farmers optimize crop production, ensure food security, preserve the environment, and leave a better Earth for those who come after us.

About the author:

Rim Elijah VP of Sales at EOS Data Analytics

Rim Elijah joined EOSDA in early 2020. She holds a double degree in business administration and political science from Stockholm University.

Rim is VP of Sales at EOSDA. She is overseeing all aspects of business model development and implementation, maintenance of positive business & customer experience, and the growth of the company’s global coverage. She is responsible for closing deals, scaling up ongoing projects, as well as the development and implementation of process control within the Sales department. Rim also regularly takes part in negotiations with important clients.

So far, Rim has managed to successfully establish a number of strategic partnerships with an emphasis on the delivery of sustainable solutions in various regions of Africa and Asia.

In addition to her main responsibilities, Rim is presently involved in the upcoming launch of the first agri-based satellite constellation by EOSDA, scheduled for mid-2022. She manages relationships with the EOS SAT investors.

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