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What is precision farming and how to get started with it

Perhaps, this should have been the first article in our blog. What does "precision agriculture" actually mean? What technologies does a farmer need? Is precision farming expensive and difficult? Do I even need to use it? Where to begin? Here is our FAQ.
What is precision farming?
This is a farming management system based on the use of modern technologies at every stage of work. Usually, a field has heterogeneous zones, and technologies allow to identify such zones and manage this variability. As a result, farmers use seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides more efficiently; this also helps to increase harvest. Intuition and luck mean less and less as technology steps in and allows you to make decisions that are based on data. Plus a more rational use of resources helps to save the environment.
What technologies are we talking about?
Onboard computers and GPS-navigators for vehicles that help to avoid overlaps and underlaps when applying seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Digital maps of fields based on variable characteristics. Variable rate applications that calculate fertilizer dosage for each individual zone. Drones and satellites help to monitor the field remotely. Wireless weather sensors along with other sensors help to determine temperature, moisture, pressure, and dozens of other field indicators. Computers, smartphones, and applications help to analyze information, maintain documentation and manage the farm efficiently. The list is being updated all the time.
When did the idea of precision farming appear?
The concept emerged in the United States in the 1980s. Back then, researchers began to practice grid soil sampling and created the first input recommendation maps for fertilizers. However, the idea of precision farming became widespread only in the past five years thanks to the development of mobile technology, high-speed Internet and satellite data.
Is it complicated?
Yes and no. Yes, because most technologies are very new, and they require special skills. For example, you will not be able to analyze a satellite image of the field yourself and it is unlikely that you will be able to repair the onboard computer. No, because there are simple technological solutions available to every farmer. For example, we are developing a free platform for precision farming and we also produce cheap weather sensors and wireless modems for agricultural equipment.
Is it expensive?
Once again, yes and no. Currently, special equipment and software have a high cost, so precision farming technologies are used mostly by large farms. We want to change this situation. All our applications are free, so a farmer needs only a smartphone and Internet access. As the technology develops, it becomes cheaper and easier to use. This is a natural dynamic. Back in the day, people exchanged messages by carrier pigeon; now every third person has a smartphone.
Do I need to switch to exact farming?
Yes. It is already profitable and will be inevitable in the future. Thanks to precision farming technology, American farmers save between 11 and 39 thousand dollars a year on average. In Tanzania, farmers already use mobile phones to arrange contracts, collect loans and process other payments. In Belarus, for instance, the average field overlap is 27 cm; this wastes thousands and tens of thousands of dollars when calculating the cost of extra seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Therefore, the sooner farmers begin to implement precision farming, the more competitive they will be in the future.

Ok, OneSoil, where do I start?

1
Install the free OneSoil Scouting app. Monitor crop performance and mark problem areas.
2
Estimate how much you can save using the differentiated fertilizer application. If you have a homogeneous field, then go to step 10. In other cases, read on.
3
Buy an onboard computer to monitor fieldwork and to apply seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides effectively. The cost will pay off during the season.
4
Calculate variable fertilizer rates using our free app for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This will save you money by varying the dose for different parts of the field.
5
Find out if you have sensors for yield crop monitoring in your equipment. Activate them or if you don't have sensors, purchase them.
6
After harvesting, analyze digital maps and mark areas with low productivity.
7
To find and eliminate the cause of a low yield, measure the acidity of the soil.
8
If you still have no answer — buy or order a relief map of your field. Analyze it. From our experience, in 95% of cases, the reason for a low yield is the pH level or the relief.
9
If you still have no answer — buy or order a relief map of your field. Analyze it. From our experience, in 95% of cases, the reason for a low yield is the pH level or the relief.
10
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