With the term Precision Agriculture (Adp) we mean that set of technologies that allow you to manage the variability in the field, giving each plant what it needs exactly when it needs it. The goal is to maximize production or increase its quality, eliminating waste with a consequent profit for the farmer and the environment.
Although there is no single ‘precision agriculture’, but the general principles are declined for each crop (and are also valid for animal husbandry, aquaculture and forestry) and for the ecological characteristics of the site, however it is possible to identify two main fundamental technologies within the Adp: semi-automatic driving and variable dosage.
The first involves the installation of semi-automatic driving systems (via GPS) on tractors so that in the field they can move with greater precision than that guaranteed by an operator. In this way the overlaps are eliminated and therefore there is a saving of seeds, fertilizers, plant protection products and so on. It is estimated that in the best case the degree of overlap is around 10%, in the worst 25%.
The variable rate dosage, which is considered the next step to the first, allows plants to be supplied with the inputs they need (water, fertilizers, plant protection products) with precision: not uniformly throughout the field, therefore, but taking into account real needs, different within the same plot. For this purpose, maps created ad hoc with the aid of tools such as satellites, drones, proximity sensors, etc. are used.
The introduction and integration of technological processes in agriculture and more generally in the main management systems of the primary sector, has made it possible to evaluate and classify the expected benefits in various business realities, often still too heterogeneous, to evaluate the best introduction strategies. of innovation. In general terms, the expected benefits are:
– optimization of production and quality efficiency;
– reduction of company costs;
– optimization of inputs, minimizing environmental impacts;
– creation of business opportunities such as consulting firms, contractors and innovation brokers.
Precision agriculture is, therefore, a management strategy of agricultural activity with which data are collected, processed, analyzed and combined with other information to guide decisions according to spatial and temporal variability in order to improve the resource efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.
At the regulatory level, the Adp finds various indications and transpositions.
In Italy, with the ministerial decree of 22 December 2017, signed by Minister Maurizio Martina, the Guidelines for the development of precision agriculture in Italy were approved, based on an analysis conducted by a specific Working Group. The provision is then implemented in some regulations also of a regional nature such as that relating to the L.R. of the Sicilian Region n. 21 of 29 July 2021.
However, the evolution of the same technologies, the advent of agroecology, the paradigm change of production models makes this branch of technology and information technology one of the sectors with greater innovation and evolution.
This becoming is not linked only to purely technological issues but to socio-political needs. Indeed, with around 805 million people worldwide suffering from chronic malnutrition, most of whom live in developing countries, Europe and its policies certainly have a moral obligation to optimize agricultural production and strengthen production and to do it in the most sustainable way possible.
In addition, precision agriculture is also part of the delicate relationships between workers in the agricultural sector, their relationship with the countryside, the ability to transfer knowledge and technological innovation. In short, a path still to be built and with significant challenges not exclusively of a technological nature.