Handling the Challenges Facing the Implementation of Digital Farming

We live in the digital age; you can order food with the touch of a button, delivered to you even sitting on a park bench, and doctors are available to do consultations via video calls to decrease wait times in hospital waiting rooms. Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop daily routines; technology allowed groceries to be delivered, employees to work remotely, and students to attend classes, all from their living room. 

Technology has also come to the world of agriculture. Digital agriculture is a powerful, essential tool for the agricultural world today. Today’s farmers are no longer at the mercy of variable weather conditions, pests, and inconsistent, outdated farming practices that limit crop and livestock production. 

Targeted precision farming tools allow farmers to make the most available resources.  How can you provide that to your customers?

ClearAg from DTN empowers agricultural partners to optimize decision-making and confidently manage risk. Our reliable meteorological expertise is compiled from over 20 years of accurate data across the globe and provides proactive decision support. These digital platforms address critical environmental factors, allowing agriculturists to be proactive instead of reacting to each new complication. 

Cropfield with water level indicators

What has digital farming accomplished so far?

Digital farming, or smart farming, integrates new and advanced technologies into crop and livestock management and other processes in agriculture. It includes using sensors to monitor soil and spray conditions, measure irrigation levels, and analyze weather patterns. 

So far, producers have used  digital farming to:

  • Increase yields and decrease inputs costs
  • Improve irrigation water use efficiency
  • Lower pesticide and herbicide usage
  • Optimize fertilizer application rates

Digital farming is an ever-evolving field, with new applications constantly being developed. The future of digital agriculture looks very promising, with even more advancements on the horizon.  

Producers may have already implemented various digital technologies in their operation, but there are still some challenges when convincing producers to take further steps towards digitalization. 


The benefits of implementing digital farming

Change can be difficult. As with any decision, measuring the benefits versus challenges is essential. However, most farmers have recognized that the numerous benefits outweigh potential challenges. 

Implementing digital farming is not a simple, “one and done” act – technology is rapidly expanding and improving. To be successful, a farmer must make the necessary changes and keep up with available advancements.

Drone flying over farm field with sensor

What are the benefits of implementing digital farming technologies?

As with any technology, advancements in digital farming solutions are developed to meet current needs. As the needs of the agricultural industry evolve, the technology and tools available continue to adapt to meet those needs. 

Benefits include being able to:

  • Precisely monitor your soil and plant parameters Digital farming provides even smallholder farmers with tailored data collection and analysis for each specified plot and crop to calculate soil, weather, and crop growth patterns. ClearAg leverages vast amounts of raw data inputs to evaluate current and future farming decisions for individual fields, optimize the use of fertilizers, and improve yields in predicted problem areas.
  • Efficiently automate field managementTractor guidance systems (also called autosteer) help reduce operator fatigue, increase crop yield, and effectively eliminate lost work time due to inclement weather conditions. Automation in smart greenhouses monitors and controls the climate without manual intervention. Aerial drones can be configured to collect thermal and visual imagery while flying over fields, and our team can then analyze the gathered data to provide actionable insights. 
  • Collect reliable, real-time dataAs data is collected hourly, it is analyzed to provide actionable, geographically relevant insights to reduce crop loss and optimize individual field outputs. ClearAg delivers proactive decision support for positive outcomes.
  • Improve results from labor and resources The use of data science allows farmers to maximize the benefits of crop nutrients with applied sensor devices throughout fields, minimizing the need for overuse of water, seed, pesticides, and fertilizers. Implementing various improved technological farming equipment reduces the cost and amount of maintenance.

Of course, some challenges must be overcome as well. These can include:

  • High capital input cost The initial cost would formerly deter farmers from making such a change. The technical knowledge required made digital farming seem out of reach for some smallholder farmers. 
  • Digital Access Much of the world’s growing population is in underdeveloped countries with limited access to the internet and industrialized technology that can be readily accessed in developed first-world countries. However, case studies conducted by organizations within the US government’s Feed the Future initiative have shown that these costs are counteracted with significantly increased profits.High-quality agricultural inputs reduce barriers and distance to markets, lower transaction costs, improve feedback and communication between all parties, stabilize crop protection and enhance crop yields. Even basic digital technologies can better serve farmers and attract investors to grow small agricultural organizations.
  • Lack of knowledge and machine learning  Since data collection in agriculture is still being developed, unfortunately, many farmers lack access to the tech gear needed for data collection. Collaboration is therefore essential for agricultural success. Communication between farmers and suppliers must be improved; only then will we succeed in the digital transformation of agriculture. 

Farm technology autonomous harvesters

The future of digital farming

Is digital farming really essential? In a word, yes! Population estimates indicate we will reach over 9.7 billion people by 2050. With that rapid expansion, the demand for food, animal feed, and fuel will continue to rise drastically.

As the population grows, so does the amount of pollution and other toxins with a high environmental impact on agriculturally developed land. 

Soil fertility has significantly declined in recent years, leading farmers to increase the use of fertilizers. However, this leads to a separate set of problems as the soil-nutrient levels become unbalanced. 

Precision agriculture provides actionable insights to increase agricultural outputs while minimizing environmental impact by using natural resources more efficiently and responsibly.  

You need the best tools available to keep up with a fast-moving industry like agriculture. The future of agriculture rests with technology and data analysis that will make you prosperous. 

With a free evaluation period of ClearAg, you will be able to visualize the digital platforms and big data available to you through DTN. Learn more about the products and services available to you from DTN.