Precision Farming vs. Digital Farming vs. Smart Farming : What’s The Difference?

Technology has become a critical piece of business for every farmer, ag retailer, and agronomist. The increasing technology adoption rate in agriculture shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Farming is highly land- and labor-intensive. Farmers use technology to increase efficiency and manage costs. The evolution of digital technology and the modernization of agriculture have caused new concepts (not to mention new terminology!) to emerge. These terms include precision agriculture or farming, digital farming, and smart farming. These terms are often being used interchangeably but have a subtle difference in meaning. 

If you’re looking for a solid solution for your precision agriculture operation, then look no further than DTN ClearAg. DTN ClearAg is a comprehensive solution that brings meteorological expertise, state-of-the-science land and surface agronomic modeling, and adaptive data processing to customers worldwide.

Smart Farming Harvester

Precision Agriculture Or Precision Farming

Precision agriculture is also referred to as precision farming or precision ag. Perhaps the easiest way to understand precision agriculture is to think of it as everything that makes the practice of farming more accurate, optimized, and controlled when it comes to the growing of crops and raising of livestock. A vital component of this is the use of information technology and a wide array of items such as: 

  • automated hardware and software,
  • autonomous vehicles,
  • drones,
  • GPS guidance, 
  • robotics,
  • sensors, 
  • soil sampling, and
  • telematics.

The critical point here is optimization. For example, instead of applying an equal amount of fertilizers over a field, precision agriculture involves measuring the within-field soil variations and adapting the fertilizer strategy accordingly. This leads to optimized fertilizer usage, saving costs, and reduced environmental impact.

Precision agriculture was initially born with John Deere’s introduction of GPS guidance for tractors in the early 1990s. Their goal with this technology was to automate steering, reducing errors, and increasing crop yield by not wasting seed. Adopting this GPS guidance is so widespread that it’s probably the most commonly-used example of precision agriculture today. Plus, it gave way to a full-fledged industry: precision agriculture!

While precision farming principles have been around for more than twenty-five years, it’s only been over the past decade that they became mainstream. This is due to technological advancements and the adoption of other, broader technologies. The adoption of mobile devices, access to high-speed internet, low-cost and reliable satellite communications – for positioning and imagery – and farm equipment optimized for precision agriculture by the manufacturer are vital technologies characterizing the trend for precision agriculture. 


Digital Farming

The essence of digital farming lies in creating value from data. Digital farming means to go beyond the presence and availability of data to develop actionable intelligence and meaningful added value from such data. Digital agriculture is integrating both concepts – precision farming and smart farming. 

For farmers, digital agriculture allows for the opportunity to increase their farm’s production, save costs in the long-term, and eliminate risks. Many view digital agriculture as the future of the agricultural industry.

Seedling with data points

Smart Farming

Basically, “smart farming” is applying information and data technologies for optimizing complex farming systems. The focus is on access to data and how farmers can use the collected information intelligently. The goal is to increase the quality and quantity of the products while optimizing human labor production. Or, more simply, producing more food with less investment and the same amount of land.

The technology used in smart farming range from IoT and robotics to drones and AI. With these tools, farmers can monitor field conditions without going to the field. This enables them to make decisions for the whole farm, a lot, or even a single plant. 

Smart farming is not only for large agricultural corporations. It’s also able to boost family farms, organic farms, and other smaller operations. 

The entire process of smart farming is software-managed and sensor-monitored, reducing overall prices, rising overall yield, increasing quality of the availability, and ultimately the customer experience. Automation has enabled giant steps forward in production efficiency, quality improvements, and sustainability.

Farmer in field of corn with tablet

Using Precision Agriculture Data In Your Operations

For decades, farmers have embraced leading-edge tools to help them collect and analyze farming data to increase crop yields. Soil content, moisture, nutrient trends, and weather systems down to any square foot of land are a few of the data points available to farmers with today’s technology. Further, taking land and crop data and integrating that data into software used in marketing, forecasting, and production is the new “norm.”

The Internet of Things (or IoT) is proving promising for realizing new levels of data and controls. It is expected to be a powerful driver that will transform farming and food into innovative webs of connected objects. There’s a firm belief that IoT will be a real game-changer in agriculture and the overall food chain that drastically improves productivity and sustainability.

But to apply all of this data and take part in this transformation, the farmer needs to collect, communicate, store, retrieve, and analyze this data. The farmer needs to get inside and ahead of their decision loops. This means that they need up-to-date information and insights. 

DTN ClearAg provides this timely information to the grower when they need it in real-time. ClearAg is a comprehensive suite of proven, purpose-built environmental data, models, and tools that deliver actionable results today. DTN ClearAg brings applied meteorological expertise, state-of-the-science land and surface agronomic modeling, and adaptive data processing to customers worldwide.

We empower growers to optimize their decision-making, create better products, grow revenue, and manage risk with confidence by providing environmental data and market problems. For more information on what DTN ClearAg can do for your operations, sign up for a demo here.