SoilOptix® Blog

Digital Farming vs. Precision Farming or Both: The Ongoing Debate

Accelerating digital transformation in agriculture is essential towards building resilient, sustainable and inclusive agri-food systems. Today, the human civilization stands at a critical juncture in the history of agriculture, food production, and human sustenance. The post-industrialization approach to agriculture and other industries has resulted in significant environmental damage and accelerated climate change.

If left unattended, the preceding volume-focused approach to agriculture is estimated to impact crop yields and livelihoods significantly. This makes it essential to implement digital farming technology, precision agriculture techniques, and other advanced methods to bring about a balance.

digital farming technology
Source: Unsplash

Digital Farming Technologies

McKinsey and Company published an article in October 2020 that defined “digital farming” as any platform or application that processes input data to provide growers or crop advisers with agronomic decision-making support. These include proven digital offerings (such as variable-rate applications) and novel ones (such as in-season sensing). They excluded automation equipment, drones, and services unrelated to agronomic decisions (for example, fleet-management software).

Precision farming and digital farming sound similar but have different focuses. Precision farming is all about using technology and data to make agriculture as precise and efficient as possible. This includes some of the tech mentioned in the precision farming section above.

Digital farming technology, on the other hand, is a broader term encompassing all the ways technology can help farmers work smarter. This includes precision farming but also other tools like farm management software, drone technology, and even using big data to make better decisions. So think of precision farming as a specific part of the larger world of digital agriculture.

As a farmer, are you tired of manually tracking every aspect of your farm operation? Do you find it very complex to keep up with the new-age technologies and techniques to increase your farm’s efficiency and profitability? Does worrying about compliance keep you up at night?

Then you need to understand digital farming now.

Digital farming is the integration of digital technologies into the day-to-day operations of your farm. With the assistance of digital tools and solutions, you can optimize your farm’s management and make informed decisions to boost your farm’s growth.

Precision agriculture

Imagine a world where your crops get the perfect amount of water, fertilizer and tender loving care right where they need it and at the right time. No more guesswork, no more waste and no more stressed-out plants! With precision agriculture, you can boost your yields and profits with some science-backed magic.

digital farming technology
Source: Unsplash

Farmers can make informed decisions about planting, fertilizing, and pest control by gathering and analyzing data. Some standard technologies or tools in this space include:

  • GPS/GNSS systems for mapping and auto-steering
  • Yield monitors and mapping software for analyzing crop performance
  • Variable rate application technology for precision fertilizer and pesticide application
  • Soil sensors and probes for measuring soil health and nutrient levels
  • Weather sensors and monitoring systems for tracking real-time weather conditions
  • Drones and remote sensing technology for crop scouting and monitoring
  • Livestock monitoring systems for tracking animal health and performance
  • Irrigation management systems for optimizing water usage and application
  • Livestock feed management systems for optimizing feed rations and waste reduction
  • Decision support tools and predictive analytics software for making data-driven management decisions. These are typically bundled with or complementary to the hardware-based tech mentioned above.

These technologies aim to help farmers grow more crops with less effort, making your work easier and more profitable. Most farmers have heard the terms precision agriculture or precision farming. Some of you have even tried various tools in this.

The Compliance Confusion

As a fallout of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, countries worldwide are increasing their focus on sustainable agriculture. The EU has adopted the Green Deal, leading to the “Farm to Fork” strategy. The common thread across the EU regulatory framework is data collection and monitoring.

In August 2022, the citrus growers in South Africa shipped their produce to Europe. Unfortunately, it was stuck at the EU ports for three weeks! Why? Because of False Coding Moth, a citrus pest native to South Africa but unwelcome in the EU. The EU gave South Africa less than a month to adapt to the new regulations. The EU measures were published on 21st June 2022, entered into force on 24th June 2022, and required that consignments arriving in Europe from 14th July 2022 onwards had to comply with the new requirements.

This blockage cost the South African citrus growers over R200 million (as of 12th August) in losses; plus, because of the arrival delay, most containers have missed their schedules, and growers would get only half of what they expected from their fruit sales.

How does this link to digital farming?

Knowledge and compliance are cornerstones of the how and why of digital farming.

Knowing what the standards are and using the right tools to document your compliance with the standards is the very foundation of why you should look at digital farming solutions for your farm.

Compliance regulations will increase whether you sell within your country or export to other countries. Getting started with digital farming early will help you stay ahead of the curve.

Begin With Digital & Fine-tune With Precision

In conclusion, the point is not of digital vs. precision farming, but rather what you can start with and how to grow.

Digital and precision farming are two ways technology can help make farming more accessible and profitable. Precision farming uses technology and data to make farming as precise and efficient as possible. Digital farming is a broader term that includes precision farming and other tools like farm management software and big data to make better decisions.

If you’re a farmer tired of manually tracking everything on your farm or having trouble keeping up with new technologies, you should look into digital farming. Digital farming is an excellent place to start and can help you optimize your farm’s management and make informed decisions to help your farm grow.

Another reason to consider digital farming is the new regulations around sustainable agriculture. The EU and other countries are focused on collecting data and monitoring farms to ensure they meet these standards. Using digital farming solutions can help you stay compliant with these standards and avoid costly situations like the South African citrus growers who lost over $13 million due to tight compliance requirements and deadlines.

If you need help and guidance regarding implementing digital farming technology in your farmland, SoilOptix® can help. Please have a look at all our case studies here: now!