Written by Lieve Van Woensel with Victoria Joseph,
Precision agriculture may revolutionise the future of farming in Europe. We have developed an animated infographic to guide you through precision agriculture’s potential and the risks it poses.
What is precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture (PA) is a combination of practices in ‘smart farming’. PA methods promise to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural output while using less input (water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.). All with the aim of reducing costs and environmental impact, and producing better food.
Agriculture globally faces many challenges – such as a growing population, changing climate, resource shortages, urbanisation, and dietary trends. PA could potentially provide the industry with a level of efficiency and low environmental impact that makes it easier to tackle these challenges.
PA functions through a combination of sensors, global navigation satellite systems and the internet of things. It has the capacity to measure conditions and adapt farmers’ fertilising or harvesting strategy accordingly. While the farming sector is already taking up PA practices, the full potential of PA has not yet been realised.
Explore our animated infographic on Precision Agriculture
Although many of the potential benefits of PA have been explored, there is always a risk of unintended consequences with a new technology – both good and bad. Human reliance on the agricultural industry and the proximity to humans of PA technology mean that certain safety issues need to be considered to avoid negative consequences. This is why it is necessary to think ahead, to ensure that the technology is used in a way that can benefit everyone. PA, or ‘smart farming’, is neither expensive nor high tech per se.
Developments in PA have an impact on various areas of EU legislation, including aspects of the common agricultural policy (CAP), regional policy, environment, food production, and data protection policy. However, the wide diversity of agriculture across the EU (in farm size, typology, farming practices, output and employment), presents a challenge for European policy-makers. They should therefore take into account that the opportunities and challenges of PA can vary from one Member State to another.
Understanding precision agriculture
A study on ‘Precision agriculture and the future of farming in Europe‘ was recently conducted for the European Parliament’s STOA Panel. This aims at preparing MEPs for possible future developments in PA and their impact on European society. The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA), which managed the study, as part of EPRS, has published an animated infographic, developed to guide readers through the topic. The infographic highlights a range of key areas that may require further consideration, as well as ethical and legal reflection. Three different entry points (areas, opportunities and challenges, and parliamentary committees) enable the user to grasp the links between them.