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The Digital Revolution and Sustainable Agriculture

Enhancing the adoption of non-GPS precision agriculture technologies will require turning the vast amount of new data collected on crop production into manageable and valuable decisions for the farmer.

Investigator(s)

Principal investigator: Alfons Weersink

What challenge does "The Digital Revolution and Sustainable Agriculture" address?

This research project is focused on addressing the role of Big Data in optimizing the sustainability of our agriculture and food system. The research team will examine the ability of precision agriculture technology for cropping and fertilizer management to generate returns for individual farmers and to improve environmental quality, including soil health.

How will this research address the challenge?

The research team has assessed the current adoption of precision agriculture technologies in crop production. Additionally, the team will assess the profitability of variable rate technologies for corn production, to understand whether there is sufficient benefit relative to cost for farmers to adopt these technologies.

What impact will the project have on agriculture?

An increased understanding of the profitability and environmental impacts of precision agriculture is necessary if the full potential of the digital revolution in improving the sustainability of agriculture is to be realized.

Key messages

The most popular uses of precision agriculture technology within the OABA businesses and in their custom application services are GPS autosteer systems and precision spraying technology to minimize overlap and to ensure complete coverage. In addition to guidance systems, other geographic services widely used were field mapping and soil sampling. Variable rate technologies are not adopted to the same extent as the geographic category of innovations. The differences in adoption rates across these technologies reflect the primary barrier to adoption, which is insufficient benefit relative to its cost. Lack of adoption is not due to data sharing concerns or equipment complexity. Enhancing the adoption of non-GPS precision agriculture technologies will require turning the vast amount of new data collected on crop production into manageable and valuable decisions for the farmer.

Other information

Partners: Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – Nicole Rabe, Ian McDonald.

Collaborators and students: Sean Mitchell (BSc), Kevin Probyn-Smith (MSc).

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