What is the difference between precision, digital and smart farming?

Finding your way around the confusing terminology of modern-day agriculture

From drones to satellite images and sensor technology, the agricultural industry is changing in a remarkable way. Technological innovations are reshaping the way farming is done. Modernization of agriculture and the use of digital technology have caused new concepts to emerge such as precision farming, digital farming and smart farming. These terms, despite often used interchangeably, have a subtle difference in meaning. In this article we shed some light on the matter and provide definitions from different sources to help you sort through the terminology of modern farming.

Precision farming or precision agriculture?

Precision farming and precision agriculture are generally regarded as the same thing. However, the term precision agriculture, often abbreviated PA, is more widely used. In a 2016 report on how big data will revolutionize the global food chain, McKinsey & Company define precision agriculture as: “a technology-enabled approach to farming management that observes, measures, and analyzes the needs of individual fields and crops”. According to McKinsey, the development of precision agriculture is shaped by two trends: “big-data and advanced-analytics capabilities on the one hand, and robotics—aerial imagery, sensors, sophisticated local weather forecasts—on the other”. Read the full report here.

The European Parliament’s report on Precision agriculture and the future of farming in Europe defines precision agriculture as: “a modern farming management concept using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes”. The key point here is optimisation. Instead of applying equal amount of fertilisers over an entire field, precision agriculture involves measuring the within-field soil variations and adapting the fertiliser strategy accordingly. This leads to optimised fertiliser usage, saving costs and reducing the environmental impact. Read the full report here.

Smart farming

Smart farming is the application of information and data technologies for optimising complex farming systems. Unlike with PA, the focus of smart farming is not on precise measurement or determining differences within the field or between individual animals. The focus is rather on access to data and the application of these data – how the collected information can be used in a smart way.

Smart farming involves not just individual machines but all farm operations. Farmers can use mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to access real-time data about the condition of soil and plants, terrain, climate, weather, resource usage, manpower, funding, etc. As a result, farmers have the information needed to make informed decisions based on concrete data, rather than their intuition. Read more about smart farming in this report.

Digital farming

The essence of digital farming lies in creating value from data. Digital Farming means to go beyond the mere presence and availability of data and create actionable intelligence and meaningful added value from such data. (Source: Digital Farming: what does it really mean?)

Digital farming is integrating both concepts – precision farming and smart farming. According to a paper on Digital Agriculture by DLG (German Agricultural Society), digital farming is understood to mean “consistent application of the methods of precision farming and smart farming, internal and external networking of the farm and use of web-based data platforms together with Big Data analyses”. Discover more by reading the full paper here.

How does AgroCares technology relate to this?
AgroCares Scanner has made it possible to test soil and feed in an easier, faster and more affordable way than with traditional methods. This enables arable farmers and advisers to take more soil samples, collect more data and optimize their fertilisation strategy. When it comes to feed, the NutriOpt On-site Adviser offers insights into feedstuffs and nutritional recommendations to optimize animal nutrition. The mobile apps that the Scanner works with provide not only data but also recommendations on how to utilize this data in a smart manner. This means the Scanner is a smart farming tool that creates actionable intelligence from data. Farmers get access to real time soil/feed information across devices that gives them the opportunity to make informed decisions about fertiliser application or their animals’ nutrition.

Do you want to learn more about the AgroCares Scanner and mobile applications? Contact us now!