Precision Agriculture for Hemp

Farmers are hidden managers, and agriculture is one of the oldest professions in the world, yet innovation has got its way to agriculture and has helped big time develop that industry.

What is Precision agriculture?

Precision agriculture (PA), also known as satellite farming, site specific crop management (SSCM) or precision farming, is a concept of farming management which is based on observing, measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops. It is everything that makes the practice of farming more accurate and controlled when it comes to growing crops and raising livestock.

It’s aimed at the farming efficiency in order to obtain the maximum yield with the available limited resources; this goes through the definition of crops and soil requirements in order to get the best productivity.

Precision agriculture was born with the introduction of GPS guidance for tractors in the early 1990s, A GPS-connected controller in a farmer’s tractor automatically steers the equipment based on the coordinates of a field. This reduces steering errors by drivers and therefore any overlap passes on the field. In turn, this results in less wasted seed, fertilizer, fuel, and time.

So, how does it work?

 Sensors located in fields measure the moisture content in soil and surrounding air temperature. Satellites and robotic drones take real-time pictures of individual plants, which can be processed using the special software and integrated with sensor and other data obtained from equipment sensors of manned and unmanned machinery to yield guidance for development of crop farming plans to estimate the irrigation areas and amount of applicable pesticides or fertilizers. Integration of this process into regular farming helps to solve the most vital problems in agriculture: resources wasting, high cost and destructive environmental impact.

Cloud solutions would digest all those data and yield information in the form of graphs, charts and alerts in order to employ the precision agriculture.

In order to employ Precision agriculture you would need three types of data:

1-     Geo-tagged images: those are obtained from drones which gives a new high precision way to obtain high quality geo-tagged images from the air, which would be less costly when compared to manned air surveillance and would yield data about the condition of the croups that is more precise and frequent and would help in the improvement of the agricultural process.

Orthomosaic images obtained by drones would be fed into computer software in order to obtain prescription maps which would inform the farm operator about the actions needed, such as nitrogen spread on trouble spots.

2-     Equipment performance: obtained from sensors set up on machinery whether manned or un-manned which would give real time feedbacks and logs.

3-     Management Data

All of these data would be fed into an Agronomy Management System which would collect and integrate them to give the farm operators the right information about what to do and what are the problems to be addressed.

The use of precision agriculture has been globally growing and precision agriculture has become a major element in today’s stage of agricultural revolution. Such increase in the use of technology shouldn’t be of any surprise as farming is highly land and labor-intensive. Farmers are driven to use technology to increase efficiency and manage costs.

Role of Precision Agriculture in Hemp cultivation

Cannabis sativa has been long used by humans. Its utilization and cultivation dates back thousands of years. The use of cannabis varied depending on time and place, ranging from fiber production, medicinal, religious and recreational.

The unique and wide range of medical benefits of cannabis is attributed to the extensive profile of its natural phytochemicals; the cannabis plants contain more than 600 secondary metabolites of potential pharmaceutical activities.

A large variability of the chemical profile exists in cannabis. Cannabinoid contents and composition are highly variable among cannabis strains. Some strains are characterized by a high-THCA/low- CBDA chemotype, whereas others have a low-THCA/high-CBDA chemotype, and many intermediate types exist.

A key factor governing the production and accumulation of secondary metabolites in plants is the cultivation conditions. Other factors affect the biosynthesis and accumulation of secondary metabolites such as temperature, light quantity and quality, relative humidity, water availability, and stress conditions. Initial evidence suggests that cannabinoid and other secondary metabolites in cannabis are involved in the defense response of the plant; therefore, it is not surprising that their biosynthesis and accumulation are affected by cultivation conditions.

Precision agriculture can be harnessed for unification of cultivation conditions spatially and temporally in the cultivation sites and for site specific crop management. It is a potential tool that should be explored to standardize the growing conditions and quality of the medical product, once the optimal growing conditions are determined. A farming management concept based on responding to inter and intra-field variability in crop and environmental conditions such as temperature, light quality and intensity, fertilization and irrigation inputs and more, may be used to define a decision support system for cultivation management.