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Monday, October 23, 2017

Precision Agriculture

The majority of farmers across Europe have heard about Precision Agriculture, being a key development for the future. And in fact it is through GNSS developments that Precision Agriculture became widely accepted and popular. The agricultural machine industry nowadays expects much from this development and integrates it within their mechanization and automation systems. Manufacturers indicate that Precision Agriculture contributes significantly to increase labour and economic efficiency and improves the environmental performance of farming. Furthermore governments acknowledge Precision Agriculture as a key technology. The technology allows farmers to reduce inputs while maintaining acceptable income levels.

Farmers, and rural contractors, are the agricultural end-users of GNSS. Precision Agriculture is the domain of Early Adopters and Innovators. Across Europe and within Member States adoption rates fluctuate but increase steadily year by year. However, despite many studies showing the benefits and acceptable payback times, still the majority of farmers hesitate to introduce Precision Agriculture on their farms. Talking with farmers shows us the main reason: they cannot oversee the consequences, neither in terms of costs of the technology nor the knowledge required to operate. Precision Agriculture is not yet a commodity. Many farmers lack the knowledge and the applications to benefit from it.

Aim of UNIFARM

The aim of UNIFARM is to contribute to the strengthening of scientific and technological excellence on the satellite navigation domain through the application of this in agriculture. Agriculture is a very special market as all professionals are in principle entrepreneurs. Increased awareness, exchange between regional initiatives, stimulated bottom-up innovation and expressed user requirements provides ground for science and technology R&D to strive for excellence. Precision Agriculture in the ‘European Way’ is different from American or Australian precision agriculture. As it is more aiming at costs- and input-reduction. In this way Precision Agriculture is a key enabler of a more sustainable agriculture – meaning economical viable, socially acceptable and environmental friendly. By improving the adoption of GNSS based applications and services in the broad diversity of European farmers, we create innovations that are able to be competitive, also in other strong agricultural economies as Brazil, India, or China.

In this coordination and support action the project UNIFARM focuses on the requirements and needs of the majority of farmers, today and in the next ten years, aiming at bridging the gap between early adopters and the majority (aka “the chasm”). This forum’s goal is to coordinate and support existing European local initiatives and create a platform of knowledge sharing and innovation stimulation across Europe (and beyond if needed).

UNIFARM is carried out in the context of the Galileo FP7 R&D programme supervised by the GSA (Nr. 287206)