A View From Above The Field: Managing Risk With Geospatial Technology

Posted by on December 3rd, 2015 | 0 Comments »
Jeff Lakner
By Jeff Lakner, Lakner Farms, LLC
Jeff Lakner is a 4th generation farmer who grows crops and livestock on 4,500 acres in Wessington, South Dakota. This video tells the story of how Jeff and his father transformed their farm into an environmentally sustainable business. 










In order to close the agriculture productivity gap, many complex questions must be answered in a holistic manner. As a 4th generation farmer, I work every day to boost the amounts of grain, forage and animal protein we can sustainably make available to those who process and consume our food in our complex agriculture and food value chain.

Photo Courtesy of Lynn Betts, USDA NRCS

Photo Courtesy of Lynn Betts, USDA NRCS

The agricultural producer of tomorrow may spend more time looking at a view down from the sky than gazing upward in search of rain or favorable weather. As we strive to conserve natural resources, and produce more with less, the use of satellite data is driving the decision-making process. This includes auto-guidance for our machines, geo-referenced soil maps and productivity zones, and the variable rate application of seed, plant nutrients and crop protection products.  Farmers are now able to use “field prescriptions” for dual-hybrid planting, in which two different types of hybrid seeds are planted in each row, with a top producing seed matched with the appropriate soil to maximize the potential growth of each plant.

A Geospatial “Revolution” For Latin America

I was recently invited to address a forum in Mexico City on geospatial technology and its application at the farm level. The impact that technology holds for agriculture in Central and South America is substantial.

Jeff illustrates technologies such as
dual-hybrid planting in this video:

While addressing the forum, I emphasized how the use of these technologies is having measurable impact on the output and cost structure in our farm business, providing incremental increases in yields that are hard to come by in the fragile farming areas in the upper Plains of the United States, and in many areas of Central and South America.

In Latin America, there is much interest in utilizing these technologies where possible. A great deal of work lies ahead to standardize the collection and dissemination of the geospatial data but the stakeholders in the agriculture industry in this region see the potential benefits, even for the smallholders in agriculture. As other challenges such as access to capital and markets (and many others) are met, the practical applications of geospatial technology may provide more food production as well as reduce inefficiencies in the agricultural value chain such as distribution channels and food waste.

Global Harvest Initiative has identified Latin America as instrumental in the drive to improve global productivity in agriculture and enhance food security. Read The Next Global Breadbasket: How Latin American Can Feed The World.

There were a number of questions from the attendees about the use of geospatial technology as a risk management tool in agriculture. As crop insurance can be implemented in more countries to provide some type of safety net for producers, the data generated on crop progress and loss due to natural events and pests can provide good baseline data to quantify these risks. A more holistic approach to risk management throughout the entire value chain is needed to create the balance of risk and reward that all producers struggle to achieve.

Another question arose as to who will be the “trusted partner” with the data being collected and put into action. I spoke of the value in the United States cooperative system which is owned by the producer – member and the impact of a producer cooperative being both a focus group and beneficiary of the insights gained from geospatial technology. In addition to helping their members access more capital and services to improve farm productivity, producer cooperatives can help their members receive these new technologies and training in their application, as well as help safeguard member data.

Precision farming and geospatial technology holds much promise and its use is increasing in global agriculture. We must continue to innovate and find ways to narrow the global productivity gap, particularly for those farmers in developing countries, where these technologies are greatly needed.

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