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Space age farming


Precision-agriculture techniques offer a number of significant benefits.

More efficient use of fertilizer and chemicals. Instead of a one-size-fits-all strategy for fertilizing and spraying farmland, precision agriculture allows farmers to apply exactly the right amount where needed. This translates into reduced costs for fertilizer and chemicals. Fertilizer costs approximately $750 per hectare, triple the cost of just a few years ago.

Easy on the planet. Precision agriculture reduces the amount of fertilizer and chemicals leaching into the groundwater, helping farmers become better environmental stewards.

Better working conditions. “Smart” tractors and harvesters that are auto-controlled by Global Positioning Systems (GPS) steer themselves, significantly reducing the strain on farmers who may have to prepare a field over the course of 8 to 10 hours. This benefit alone is worth the investment for many farmers. GPS-guided machinery also follows precise paths, meaning less fuel is consumed.

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Higher crop yields. Precision farming allows farmers to apply just the right amount of plant nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphates and potash, to boost crop harvests.

Better information for management decisions. With precision-agriculture tools, farmers are able to build a geographic information system (GIS) containing data on every square metre of their land, from soil moisture to pest infestation. With such finely tuned information comes more sophisticated strategies on how best to use precious resources.

Opportunity to meet food safety requirements. Governments are starting to pay more attention to the concept of “traceability” — the ability to follow food, feed and food-producing animals or substances through all stages of production and distribution. Regulations in this area will require farmers, the first link in the food production chain, to provide records on everything they have applied to their crops.


This piece features a series of photographs depicting the food industry and explains the measures taken by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to implement standardized national tracking systems. This piece is also supported by a video segment from CTV News discussing the debate on national food traceability.


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'Smart' machinery

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Quiz :

Up to how deep can SMOS measure soil mositure?

2 metres
10 centimetre
10 metres