Future of Digital Agriculture Arrives at South American Precision Ag Event

Last week I attended the fourth South American Congress of Precision Agriculture and Precision Machinery (IV APSUL America 2017). The event was held in Não-Me-Toque, a small city in Rio Grande do Sul, which is Brazil’s southernmost state. The city is proudly considered by its residents as the Brazilian Capital of Precision Agriculture.

More than 700 people attended the event at the Cotrijal exhibition center and another 8,500 people watched the event on the live broadcast over the Internet. Attendees were mainly farmers, service providers, the agricultural machinery sector, researchers, and students. In addition to people from various parts of Brazil, there were also attendees and speakers from other countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Germany.

Rodrigo-Trevisan-at-APSUL
Attendees at APSUL America showed great interest in the advances of precision agriculture. Pictured: Rodrigo Trevisan talks about variable rate application in soybeans.

The event has been held every two years since 2011, and reached its fourth edition this year with the theme “Digital Agriculture: Innovation for Efficiency, Preservation and Productivity.” The general message of the event was that the future has arrived, and the time is now.

Several companies presented their solutions and visions on the future of digital agriculture, while researchers showed how their contributions in science have helped enable this future. Farmers also shared their experiences with the precision ag tools and platforms already available. It was clear each had different needs and expectations due to regional differences caused by the size of farms, major crops, and climatic variations.

One of the areas that aroused public interest was precision weed control. The topic was addressed by the SmartSensing team, a Weedit system dealer in Brazil, which uses sensors for real-time identification and application of herbicides. Bayer’s Digital Farming team also presented a solution being tested in Goiás state, using drones and digital cameras to enable map-based spraying. The recent acquisition of Blue River by John Deere was also part of the discussion about the future of precision spraying.

Several presentations also recalled the importance of adopting good agricultural practices and the attention that farmers must have to the quality of agricultural operations. Some improvements were requested. For example, a researcher pointed out that although seed meter systems have evolved greatly, other planter systems such as those responsible for cutting the straw, and opening and closing the planting furrow, are still basically the same as those used more than 20 years ago, when no-tillage systems first started to be widely adopted in Brazil.

The number of events related to precision agriculture in Brazil has grown in recent years and the attendance at these shows has been steadily increasing. The number of graduate courses and the number of students interested in the subject has also grown a lot. This week we will also have the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture, which is a great event for learning about fertilizer best management practices that will happen in Goiânia and should reinforce the aspect of precision agriculture as a good agricultural practice. I am very excited by this growing interest of people in precision agriculture. Soon I will write about the topics discussed at this latest symposium.

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