Why Not Just Call Precision Agriculture ‘Precision Agriculture’?

Sometimes the collective precision agriculture sector seems like an insecure teenager who just can’t decide what nickname to go by.


Site-specific farming? “Too old-fashioned.”

Precision farming? “Isn’t that basically the same thing as site-specific farming?”

Digital farming? “I don’t even know what that means …”


Ag tech? “No, everybody has that name!”

How about the name most people already know: precision agriculture? “I don’t knowww! I can’t deciiiide!”

Look, I make my living from words, and I’m the firmest of believers in precision (as it were) as practiced in my own line of work, but I think we all need to chill about what to call this collection of technologies and techniques we’ve been practicing for, oh … about a quarter-century now.

To my ears “precision agriculture” has the same ring of powerful simplicity it had 20 years ago when Meister Media Worldwide was thrilled to acquire a website called PrecisionAg.com and a little debut publication called PrecisionAg Illustrated.

But I don’t just say all this ’cause we own it. Precision. Agriculture. These are two big meaningful words packed with the iambic pentameter that is so favored by poets (“pre-CI-sion AG-ri-CUL-ture”). The term describes exactly what we’re trying to do which is to be as precise as can be in crop production – in time, labor, and inputs. It’s durable enough to prevail through a continual churn of technology.

That said, I understand the hesitancy to stake a claim on “precision.” It’s a high bar indeed. On that score we might take a page from the medical field: Right Drug, Right Dose, Right Time. No promises, other than that they’ll do the best they possibly can with the best solutions available.

Or we might even look much closer to home, where the fertilizer industry has the 4Rs: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place. Who could argue with that? That’s precision.

Now, a parallel argument could rage about which technologies should be included under the heading of precision agriculture – as opposed to, say, digital farming or ag tech. I have thoughts on this question that I’ll share in my next post.

In the meantime, please take part in our poll, and feel free to drop us a comment below.

What do you think of the term 'precision agriculture'?

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Avatar for Benjamin Smith Benjamin Smith says:

The technologies are too diverse to fit under the umbrella of one name. Sticking to your allusion to the medical field, new robotic surgeons, medicine formulations, gene therapy, etc. etc. are all medical technologies, but don’t fit under the same umbrella.

When I think of precision agriculture, I think of grid sampling soils, of variable seeding and fertilizing and the like. I don’t think if soil sensors,, vehicle tracking, analytics, etc. I’m good calling the the general technological advancements Ag Tech, But, it would be wise to start breaking them into disciplines.

Avatar for Chad Pfitzer Chad Pfitzer says:

I agree with your sentiment. We need to be careful when using these terms interchangeably. I personally refer to this space we work in as the “Precision Ag Industry” all the time. I take it for granted. I would caution dismissing the term “Digital Agriculture” though. Where I believe “the word “precision” has come to imply the use of GPS into what were previously a mechanical industry, I think “digital” implies taking this industry to another level. Using high-accuracy corrections (RTK/RTN/RTX) in gathering data is key to unlocking the potential of “Digital Agriculture”. Once the field data (boundaries, topography, seed placement, etc.) doesn’t “move” outside of the inch provided by RTK level data, we can start then start doing much more (variable rate, precision irrigation/chemigation/fertigation, using drones/robots/autonomous vehicles, etc.) with it. When that starts happening across the industry, I believe we can refer to that then start referring to those activities in the sphere of “Digital Agriculture”. Again, this all requires good corrections. Using WAAS will never get us to digital anything. Just my 2 cents.