ISPA Forms Official Definition of ‘Precision Agriculture’
“Precision Agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes and analyzes temporal, spatial and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.”
This Precision Agriculture (PA) definition has recently been recognized by the Board of directors as the official definition of the International Society for Precision Agriculture (ISPA).
There was clearly a need to clarify what Precision Agriculture really is. A non-exhaustive list of definitions assembled by the Research Group in AgroICT & Precision Agriculture reported 27 different contributions from the very beginning of PA to date. As the sole international scientific society completely devoted to Precision Agriculture, the ISPA could not avoid the need to provide clarity and guidance on this important concept. The Precision Agriculture concept emerged in the early ‘90s and was then totally focused on the study and management of spatial variability in crop production. Since then, other components of variability and other sectors of agriculture related to the concept in a duly manner.
From the beginning, the ISPA Board of directors wanted the definition process to tap into the working force of ISPA members and engage them to the highest possible degree. ISPA then President Nicolas Tremblay, from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, teamed up with Secretary of the time Viacheslav Adamchuk from McGill University and ISPA member Alex Escolà from Lleida University. A four steps development program was agreed upon, consisting of: 1) a survey for key elements; 2) the elaboration of kernel definitions; 3) a Codigital consultation and; 4) approval by the ISPA Board of Directors.
The survey ran on the ISPA web platform over the months of April and May 2018. Eighty participants contributed to it. Based on the comments and suggestions received, the triumvirate elaborated three definitions which were presented at a plenary during the 12th International Conference on Precision Agriculture in Montreal (June, 2018). These definitions were used as seeds in a virtual process based on the Codigital platform involving 46 PA experts, coordinated by Dr. Escolà and launched in December 2018. The Codigital platform allows the participants to rank existing definitions or to propose new definitions to be subsequently ranked. Alternatively, edits can be proposed to the existing definitions. These are then voted upon by other participants. If accepted, the former definition evolves into a new version which needs to be ranked again on a pair comparison basis. From the three initial definitions, a total of 17 stemmed out of the consultation. A pause was accommodated to allow participants to comment on them outside of the Codigital platform and the process was reactivated to allow for a short, final round of edits. The top 10 definitions were submitted to the ISPA Board of Directors and the decision was made to adopt the first one as the official PA definition.
This definition was the consensus of 36 active participants in the Codigital process and the result of 76 generations based on the edits and votes of all participants.
The ISPA is proud of both the definition that emerged and the process by which it was achieved. The ISPA Board wants to thank all people who contributed their time and expertise for this important endeavour, and particularly Dr. Alex Escolà from Lleida University and Dr. Viacheslav Adamchuk from McGill University.