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How GPS Helps Farmers be More Environmentally Friendly

by GPS4US 2013-05-07 10:44
Urbanites aren't the only ones taking advantage of the spread of high-tech tools and practices. Today, GPS farming is on the rise. This term refers to agricultural operations that use global positioning technology to eliminate redundancies and waste. Farming with the integrated GPS time and position reference framework improves efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts.

Precision Agriculture

GPS plays a central role in the modern toolkit of "precision agriculture," a growing movement focused on making farming greener and more energy-efficient. Planters are increasingly relying on the powers of GPS to more accurately map and monitor geographically far-flung growing operations.

For years, determining the relationship between production techniques, crop yields and land variability has been an inexact science. Now, GPS empowers farmers to closely monitor chemical applications and remotely assess ecological conditions. The satellite-based system offers inexpensive, safe and user-friendly technology for evaluating on-the-ground progress without having to physically visit actual installation sites.

The American Soybean Association reports that GPS adds nearly $20 billion in annual revenue for farmers. Its affordability is crucial for cash-strapped farms fighting the recession.


GPS makes project-wide planning and management easier. Exact positioning can be used to generate three-dimensional representations of differential elevations. Operators can then use these images to scout the best places to plant, eliminating the guesswork that leads to wasted energy.

Third-party contractors can use geo-tagging to access pre-published land use data and efficiently navigate acreage. Other on-site applications include automated equipment steering, variable rate seeding, irrigation management and even error-free corn maze design. Paul Welbig of Raven Industries, a green agro-technology group, says that receiver devices are now widely included in most new agricultural equipment.

Smartphone apps are now available to help agriculturalists maintain consistent records for key work cycles, from fertilizer placement and row-alignment to harvest time. One mobile app created by the University of California at Davis in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service deploys GPS to identify critical site-specific soil profiles.

Future Prospects

According to Harvest Public Media, "GPS has become vital as farmers increasingly look towards technology as a means to feed, clothe and fuel an ever-increasing world population."

The system is a vital component of today's precision agriculture. In the future, however, GPS could bring us into the realm of autonomous farming. Though not yet a reality, some entrepreneurs want to bring farmer-less crops to market courtesy of the popular positioning network.

This would put a satellite-guided system of algorithms and sensors at the helm—agriculture by remote control. Would this application help farmers be more environmentally-friendly? The answer is unclear. As with any technology, the environmental significance of GPS depends on how it's used.

Meanwhile, it is clear that GPS continues to fuel an agricultural revolution mutually supportive of both efficiency and sustainability. In just a few short years, it has transformed the means of crop production. GPS has helped make contemporary farming less energy-intensive and friendlier to the natural environment.

Other ways that farmers and others can save money and energy can be found at

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