Precision agriculture uses inputs – nutrients, pesticides, seeds or water – in a sparingly and strategic way to improve productivity and resource efficiency, reduce costs and exert minimal environmental impact. Precision agriculture is most commonly exercised in developed countries where farms are typically much larger than in developing countries (10ha – 1,000ha or more) and better resourced allowing for mechanised crop production systems. Precision agriculture in developed countries increasingly involves new technologies such as satellite imagery, information communication technology and geospatial tools. Farmers use these technologies to collect, analyse and plot data on productivity levels, as well as environmental and soil quality variables in different parts of their fields to apply different nutrients, water amounts and fertiliser mixes in accordance with soil and crop needs in specific locations.
In many developing countries, there is little to no use of western precision agriculture technology. This is due to smaller field sizes, limited access to technology, financial capital and training. Nevertheless, farmers explore the means and resources available to them in order to increase agricultural productivity and production. Through the prudent and targeted application of inputs, precision agriculture contributes to Sustainable Intensification by enabling farmers to increase their yields with fewer inputs than other application methods such as broadcasting (scattering over a large area) fertilisers or seed, for example. This can also improve soil quality and moisture whilst minimising the environmental impact that excessive input use can cause. Further, the targeted application of inputs can help farmers to be more competitive by lowering production costs. Precision agriculture involves measures such the targeted use of inputs through microdosing, soil testing, and proper seed spacing as opposed to broadcasting.