Supporting and protecting food supply is a policy area with a high degree of regulation and subsidy. In agriculture and fisheries, much of the policy attention relates to the geographic extents of farms and fishing areas. Location-related data is highly important therefore in the regulation of these industries and the protection of species involved. Key examples include agricultural subsidies (under the Common Agricultural Policy), associated environmental protection, and protection of species (e.g. animal welfare, disease control, fishing quotas). Some of the processes and use of location data in managing animal disease outbreaks, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, have similarities to the controls put in place to deal with human health pandemics such as COVID-19.
Farming and fishing industries increasingly use more sophisticated technologies to help them manage yields and use their resources as efficiently as possible. Precision agriculture software provides a decision support system for farmers using location intelligence assisted by satellite positioning technology and farm equipment sensors (e.g. combine harvesters). The goal is to optimise returns on inputs whilst preserving resources. The software supports crop management planning and rotation plans for best yields. Precision livestock farming involves use of sensors to track animals, enabling improvements in production and sustainability (e.g. animal welfare, environmental impact).
A 2007 report on the economic benefits of precision agriculture in Australia examined six case studies. The level of capital investment varied from $55,000 to $189,000. Capital investment per hectare varied from $14 to $44/ha. Estimated annual benefits ranged from $14 to $30/ha and the initial capital outlay was recovered within 2-5 years. All farmers we were able to quantify benefits to variable rate fertiliser management, ranging from $1 to $22/ha across the six farms.
The EU funded Foodie Project has highlighted the benefits of using agricultural technology for farming cooperatives.
FATIMA, an EU funded project concerning large-scale precision agriculture, aimed to implement new tools for intensive farming that help optimise use of nutrients and water and improve productivity. The project highlighted that use of a variable rate delivery system for nutrients could reduce inputs by 38% without impacting grain yields.