In response to issues like climate change, price volatility and market demand fluctuations, the sector is going through a major transformation called Agriculture 4.0, a term used to cover the shift between traditional agricultural and new practices regarding technological solutions, such as precision agriculture.
Precision agriculture is the science of improving the productivity and profitability of crop yields through the use of technology. By implementing precision agriculture, it is possible to increase performance, profitability and sustainability, while also allowing farmers to optimize their workflow and resource use.
Drones are an important tool in precision agriculture, as they allow rapid inspection of large areas and mapping of property. Drones are also used for reporting on crop health, improving spraying accuracy, monitoring livestock and irrigation systems, among other actions. This practice has led to environmental advantages, since they have a low carbon footprint.
Such is the importance of drones in the agri-food sector that in 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) developed an electronic agriculture (e-agriculture) strategy to help countries identify, develop and successfully implement sustainable technological solutions for agriculture, regarding climate change and food security.
Recently, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, part of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) published the report, "Digital Transformation of Agribusiness in Latin America and the Caribbean,” which is based on data collected from 40 agribusiness companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru. The report revealed that Latin America and the Caribbean are still in the early stages of digital transformation. According to Statista, it is estimated that the agricultural drone market in Latin America will reach approximately US$600 million in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.17 percent.
Increasing availability of smartphones and demand for drones are driving growth of precision agriculture in Mexico. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted the need to bring innovative technologies that improve yields and allow remote surveillance. Technological advances, innovation and the emergence of many startups are also providing opportunities and opening new paths for precision farming techniques.