GPS 101: a Quick Recap

Just how does this super tool get the job done? A recap of a core precision ag tech.

Published on: Jan 27, 2014

Thanks to advances in technology, growers should no longer be treating their fields uniformly and not considering the many tools and different bits of information now available. In fact, many growers now realize micromanaging their fields using precision farming practices can be beneficial, especially given the production increases and economic efficiencies that can be realized.

This is a time where satellite imagery, remote sensors and even unmanned drones are now a part of the technology discussion when it comes to agriculture. GPS, however, is arguably one of the easiest (and most common) technologies growers can add to their operations, thanks to its availability and relatively low cost.

ON TRACK: The GPS system you take for granted could help with weed control.
ON TRACK: The GPS system you take for granted could help with weed control.

Originally developed in the late 1970s by the U.S. Department of Defense for military purposes, GPS is now used in a wide variety of applications across a multitude of industries, including agriculture. In short, GPS is a navigational system made up of 24 satellites orbiting about 12,500 miles above the earth; and people can use these satellites 24/7 to pinpoint exact locations anywhere on earth using GPS receivers, which interface with the satellites using a process called triangulation.

However, the accuracy of any GPS receiver depends on how much you spend, as they can cost anywhere from $100 to $25,000 (or more). The cost depends on how you plan to use the technology, what features you need, and how much you're willing to invest.

Keep in mind, few (if any) GPS receivers will provide accurate position estimates 100% of the time,
as there are a number of variables (like satellite positioning, weather, etc.) that can impact readings.

It's also important to remember that precision farming doesn't "just happen" because you purchase a GPS receiver. Instead, precision farming requires an investment of time and money, as well as growers educating themselves about different technologies and how they work together to create operational
efficiencies.  

So whether it's spraying for weeds, applying fertilizer, planting fields, mapping yields, or simply marking boundary lines and other topographical features in your fields, GPS technology can be used to provide accurate position data for these farming-related purposes when installed and operated properly.