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The Socio-Economics of Precision Agricultural Technologies (PATs)

The Challenge

Farming within Scotland is characterised by variances in efficiency and profitability. Moreover, seeking resource use efficiencies should help in the achievement to support environmental and carbon targets for land use more generally. Precision agriculture, sometimes called satellite farming, is a way to manage an enterprise based on responding to observed and measured variances in field or animal and offers opportunities for managing in order to both improve efficiency, save costs in the long run and manage environmental issues.

SRUC's Research

A body of work conducted with SRUC and partners has conducted a range of studies examining the cost and benefits of adoption of precision agricultural production for both livestock, e.g. EID, and arable farming, variable rate nitrogen application.

The Socio-Economics of Precision Agricultural Technologies


Moreover using a survey of 249 farm businessess in Scotland we identified the barriers to adoption of machine guidance and variable rate nutrient technology and how farmers would respond to particular incentives, including subsidies and taxation.

We conducted numerous workshops with farmers and members of the input suppliers and data analysts to understand co-creation of decision support tools for such things as satellite imagery and use of UAVs on farm.

The Impacts

We find mostly that:

  • Awareness and adoption of PATs is high within Scottish agriculture.
  • Lack of on-farm demonstration may restrict further uptake of PATs.
  • Farming networks and demonstration farms may provide a resource for increasing uptake.
  • Preferred incentives infer directed subsidy support to encourage uptake.

Our work has informed both local and international policy, with recent work completed for the EU. Further examination of the sociological impacts of SMART farming, the co-innovation approaches to understanding impacts at farm and community level, and agricultural economics of PATs are being conducted for a number of agencies.

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