Bringing the Human into Precision Agriculture: What Farmers Need from Decision Support Systems to Meet Economic and Water Quality Goals

Aug 2020


Growth in precision agriculture and data have made it easier than ever to analyze fields for both profit and water quality conservation. Indeed, recent research suggests that management decisions that maximize profit, rather than yield, are often better for water quality. However, despite farmer interest and clear financial and environmental benefits of spatially-targeted management, PA tools have not yet been widely adopted. One explanation is that most decision support systems in agriculture were not designed with farmers’ needs in mind. Specifically, common decision support systems only provide visualizations with limited support for decision-making and were developed with little or no user feedback before and during the design process. Lack of farmer engagement and analysis in the design process lead to products that are not useful for the intended audience. Until end-users are more directly involved in the design process for precision agriculture, tools are likely to fail to meet user needs, resulting in low levels of adoption and implementation.   


The goal of this project is to improve precision agriculture decision support systems by identifying how farmers and farm managers currently use this type of information and data to make management decisions for farm profitability and environmental stewardship. The project will also use the data to refine a new PA tool.


The research team will achieve this goal by conducting the user research needed to design and develop a decision-support system called Foresite, a scientifically based precision agriculture tool that offers opportunities to increase on-farm profits while improving water quality.

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