Precision Agriculture in France
France's agriculture benefits from a large agricultural area (292 800 km² about 1/2 ha per inhabitant) and a favourable geographical and climatic situation. France has become the leading agricultural country in the European Union with 18% of European agricultural and agri-food products. The main productions are crops (wheat, 1st in Europe and 5th in the world; corn, 8th in the world) and sugar (7th in the world), wine (2nd in the world), milk (3rd in the world) and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, livestock and meat products (5th in the world for beef). Agriculture occupies 53.2% of the surface area of France. It employed 3.4% of the total working population. The sum of the agriculture, forestry, agri-food and wood industry sectors represented more than 1,800,000 employees or employers, generating 4.5% of French GDP, or just over 72 billion euros. Agriculture benefits from a large part of European aid, but average agricultural income remains very low locally.
The Observatoire des Usages de L’Agriculture Numérique (Digital Agriculture Adoption Observatory - http://agrotic.org/observatoire/chaire-agrotic/) gathers data on PA use in French agriculture. It is a partnership involving two universities, eight research institutes and 28 companies (cooperatives, manufacturers or service providers in digital agriculture). The Observatory gathers data on farm use of PA technology from cooperatives, manufacturers and agricultural advisors. Some key PA adoption estimates in the Observatory data are:
- About 4% of French field crop farmers use computer controlled variable rate input application, mostly for fertilizer.
- About 20% of farmland in France has professionally developed soil maps.
- Almost 1 million ha of farmland in France was managed with remotely sensed data in 2017. Roughly 85% of the remote sensing is by satellite and 15% using drones or aircraft. About 10% of the field crop area and 1% of the viticulture area was managed using remote sensing in 2017.
- In the last 10 years about 135,000 ha of agricultural land has been mapped with electrical conductivity or resistance sensors. This is less than 1% of French agricultural land
- The French data is one of the few sources of quantitative data on agricultural robot use. They indicate that in 2018 about 10% of French dairy farms now use milking robots and 70% farms will acquire milking robots when they replace current milking facilities. In 2018 there were about 100 robots used for weeding vegetable crops and 10 robots used for weeding vineyards.