Precision Produce: Precision Agriculture for a Resilient Vegetable Supply Amidst Climate Change
Through a National Science Foundation grant, the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) worked with an interdisciplinary group of academics and industry partners to assess the feasibility and potential benefits of accelerating the adoption of precision agriculture technologies among small, family farms growing commercial and direct-to-market produce, focusing first on the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through monitoring and data analysis, precision technologies help to improve crop yields, reduce waste, and optimize the use of resources like water, fertilizers, and pesticides. This technology can alleviate projected vegetable production shortages that reduce access to fresh and processed vegetables—particularly for socioeconomically disadvantaged communities—and ultimately undermine nutrition security for the nation. As part of this research, CECE conducted an economic baseline study of produce in Virginia, mapping produce supply chains and key pain points along those supply chains that inhibit agricultural growth and vibrancy. CECE engaged producers and agriculture stakeholders to understand barriers to technology adoptions, challenges to the industry, industry growth strategies, and potential benefits of precision ag.