Precise positioning in the Agricultural sector (2013)


The report provides an estimate of the economic and social benefits of the use of augmented GNSS services in the agricultural sector.

To maintain competitiveness, it is essential that Australian agriculture continues to improve its productivity. Augmented GNSS services are part of meeting this challenge. The main adoption of precision agriculture in Australia to date has been in broad acre cropping (primarily wheat, barley, oats) and other crops such as cotton. This has been at 10 cm accuracy levels.

Geographical scope


Non-quantified impacts

Wheat (12 per cent) is the next most important product after cattle. More than 87 per cent of grains farmers use some form of precision agriculture, including 79 per cent who use 10 cm accuracy GNSS positioning services. Productivity improvements are estimated to range between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of production costs. More precise positioning to 2 cm accuracy offers economic benefits in some other agricultural sectors:

  • Cotton, where a large majority of growers already use positioning and are set up to take advantage of greater precision, realising increased savings from application of pesticides and fertiliser.
  • Grape growing, where high precision can improve vine canopy management and harvesting. However, because the industry has had limited adoption to date benefits will require new investment and thus take longer to realise. Extension of 2 cm accuracy augmentation signals would support greater adoption.

Barriers to achieving high levels of adoption outside of grains and cotton include:

  • In cattle, costs associated with electronic tagging of beasts well exceed benefits potentially realisable from positioning.
  • In dairy, adjustment pressures have limited farmers’ ability to invest in tracking equipment. There is also crowding out of investment by the changes being pursued through the “future dairy” initiative.
  • In grape growing, scepticism about the benefits of positioning.
  • In horticulture, the small scale and dispersed nature of many of the businesses involved.

In the latter two cases, encouragement of early adopters and documentation of the financial benefits is likely to lead to a similar “S-curve” adoption pattern as that seen in grains over recent years. As well as economic benefits there are environmental benefits to the use of precise positioning in agriculture including:

  • more efficient water use
  • reduced runoff of farm chemicals into the environment
  • better management of disease outbreaks

Quantifiable impacts

The results show that industries in the agricultural sector grew as a result of improvements in productivity from the use of augmented GNSS in precision agriculture as well as in other industries:

  • Output in the sector was between AUD 298 million and AUD 466 million higher in 2012 as a result of the use and application of augmented GNSS in the grains industry and elsewhere. This represents between 0.9 and 1.5 per cent of the grains and cropping sectors’ output.
  • Output is projected to be between AUD 885 million and AUD 2185 million higher by 2020 with further adoption mainly in the grains and livestock industries. This represents around 2.6 per cent and 6.5 per cent of the grains, crops and livestock sectors’ output.



Study type

Case studies feeding CGE model

Economy sector