Less input, more output and lower footprint through precision farming and digitalisation

The impact of the new technologies, such as robotics, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing our food production system. Precision farming has shaken up a number of large companies to invest in the development of new solutions for future farming technologies. Which companies are part of this new wave and what technical products are available on the market?

Nova-Institute organizes a conference on this subject, ‘Revolution in Food and Biomass Production (REFAB)’, October 1 and 2 in Cologne (Germany). There, the major players of this field will come together and present their newest products.

Connected machines for precision farming.
Connected machines for precision farming. Image: CLAAS

The digitalisation of agriculture, including various technologies for precision farming, artificial intelligence (AI), robots and drones, holds the promise to make modern agriculture more efficient and sustainable. This may be achieved by drastically increasing the amount of information available to make educated farming decisions on fertilizer and plant protection or by substituting human labour altogether. These technologies will not only boost biomass production, also livestock farming will improve its environmental footprint. Or, to put it in a nutshell: less input, more output and lower environmental footprint.

Precision farming makes inroads

The digitalisation of food and biomass production is in full swing all over the globe, though at different paces and levels, equivalent to the extent of the farmers’ realities and needs. Technology providers with the ambition to globally supply their products are therefore faced with the challenge to meet the farmers’ needs. In addition, as in other applications of digitalisation, the question of data security and data ownership arises. This affects not only the interests of the farmer but also the economic interests of technology companies and countries.

Drone demonstration on aerial pesticide application.
Drone demonstration on aerial pesticide application. Photo: USDA

Tata Consultancy Services TCS has a branch called Digital Farming Initiatives that developed a suite of flexible multi-pronged technologies, termed InteGraTM. These  combine the so-called five digital forces – social networks, mobility, analytics, Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) to create ‘market smart’ and ‘climate smart’ farming enterprises, coined Progressive Rural Integrated Digital Enterprises (PRIDETMs). According to Dr. Pappula (Tata), PRIDETMs have been created across various states in India and have a transformative effect on the lives of small and marginal farmers, moving them towards a future of economic prosperity and food security.

New value-added digital services

Egbert Schröer (Microsoft), as the head of the teams responsible for empowering chemical & agrochemical companies and industries, says that ‘Digital Agriculture is transforming how the world farms to feed the world population. Food safety, integrity and security are major issues. ‘Feeding the world in a sustainable manner’ has become the core of Microsoft’s strategies, and traditional agriculture companies are changing their business models, leveraging technology and e-commerce capabilities to launch new value-added digital services for growers. Together with our great partners we are committed to empower people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to AI tools and accelerating innovation.’

At the heart of precision farming solutions at Bayer Digital Farming is the xarvio FIELD MANAGER, a digital solution for monitoring the health of agricultural fields via remote sensing, and xarvio SCOUTING, an app for monitoring the health of crops via your smartphone, including their nutritional and infestations status. Both products have only been introduced in 2017 and are currently available in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Poland and the Ukraine.

Precision livestock farming

As already mentioned, precision farming not only transforms crop production but also animal husbandry. In an interesting example, researchers and developers at Evonik Nutrition & Care work on the so-called Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) for poultry. The term stands for using digital technologies to employ knowledge and data in order to develop effective recommendations with verifiable benefits. In this case, not only body temperature, nutrition and the climate in the barn are monitored and analysed, but also the communication within the flock. Based on its analytical services for amino acids, Evonik already has many years of experience with digital business models in agriculture.

Last but not least, at CLAAS, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery, the focus on precision farming solutions lies in data collection during field operations, and their processing into cultivation decisions. As an example, the application CROP SENSOR allows to instantly adapt the application of fertilizer or growth regulators during field operations; and conductivity meter EM 38 collects information about soil status, such as its heterogeneity, yield potential and composition during a field operation. Furthermore, CLAAS advocates manufacturer-independent data integration, using the prominent, holistic farm management software 365FarmNet, a CLAAS subsidiary.

At the upcoming REFAB Conference, major players from the agricultural, chemical and IT sector will present their views and experiences on the digitalisation of agriculture. Contributors to the conference include Dr. Srinivasu Pappula, Global Head, Digital Farming Initiatives, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) (IN), Egbert Schröer, Worldwide Managing Director of Process Manufacturing & Resources Industry at Microsoft (US), Tobias Menne, Head of Digital Farming at Bayer (DE), Prof. Dr. Stefan Pelzer, Director Innovation Management Animal Nutrition of Evonik Nutrition & Care (DE) and Dr. Joachim Stiegemann, Head of CES Product Management at CLAAS E-Systems (DE). With these contributions by globally operating companies, the conference will provide a balanced perspective on the present state of precision farming technologies, their markets and how they meet the diverse needs of farmers. Altogether, 50 speakers and 30 exhibitors will show the future of food and biomass production (www.refab.info).

Interesting? Then also read:
Towards precision agriculture with less environmental impact
Precision horticulture: what the consumer wants
Kipster, a new chapter in sustainable chicken farming

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