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Intelligently networking digital systems

"It almost certainly won't be less work initially", says Prof. Patrick Ole Noack putting paid to any wishful thinking: the scientist refers to digital crop production, including instruments such as satellites and drones along with sensor systems, as "indication systems". Farmers know more precisely where they need to take a look on their land. Digital methods are suitable for indicating (in)homogeneities, i.e. (dis)similarities. "The farmer should go out and take a look at least as often as before or presumably even more frequently, but at specific times and in specific locations", states Noack with conviction. Later on - when experience and measurement values have been compared - a reduction in workload is also to be anticipated.

Steering systems have become established

The scientist from the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences counters the fundamental question of whether digitalisation is moving agriculture forwards or restraining it with the basic digital principle: "You can't answer that with zero or one." However, he accepts differentiated responses. For instance, there are three reasons why GPS-controlled steering systems for agricultural machines are sensible. The steering systems reduce effort, relieve the driver "and are simply good fun", admits Noack.

Recognising and eliminating practical deficiencies

His assessment of the partial area-specific approach of precision farming is more critical. "This is the great outdoors", states Noack, "not a factory." Soils and weather are extremely variable, and not everything that can be computed in the cloud can actually be put into practice. He and his team at the university would like to change this. The scientists are working together with farmers in a project and want to find out where the deficiencies lie in practice. For instance, better calibration of the sensors is an important objective, particularly if near-infrared spectroscopy and satellite data are used. It must be possible to reflect "what is actually happening on the field" back to the sensors.

The pragmatic approach taken by agricultural system technician Noack and his team offers significant potential. This would provide farmers with a complete "digital tool kit" and very detailed knowledge about their land. Crop producers could plan their cultivation comprehensively, and specifically for individual areas at the same time, thanks to digital control. And all of this would be possible from sowing and care measures to fertilisation and harvesting. The maxim is a "shift from individual measures to the big picture".

Data collection and linking

There is a wealth of new technology for increased efficiency and quality in international crop production. However, linking them is more important than their quantity. Changing natural conditions also form part of this network, as do outlay and yield in the agricultural cultures.

In the "AgriFusion" project, Noack is investigating how this may lead to an increased benefit for the agricultural industry. As the name of the project suggests, yield potential maps are created by fusing yield mapping, remote sensing data determined by satellite, digital topography evaluation and the agricultural cultivation data. The Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences will also be represented at AGRITECHNICA 2019 (hall 21, stands B15e and A14)

New technologies, science and agricultural practice - AGRITECHNICA 2019 will be offering an overview of this exciting topic area. However, the world's leading trade fair for professional crop producers is not a platform that offers patent remedies. Quite the contrary: natural and farming structures differ worldwide and are even (to be regarded as) extensively differentiated in individual regions in some cases.

Global farming can only be economically, ecologically and socially successful with locally viable concepts. The much cited and demanded "sustainability in farming" necessitates responsible actions in the respective situation and region. This is precisely what is expressed by the leitmotif of AGRITECHNICA 2019: "Global Farming - Local Responsibility".

Summary:

  • Digital methods as " indication systems"
  • Precision farming: more efficient calibration of sensors
  • GPS steering systems as standard
  • Linking monitoring systems for increased knowledge
  • Increasing practical farming exchange