In all honesty: The term "process chains" is only partially accurate. Strictly speaking, the chains are interlinked and form a Network - if everything goes well. This assumes that farms and their partners proceed systematically and don't lose sight of the big picture, for one thing is clear: Digitalisation and automation cover all processes common on farms in the field and in the barn - up to and including joint data management of added value from the agri-food sector.
Artificial intelligence in the field
Farming operations are faced with three questions: How do they intended to manage their processes in future, what technology is available on the market for this purpose and how well does it pay off? "Artificial intelligence" (AI) is not the only answer. However, AI is part of the answer to all three questions. Approaches like "Agri-Gain" point exactly in this direction. The project of the Deutschen Forschungszentrums für künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI- German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence) and the Institutes für Lebensmitteltechnik (Institute for Food Technology) integrates partners from the business sector. Agri Gain has set the goal of "creating a platform that already makes the AI modules available in the application context". According to the project's own definition, it uses "open data sources and stored expert knowledge".
Approval slows progress
As the Director of the DFKI, Prof. Joachim Hertzberg conducts research on the future of agriculture at the site in Osnabrück, Germany. The scientist emphasises the difference between "digitalisation" and "artificial intelligence". Hertzberg assigns data - regardless of its quality and quantity - to the digital aspects, so to speak as a raw material. Algorithms of AI produce application-oriented options from it. Or to put it another way: With AI things start to get exciting. (Partially) autonomous systems for crop production and the related analysis instruments, including for efficient pest control, go beyond the development pipeline. Now it's a matter of application in the field, which among other things is slowed by approval processes. In a TV interview, Hertzberg compares artificial intelligence with the "introduction of the tractor". Technology is there to control even the more detailed processes. This results in "a completely new type of agriculture". It's not possible "to turn everything around from one season to the next", however in view of the opportunities of AI, Hertzberg believes "it will go in that direction".
Now it must be clarified how this technology fits in farms and at the respective location. A cool calculation goes without saying. AGRITECHNICA 2019 opens its doors in a few weeks and the guiding theme "Global Farming - Local Responsibility" is more than just the catchy motto of the trade fair. The world's leading trade fair for agricultural machines opens up the insight into the range of products and services of modern management systems for professional agricultural producers. From 12 to 18 November exhibitors in Hanover present "what is possible in process management".
The process chains in agriculture are becoming increasingly demanding, and that in several respects: As a result of digitalisation, more data are available to producers that then have to be converted into information. Along the value-added chain up to the consumer, everyone expects greater transparency in food production and legal specifications, e.g. the Fertiliser Ordinance, and demand a consistently sparing use of the available resources. IT-supported systems are not only demanding, when used correctly they enable comprehensive farm management. Cultivation planning, care of stock, harvesting and marketing will no longer be individual workflows in the agriculture of the future, but instead a comprehensive system that is tightly interwoven. AGRITECHNICA 2019 shows the path to achieving this goal.
What do farmers in rural Brandenburg and producers in northern Namibia have in common? One answer might be "A lot of sand in their soil". Which is true. The answer "Not a lot of water" would also be correct. However, what is true for globally networked agriculture as a whole particularly applies to both of these cases: while the challenges may bear some similarity, they can only be overcome locally. (A lack of) water is a prime example of this. [learn more]
The definition leaves no room for doubt: "Central basis of life for plants and directly or indirectly for human beings and animals." But it was clear even before the entry in the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia: the soil is the basis for everything. And the reason why it must be protected can already be derived from this realisation. One of the threats, if not the most important one, is erosion, i.e. the loss of fertile soil through wind or water. [learn more]
Human medicine shows the way. The times of "more helps more" are long gone, if they ever existed at all. It is no different with crop protection. Today, it is not unusual for many farmers to combine state-of-the-art active substances and traditional but optimised methods of weed and pest control - even on individual fields [learn more]
"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". [learn more]
The statistical data reveal an extensive spread, but one aspect appears to be certain: depending on region and type of culture, significant crop yields are lost after harvesting, particularly in regions with supply problems. These losses determine whether firms operate profitably and in many cases even whether people go hungry. [learn more]
Due to the fertiliser ordinance, the subject of "fertilisation" is more present than ever, and that far beyond the roundtables. Everyone is talking about it, but not everyone bases what they say on facts, and on a political level there are indications of further restrictions. [learn more]
For start-ups based in Germany, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWI) encourages participation in a joint stand. There, as in the AgrifutureLab and the related Start-Up Wall, it's a matter during the AGRITECHNICA from 12 to 18 November of the right people meeting each other. [learn more]
Larger working widths, more powerful engines or greater throughput - quantitative growth was and is an important aspect in (agricultural) technology. And even if not everyone admits it: Besides the usefulness, it's also a matter of appreciation of the sheer size. Thomas Herlitzius and his team are taking a different route. [learn more]