IoF2020: Making precision farming a reality

The morning mist soaks into thick shreds across the country, above the sun rises and turns the horizon red. From the fog a soft humming sound, two tractors emerge. When he spots me, the driver of the second tractor steps out, but where is the driver of the first tractor? There is none, says the farmer, I operate both machines. How? Well, that strange vehicle you saw here last week has mapped the whole field and this map is now instructing the board computers of the two tractors how to drive.

The first tractor exactly follows pre‐programmed lines and carries out soil cultivation, based on soil composition. My tractor with a sowing machine automatically follows the same lines and automatically adjusts distance, quantity and the variety of potato seeds. Incredible, isn’t it?

Two weeks later

The same field. An unmanned small tractor drives with a high speed along the same invisible straight lines. With surgical precision, a hoe eliminates every weed in the field, the farmer says. This saves a lot of chemicals and labour in comparison to earlier days where we had to spray the full field with a heavy tractor. So this is good for the environment and I have much less costs!

Within a few weeks the fertilizer will follow, and by a pre‐defined task map it knows exactly where to put what for optimal growth of the plants. That map was generated on the basis of big data analyses and calculations in the cloud involving relevant data from the market, weather and public regulations. Additional cameras are checking the crop and, if necessary, make corrections. Again, the plants just get enough nutrients to grow optimally and nothing is wasted.

Wow, amazing! Come, I’ll show you how it works in the office. Don’t you have to stay with your tractor? Oh no, it knows what it is doing.

At the office with a good old‐fashioned cup of coffee

Of course, we farmers are still in charge of our own farm but most of the field operations are carried out automatically by autonomous objects. Now we can focus on the market choices and take care of communications with our customers as well as citizens who are very much involved in farming nowadays.

After execution of the field work, the measured data is automatically returned from the machine to the office through the cloud. This is the basis for subsequent tasks. But I also provide it to research institutes, which feed these data into computer models for further improvement.

The same holds for public legislation and certification bodies. They use the same data to check for compliance to their rules. Every organisation has access to a specific set of our data in the cloud. Of course, this is subject to strict security and privacy rules.

No, no, I don’t want to leave my data lying around. Oh yes, by the way, food safety and traceability is not an issue anymore; it is guaranteed by all kinds of sensors and in case something might go wrong early warning systems alert me in time.

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