How Australia is digitalizing agriculture: Australia is providing farmers with an injection of cash to encourage them to use digital technologies in agriculture. It’s another example of an industry using digitalization and the Internet of Things to get fit for the future.
According to the World Agricultural Report, agriculture is not only the oldest but also still the biggest economic factor in the world. However, it is facing growing challenges. Climate change and unpredictable weather, rising costs for labor, energy and production equipment, changing consumer preferences, ever-increasing price pressure and international competition are all issues that affect the agricultural sector. As a result, more and more farmers are looking at how new technologies can help them run their farms.
AN INJECTION OF MILLIONS FOR DIGITALIZATION DOWN UNDER
And that goes for Australia too. Agriculture is still an important industry Down Under, employing some 400,000 people. Cattle and sheep – Australia is the world leader in the production of wool – as well as wheat, sugar cane and wine are important export goods. To keep it that way, the state of Victoria in southeast Australia has provided 15 million dollars to make agriculture smarter and more efficient.
As part of the project, farms throughout the state will install sensors and networked devices in their fields and stables. The information collected will be uploaded to the cloud for analysis and will be accessible to farmers via a web interface. The data will provide insights into things like weather and soil conditions, and is intended to benefit the combined dairy, cereal, sheep and horticultural sector. Farmers don’t just collect data in real time, but also over extended periods of time to ensure, for example, that crops are optimally irrigated or livestock are properly fed. Drones equipped with multispectral cameras can direct autonomous agricultural machines from the air to areas to be irrigated and fertilized. In the meantime, sensor networks in the soil monitor harvesting and climate conditions.
SMART FARMING WORLD: WHERE IOT MEETS AGRICULTURE
Agriculture and digital technologies are also converging in Germany. One example of this development is the Smart Farming World project at the Research Institute for Rationalization at RWTH Aachen University. The project’s partners include agricultural machinery manufacturers Claas and Grimme, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Kaiserslautern and the Telekom Innovation Labs in Berlin. The project is funded by Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Energy with the aim of developing a cloud platform for the aggregation and analysis of data from agricultural operations – which will eventually give rise to smart services.
The digital networking of agricultural machines from different manufacturers is enabled by, among other things, mobile phone technology from Deutsche Telekom. This is intended to help reduce the use of water, fertilizers and CO2 and at the same time increase crop yields. For example, the system collects data from the current harvesting process as well as historical field data such as the sequence of cultivated crop species and fertilizer cycles. Through intelligent analyses, farmers can then derive optimal fertilization and harvest strategies for their land. The Smart Farming World project will investigate which data can be used to describe the condition of a field, which sensors are required for this, how the optimum harvest time of the fields can be determined automatically and which key figures a program uses to identify whether a field needs to be fertilized. In spring 2019, the research partners will compile an initial summary of the results of the Smart Farming World project – hopefully this will contain valuable insights into how the Internet of Things and technology can make agriculture fit for the future.
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Digitization and the Internet of Things are among the favourite topics of Daniel Kunz. He has been with Deutsche Telekom since 2017 and regularly writes about technology trends and many exciting topics, especially for the retail trade and the logistics industry.