Job offersmore »

Tweeting Growers

Top 5 - yesterday

  • No news has been published yesterday.

Top 5 - last week

Top 5 - last month

Exchange ratesmore »

Future of CAP: Robots in the field?

At first glance, farming might not seem the most technically advanced profession: the image of the farmer toiling on the land remains the most persistent, and for many people, farm technology begins and ends with a tractor. But the reality is far from this, and the agri-food sector is just like any other profession in seeking to take advantage of the benefits that modern technology can bring.

Tracing food products through an app, a cloud application to make precision farming easier or a digital farming advisor for efficient production – these are just a few of the exciting developments in the field (pun intended) of agriculture highlighted at the Agri Innovation Summit 2017 in Portugal on 11-12 October, innovative start-ups created with support from the EU via funding from its common agricultural policy and Horizon 2020 research programme.

Precision farming helps promote sustainable farming
Precision farming in particular has become the focus of much of the innovation in this area, technology's response to the need to produce more with less and in a sustainable manner. In simple terms, precision farming means using technologies such as satellite positioning systems to improve production - for example through monitoring crops and providing data on how best to treat them to increase yields. Monitoring and analysing agricultural data thanks to sensor systems can also improve irrigation management for high water-consumer crops, thus promoting sustainable farming.

But research is not limited to satellites and sensors. The modern world is fuelled by data as much as anything else, and the lack of varied and high quality data about farming is a potential barrier to innovation in this area. This is why the EU-funded Foodie project has developed a cloud-based platform for both spatial and non-spatial agricultural data, which aims to remove the barriers to precision farming.

For most of us, the thought of robots taking over is fuelled by a myriad of science fiction movies, but the reality is far more positive. While there is little chance of them taking over the world, robots are already being designed to help farmers in their day-to-day work: the EU-funded SWEEPER project, for example, is developing a robot pepper picker (surely it should have been called Peter Piper?) to work in the hot and humid environment of greenhouses where producers often struggle to find workers willing to endure the conditions.

And while much of the farmer's art lies in knowing when his or her crop is ready for harvesting – a skill honed by years of experience and often passed down from generation to generation – it also requires a lot of hard work, constantly checking the crops and manually testing their readiness. But behind this art there is also a lot of science, which makes it particularly ripe (pun intended) for robots to take the strain. This is the idea behind another EU-funded project, VINEROBOT, an 'unmanned ground vehicle' equipped with sensors that can travel through the vineyards testing whether grapes are ready for harvesting.

Promoting innovation in agriculture at all levels
Of course, innovation is not just about satellites and robots, and there are many other ways that digital technologies are helping one of humanity's most fundamental professions evolve. For example, boosting knowledge and innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas is part of the EU's priorities enshrined in its rural development programmes, while it also features high up the Cork 2.0 declaration on the future of rural development, which seeks to ensure that "rural businesses, including farmers and foresters, of all types and sizes […] have access to appropriate technology, state-of-the-art connectivity, as well as new management tools to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits" (point 7 of the declaration). Bringing down barriers to unlock online opportunities in the digital single market is also one of the ten European Commission priorities for 2015-19.

The importance of bringing modern technologies into agriculture and rural areas is underlined by the fact that one of the European Commission's five European Innovation Partnerships – developed as the most effective way to accelerate the development of research and innovation in key sectors – is dedicated to sustainable agriculture (EIP-AGRI). The sheer number of innovative start-ups in the agri-food sector – many of which will be showcased at the Lisbon Agri Innovation summit – is also a clear indication that, helped by support from the EU, the farms and fields of the future will be very different places.

Source: European Commission

Publication date: 10/12/2017



Other news in this sector:

6/21/2018 Farms without humans are coming
6/19/2018 "Robots will support, not replace, growers in the future"
6/19/2018 New tomato harvest robot GRoW being tested in the greenhouse
6/18/2018 From pipe rail to concrete pathway without stepping off
6/12/2018 South Africa's first food 3D printer turns ugly produce into attractive nutrition
6/11/2018 These machines peel fruit easily
6/8/2018 Steam solution for strawberry cultivation in raised rows
6/7/2018 Sweeper demonstrates sweet pepper harvesting robot
6/7/2018 Ground cover sweeper celebrates 2nd birthday
6/6/2018 BASF invests in autonomous weeding robot
5/31/2018 Will robots save us from strawberry shortages?
5/31/2018 Access to knowledge, whenever, wherever
5/28/2018 "We're looking at 100 million cuttings through the system this season"
5/25/2018 BrambleBee robotic pollinator
5/24/2018 Packing line delivers high accuracy for fixed-weight vegetable packs
5/22/2018 US (FL): High school students build robot that farms vegetables
5/22/2018 Asparagus fetching high prices for growers with tighter geographic distribution
5/21/2018 Russia: Robot grows cucumber and rocket
5/17/2018 "Do it yourself with the Spare parts finder"
5/8/2018 Scout robot detects plant abnormalities at an early stage