Precision Farming

Smart Farming

Soil preparation is the first step before growing a crop. The ultimate objective is to produce a firm and weed-free seedbed for rapid germination and emergence of the crop.
One of the most important tasks in soil preparation is tilling (or ploughing): turning the soil and loosening it.
Tilling creates optimal soil by:
Mechanically destroying weeds that compete for water, nutrients  and sunlight.
Incorporating organic material: residues left over from the previous crops are incorporated in the soil and decomposed.
Loosening the soil: loosened soil allows the roots to penetrate deep into the soil and to breathe easily. It also supports the growth of earthworms and microbes.
Soil preparation is one of the most energy-consuming parts of agriculture, requiring significant inputs of fuel and time. Depending on the field’s location, it may also increase the risk of soil erosion.
Today, precision farming equipment exists that helps farmers to use considerably less fuel and time in soil preparation by improving the accuracy, efficiency and sustainability of the process.

Seeding (or: sowing) is a critical step in crop growing. For a successful seeding process, two challenges need to be overcome:
  • Correct depth: if sown too deep into the soil, roots will not be able to breath. If sown on the surface, birds may damage the seeds.
  • Proper distance: if plants are overcrowded, they will not to get enough water, nutrients and sunlight, resulting in yield loss. If they are planted too far from each other, valuable land is left unused.
Hand-seeding used to be a laborious, burdensome task with a lot of inaccuracies involved. Today, seed drills and planters do the job of sowing with the help of tractors.
Modern precision seeding equipment manages to place the seeds uniformly at proper distances and depths for optimal access to moisture and sunlight. The fast, uniform germination ensure the crop can compete with weeds and promotes even maturity across the whole field for easier harvesting and greater yields.
The system can be combined with geomapping (a map showing soil density, quality etc.).
This ensures that:
  • More seeds are planted in soil with favourable growing conditions

  • Less seeds are planted in poor soils = avoidance of loss of crop production or void areas
The latest precision technologies are helping farmers to refine the seeding process even further and achieve a higher yield with less seed.

The right
During their growth phase plants need:
amount of nutrients – FERTILISATION
Adequate protection from pests and diseases – CROP PROTECTION / SPRAYING
The right amounts of water – IRRIGATION
In all three areas, precision farming solutions help farmers to produce more with less.
Key precision applications include:
For Precision Fertilising
  • Crop sensors
  • Automatic wind control
  • Optimised boundary spreading

–> Eliminate the risk of over and under-fertilisation (as growth and yield can fluctuate greatly within a field)

–>Help to produce a uniform growth rate

For Precision Spraying
  • Satellite steering systems (GPS)

–>?Help to reduce spraying by avoiding overlap areas

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For Precision Irrigation
  • Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI)

?–>SDI provides the most effective management tool delivering water and nutrients directly to the plant roots at the precise time and in the precise quantity needed.


For the farmer, harvesting is a critical point in time. Speed, accuracy, and timing determine whether the harvest will be successful. Until recently, harvesting was the most burdensome and laborious activity of the entire growing season. Today, the task is taken over by some of the most sophisticated farm machines such as:
The combine harvester (‘combine’): one of the most important labour-saving inventions of all times.
It combines 3 separate harvesting operations into one single process: reaping, threshing and winnowing. The excess straw is either chopped and spread on the field or – using automated balers – baled to provide
feed and bedding for livestock. Combines are used to harvest crops such as wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn, soybeans and linseed.
Forage harvesters (‘foragers’) for feed production: foragers chop grass, corn or other plant into small pieces which are then compacted together in a storage silo for fermentation to feed livestock.
 
Specialist harvesters: tailor-made machines have been developed for the automated harvesting of other fruits and crops such as potatoes, carrots, sugar beet, grapes, cotton or apples. One key challenge for these machines is how to ensure perfect extraction while maintaining the physical integrity of the crop.


Livestock farming is facing tremendous challenges today:

  • Increasing production: over the next 15 years, global demand for meat is expected to increase by 40% triggered by a growing number of people adopting protein-richer diets. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), technology solutions in agricultural and livestock production systems will play a key role to address this challenge and ensure an adequate food supply for an expected population of 9.7 billion by 2050
  • Promoting sustainability & animal welfare: while increasing production, it will be important to find ways to minimize the environmental footprint of livestock farming and ensure high levels of welfare and health for animals.
  • Alleviating farmers’ workload and ensuring economic viability of farm operations: it will be important find solutions that will enable farmers to manage large number of animals in an adequate and profitable manner.

Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) systems offer solutions to all of the above challenges.

 

PLF systems: 

  • help farmers to increase livestock production and quality of production in a sustainable manner
  • offer tailored care for the animals in terms of feeding, milking and housing
  • make many of the farmer’s daily tasks much easier to handle

PLF management tools enable continuous, automatic monitoring of animal welfare, health, environmental impact and production in real-time. The latest PLF systems can help farmers to collect and manage detailed information to ensure livestock production is safe, environmentally sustainable and in compliance with highest health and welfare standards. Currently, PLF techniques are predominantly applied to the husbandry of pigs, poultry and dairy cows.

Examples of PLF systems include: 

  • Precision feeding systems: feeding systems allow farmers to feed their cows accurately, precisely and with minimal expenditure of work at all times (24/7).
  • Precision milking robot: a good example of large adoption of PLF systems are automatic milking machines. These robotic systems can handle up to 65 cows on an average of 2.7 times per day.
  • Stable and farm management systems: various PLF support and monitoring systems exist, which use cameras and microphones and thus act as the eyes and ears of the farmer at all times.

 

 

Benefits of PLF systems:

  • Greater sustainability & higher productivity: recent studies show PLF  management systems can raise milk yields, while also increasing cows’ life  expectancy and reducing their methane emissions by up to 30%. Thanks to  automated PLF techniques farmers are able to reduce time spent on routine,  ordinary tasks and thus free up time to spend more time with the animals and  manage larger herds, hence increasing efficiency, productivity, and animal  friendliness.
  • Increased animal welfare through an individual ‘per animal’  approach: PLF systems allow farmers to follow and manage the individual  animal’s status and well-being closely at all times. They can detect diseases  at an early stage, for instance, acoustic sensors can pick up an increase in  coughing of pigs. PLF systems can also alert farmers of specific needs of  animals by sending an SMS. Moreover, automated solutions operate without  the limitations and constraints of human labour and thus provide more  freedom for animals for self-determined, species-appropriate behaviour.
  • Easier farm operations: PLF systems enable livestock farmers to take care  of a large number of animals per farm, while providing individual attention to each animal and complying – and documenting compliance – with high quality and welfare standards.

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