The ‘Internet of Things’, which effectively connects devices wirelessly to the web, has been billed as the ‘next industrial revolution’, and now the Internet of Food & Farm 2020 (IoF2020) project is underway to help Europe’s agri-food sector exploit these technologies.
“The Internet of Things refers to a network of objects that communicate with each other with the help of sensors or other information systems. This network enables the exchange of data, environmental control or any other required action. For example, sensors might be deployed to monitor the weather and inform tractors whether they need to apply fertilizer or water,” explained Quentin Galland, spokesman for the IoF2020 project.
Co-funded to the tune of €30 million by the EU and coordinated by Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands, the project brings together a consortium of 71 partners. These range from ICT developers to farmers, cooperatives and consumer organizations.
On a similar theme, FeedNavigator has also interviewed pioneer of precision livestock farming (PLF), KU Leuven's Professor Daniel Berckmans, to hear about the results of a four-year project on PLF tools which has just come to a close, and which helped support four start-ups.
IoT technologies on trial
19 ‘use cases’ will trial IoT technologies in use within real-life food and farming scenarios spanning the arable farming, dairy, meat, vegetable and fruit sectors. Galland said that this would not only demonstrate the potential of these technologies to farmers, but at the same time enable ICT developers to elicit feedback directly from users.
“The idea is to showcase that it is possible to use IoT in such a way that it allows farmers to reduce waste in the food chain and to give ICT providers the chance to work directly with end-users. The ‘use cases’ are an opportunity to test the technologies and to obtain feedback on what works and what doesn’t,” said Galland.
He added: “The bigger picture and ultimate goal is that Europe’s agriculture industry will adopt these tools and technologies to become more competitive globally and more sustainable.”
Several of the ‘use cases’ involve technologies that could be of potential interest to the feed industry.
Feed-focused case studies
Donau Soja, an Austrian not-for-profit initiative promoting GM-free soy production, is partnering Soia Italia on a ‘use case’ that will deploy “precision farming technology” to optimize soybean production. The idea is that more accurate soil data collection and interpretation will make practices such as sowing and herbicide application more precise, which will in turn improve farm economics and reduce impact on the environment.
“Effectively, you are building a digital soil map of your fields and detecting intra-field variability to improve your decision making. This then makes intra-field adapted cultivation possible with regard to the application of chemicals, sowing densities, irrigation and so on,” explained Leopold Rittler, innovation and research manager at Donau Soja (Danube Soya)
“The success of the application of this technology can be quantified through measures such as harvested proteins per hectare (ha), EUR per ha, water input per ha and nitrogen leaching per ha. We will share the learnings we gain to a wider audience, especially in the Danube region.”
Also on trial is the ‘Grazing Cow Monitor’, which monitors and manages the outdoor grazing of cows by GPS tracking within ultra-narrow band communication networks. This will be tested alongside several other technologies that harness the use of real-time sensor and GPS data to enhance traceability in the dairy farming sector. Silent Herdsman, for example, is a herd alert management system that uses a high node count distributed sensor network and a cloud platform.
Trials for the livestock farming sector will aim to demonstrate how automated monitoring and control of advanced sensor-based systems can optimize the growth of animals and improve communication along the supply chain. One of the use cases will focus on optimizing pig production management with interoperable on-farm sensors and data gathered from slaughter houses.