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Smart Farming

A major theme at Agritechnica 2013 was optimizing farming practices. It’s also why exhibition organizers created Smart Farming – an area of the show that spotlights innovations from around the globe.

“Smart Farming should be considered a toolbox that consists not only of software solutions, but also of aids of every kind,” says Klaus Erdle, who heads the Smart Farming initiative.

According to Erdle, a large number of precision farming systems have been offered to farmers for collecting information about their operations. Yet, there’s been a lack of solutions to support the turning of that data into practical resolutions.

“Smart Farming should help farmers make decisions to improve their production,” he says. “Software tools should support producers by helping to interpret soil maps or crop data offered by satellite pictures or sensor data.”

The next step is to turn those decisions into actionable items in the field, which Erdle says requires improved farm machinery like better nozzles for crop sprayers or optimized spreaders for fertilizer application. The exhibit focused on five key areas in crop production: tillage/sowing, fertilizing, plant protection, cross-sectional data management, and harvesting and logistics.

“This year, optimized hardware was included in Smart Farming, along with many more data management solutions that will support farmers in dealing with information and data and implementing planned measures in their crops,” he notes. “More importantly, the technologies showcased will not require farmers to completely change their production systems. Instead, they will offer small solutions to improve the systems that are already in place.”

Here are eight from the more than two dozen ideas featured.

Tillage/Sowing

1 Germany: With its innovative shape, the Lemken TriMix combines three tools in one. The tips penetrate to rip up the soil. The guide board (also referred to as the shin) mixes it, and the wings and wingletts turn the soil one more time. Because the wings are polished, soil flows freely over it. With this triple efficiency, the Kristall Compact Cultivator requires fewer tines, which makes the implement easier to pull.

Fertilizing

2 Germany:  Amazone’s ZA-TS fertilizer spreader features the AutoTS boundary spreading system, which creates a large throwing width for normal spreading, yet it still places the fertilizer precisely along a field’s edges.

With the remote-control boundary spreading system, the full rate of fertilizer is spread more accurately and much closer to the field’s borders. Initial tests revealed that even at narrower working widths, yields increased 15% compared with normal border spreading systems.

3 Denmark: Recent legislation in Denmark means farmers will have to stop surface application of slurry on grassland unless they reduce ammonia emissions.

To reduce the negative consequences of nitrogen emissions during slurry spreading, BioCover has developed the SyreN system, which uses sulphuric acid to lower the pH of slurry and convert ammonia gases to ammonium. This not only reduces the total emissions but also boosts the nitrogen and sulphur availability in the slurry.  

4 Germany: ISARIA, by Fritzmeier Umwelttechnik, is an active optical measuring system for detecting the nitrogen status of crops as well as the biomass growth.

The ISARIA features two sensor units mounted on each side of a folding bar, which is then mounted on the front of a tractor. Four LEDs emit light in specific wavelengths within the red and near-infrared range of the light spectrum. The reflected light is measured by a detection unit, which is located approximately 40 to 100 centimeters above the crop. Based on the detector’s signal, a vegetation index is calculated, which correlates with the nutrition status of the crop. Data is transmitted via Bluetooth from ISARIA to a tablet.

Yield potential maps stored on the tablet contain information of all subareas within a field. Combining map content with sensor recommendations allows the crop in all areas of the field to get the precise amount of nutrients needed to achieve its optimal yield potential.

The company claims input savings of up to 30 kg (about 66 pounds) of nitrogen per hectare and a yield increase of up to 1 ton per hectare.

Plant Protection

5 Germany: Ultrasonic sensors from Pepperl+Fuchs maximize the effectiveness of modern sprayer nozzles, which need to be used at a constant distance above the crop to achieve the ideal spray pattern and plant coverage.

The sensors operate to maintain a constant distance between the spray nozzles and the ground without requiring a mechanical device to intervene.  

6 Germany: AmaSelect is a single nozzle control from Amazone, which offers a wide range of advantages with its central spray line and flexible switching of individual nozzles. Automatic section control via GPS allows individual nozzles to be closed and turned off at headlands.

Cross-sectional data management

7 Denmark: LetFarm is a Danish software development company that has created FarmBuddy, which has mobile and Web applications. The software allows you the ability to track fieldwork and farm operations from the field.

The FarmBuddy system is a task registration system, which eliminates the pen and paper for registering field tasks and maintenance tasks as well as registering refuelings.

The app for FarmBuddy is user friendly and uses the built-in GPS in smartphones and tablets for notifying you when driving in and out of fields, making registration easy and trustworthy. Using the app, tasks can be registered from the fields in seconds, giving you a complete and proper overview on the FarmBuddy Web program of what has been done in the fields including field economy overviews based on cost of man hours and materials used. The Web program also contains machinery statistics, pesticide and fertilizer reports, and much more.

Harvesting and Logistics

8 Argentina: The Balanzas Hook AGDP system controls and documents weighing systems, plus loading and unloading of hopper spreaders and transfer vehicles. The Web-based system receives data that users can access from any Internet-connected device. System is available in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Company is looking to expand to the U.S. Cost is $2,500.  

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