Taking stock of
SME’s, start-ups and farmers
Who are these start-ups, end-users and SME's that are benefiting from the new solutions the Digital Innovation Hubs and Competence Centres are developing? And how does this digital technology end up on farms?
Find out here, as we talk with Martin O'Donnell about the initiative Agtech Ireland which represents companies providing technology solutions in agrifood across policymakers, researchers and at farm level.
And we speak with two farmers that are participating in Innovation Experiments of SmartAgriHubs. They tell us about the new technological solutions that are being tested on their farms, and what benefits they see for the future of farming.
Martin O’Donnell (Terrra NutriTech) on Agtech Ireland
Connecting producers, processors and consumers with robust data
Agtech Ireland is a voluntary group representing companies providing technology solutions in agrifood across policymakers, researchers and at farm level. Involved in its creation is Terra NutriTech, a feed ingredient provider based in Kildare, Ireland. Its commercial director Martin O’Donnell comments on the value of digital technology, the role Agtech Ireland intends to play and its connection to the SmartAgriHubs ecosystem.
What impact does digital technology have on the agri-food sector?
“It allows for measuring, recording, monitoring and predicting animal and crop behaviour, health indicators and environmental data. By combining real-time information from sensors with management expertise and predictive data such as weather, growth curves etc., farmers can make quicker, more accurate decisions. It also automates repetitive tasks, eliminates waste, reduces the environmental footprint and it gives the visibility, accountability and increased sustainability that producers and consumers are demanding.”
How does Agtech Ireland engage consumers and the SmartAgriHubs ecosystem?
“Consumers have become increasingly conscious of food standards, traceability and sustainability and Agtech solutions can bridge the gap from producer via processor to end user with robust data. Technology enables the use of precision, science and data to validate positive messages around food production and farm practices. Agtech Ireland aims to help an industry talk with one voice and represent the giant strides that are taking place to help farmers link to consumers. Agtech Ireland will be indispensable to SmartAgriHubs to facilitate industry collaboration, to stimulate thought leadership and two-way communication, and to link the Hubs back to producer level and deliver feedback and practical solutions.”
What does the future of digital solutions for his sector look like?
“More affordable technology and enhanced communications unlocks the potential of enormous amounts of data at both farm and national level. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence can be used to utilize that data for the greater good. The dual role of farmers will be to feed the growing population and be custodians of our land. Digital solutions can provide the platform to deliver on both these objectives and validate actions at farm level to guarantee biosecurity of food production.”
“Agtech Ireland will act as a single point of contact for government, media, foreign trade missions and research for its members.”
“A future dream is that one day we will also be able to perform treatments with the drones.”
Farmer Kris van Steenkiste
Interview with one of the
end-users of the technology
Kris van Steenkiste is a Belgian farmer that grows a variety of crops, like spinach, potatoes and corn. Within the SmartAgriHubs ecosystem, Kris is a subcontractor who actively participates in the Innovation Experiment ‘AI 4 Agriculture‘.
In this experiment, drones are used to search for weeds and plant diseases within the crops from high up in the air. The development of this technique is important as farms are getting increasingly bigger. This also means fields and lots are growing in size and there is more work that needs to be done within the same timeframe. Therefore, there is a growing need for new and efficient technologies that help with weed and plant disease detection.
During this experiment, Kris had a very important role. As he was sowing and planting his crops, he would pass on valuable information to the drone pilot of the ILVO, the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Flanders. He would instruct the pilot when to fly the drone, depending on the growth stage of the crops. The drone collected images of his spinach, potato and corn fields. Kris also provided support and explanations about the technical crop data, always actively thinking along with the project to look for further solutions.
The result of this innovation experiment will be an algorithm developed by Robovision and ILVO, two Competence Centres in this experiment. This algorithm will be able to quickly analyse the location of weeds and crops and will be capable of detecting incipient crop pests. With this algorithm it will be possible to apply more targeted crop treatments and weed control. A future dream is that one day we will also be able to perform treatments with the drones.
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An interview with
Farmer Dirk Meier
Digital technology to support pigs’ wellbeing
Dirk Meier is livestock farmer in Eicklingen, Northeast of the German city of Hannover. There he keeps pigs whose health and wellbeing is continuously being checked with the use of digital technology.
“Via sensors installed in the stable, data on temperature, humidity, HN3, CO2, water consumption and luminosity are added to an online database”, Dirk says. “This data is turned into actionable information via an app which keeps me informed on the conditions in the stable and the wellbeing of the animals. If limit values are exceeded, I get an alarm signal so that I can take action.”
Documenting pig health and production
Dirk is a member of VzF, an advisory on livestock farming and within SmartAgriHubs a Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) for the Innovation Experiment (IE) Smart Pig Health. “Via my connection to VzF I was able to participate in this IE which provides a solution to the challenge of combining my daily work with the time required to observe the health and stable conditions of the pigs”, says Dirk, adding that this also helps in the important but time-consuming task of documenting the production as required by consumers and authorities.
Better data quality
Dirk experienced the added value of participating in the Smart Pig Health program. “The sensors indicated that there was a problem with the water supply during the night”, he says. “Without this digital solution I wouldn’t have known it, but now I could immediately repair it before there were any health problems.” The farmer is confident that digital technology helps him in constantly raising the bar: “It increases the quality of information on production parameters, which is the basis of launching better measures.”
“Without this digital solution I wouldn’t have known it, but now I could immediately repair it before there were any health problems.”