Digital Transformation of Agriculture

Agriculture 4.0

Digitization on the Rise

Digital Transformation of Agriculture

Digitization does not stop at any area of life. Our expert Henning Uhle explains how digital transformation is changing agriculture and what the consequences of this development are.

What Does Digital Agriculture Mean?

By 2018 at the latest, it should have become known that the climate is changing. There were plenty of reports that farmers were crumbling their soils under their fingers. In many places last year, corn was only half as high as usual.

In times of such extreme weather conditions, digital agriculture could catch on if a network were available. It's not about the farmer playing smartphone games on his tractor. We are talking about such things as sensors to measure the moisture of the soil and possibly provide moistening. We are talking about weather data. And what about drones and GPS-controlled vehicles to manage the fields? This is what "Agriculture 4.0" is all about. Digital technology with the Internet of Things can lead to more sustainability. For example, current peaks can be trapped, or low voltage balanced. And in digital agriculture too little precipitation can be compensated for by sensor-assisted irrigation.

Watch the Earth with Copernicus

The Copernicus program is a joint program of the EU, ESA (European Space Agency), EUMETSAT (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and the EU Member States. Copernicus provides civil security services, including earth observation with Sentinel, ground and air-based observation systems, geo-information services, data management and so on.

With Copernicus, the data from the ground sensors can be adjusted. Combined with weather data, it is likely that prediction models for the management of the fields will be developed. Therefore, farmers need a reliable Internet connection in an emergency.

In many cases a stable connection on the countryside is not ensured. Should the farmer go to the nearest larger city to retrieve data from Copernicus? This cannot be the solution. Of course, the farmers should not use an online casino or anything else. Being able to use their data reliably must be the goal. And this is exactly what is meant by digital agriculture.

Nobody Needed that Before ...

Do you know such statements as "In the old days it worked without it “? Yes, that may be right. I can’t remember that farmers in my childhood were equipped with crazy technology. But the argument “earlier” does not count anymore.

The world population is increasing day by day. Starting around the year 1700 to date, the world population has increased from about 0.5 billion people to over 7 billion people. Especially industrialization has been a major accelerator for this development. At the same time space for fields continued to decline.

ThApart from climate change, we have found important arguments for why agriculture must be further optimized just in the previous paragraph. And if sensors, digitization etc. are available, they should also be used for agriculture.

If we then deal with climate change, we will be back where we started: the soils have to be controlled and, if necessary, irrigated automatically. Sensors have to take over control and must trigger the irrigation systems. But only if the weather stays dry.

A Perspective for the Farmers

Of course, we still imagine the farmer who is working with the tedder. But that's all nostalgia. Agriculture is an industry. And an industry must have an infrastructure. In digital agriculture this means roads and paths, but also water, electricity, networks etc. Strategic, long-term plans have to be made in order to transform agriculture into digital agriculture. Governments also have to take over responsibilities.

Maybe a digital agriculture with the mentioned elements will also manage to minimize such pollutants as glyphosate. And who knows, maybe the methane pollution from animals will be reduced. And finally, lower nitrate pollution of groundwater may also be the consequence. Digital agriculture must contribute to a sustainable lifestyle in order to preserve the planet. 

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  • Digital Supply Chain, Digital Transformation
  • digitalization, Agriculture, Trends

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Henning Uhle

System Engineer

Smart Cities, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Driving

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