EXPRESS, an interdisciplinary research association that brings together the expertise of different institutes, focuses on the added value digitalization brings in wine and fruit cultivation. Viola Süss, research associate at the Information Systems Institute and professor of Information Management at Leipzig University, talks about the focus of her research in close collaboration with farms.
Firstly, we strive for a sustainable, ecological symbiosis of farm and digital technologies. What we have achieved and strive for so far:
Plant monitoring allows diseases to be detected and treated in good time, which creates a better crop in terms of both quality and quantity.
We gained a great deal of experience with regard to water stress, particularly in Saxony, where we are currently seeing the most severe groundwater drought in 100 years. Sustainable irrigation is extremely important here, in order to increase yields.
With regard to pesticide application, multiple rows of crops can be sprayed with automated, specific on-and-off functions, which saves time, for example, by means of a spray drone in viticulture over precipices and terraces.
A trailer spray device with a three-row spray can cover three rows at the same time within a matter of minutes, which reduces the workload significantly.
However, aside from spray equipment, we can treat pest infestations, such as those caused by codling moth, with beneficial organisms in a natural way. Moreover, the plan is also to use sensors and AR/VR to detect pests.
Additionally, AI leaf-condition detection is used to predict crop yields, while data is collected for forecasts and the expected water requirements determined.
Weather phenomena and vegetation-related variances can be identified more precisely.
Using the sensors across larger spaces is currently difficult for us to achieve due to interruptions in the technology supply chains. But it is feasible. However, we're usually just covering a small area and then interpreting it as an example. For example, we are analyzing one field with multiple stock units, and taking account of different geographical properties, in order to obtain an extensive database, and gather and analyze it. Ultimately, the findings will enhance the new technologies, such as AR/VR or AI detection.
The new digitalization technology has further fanned the flames of the change in thinking within the agriculture industry. “From farm to table” has become an important buying incentive for consumers. Decentralized company alliances are playing an ever-more important role in food supply. The carbon footprint is traceable thanks to the use of trustworthy blockchain technology and the monitoring of IoT devices, which extends fully and continuously to include transportation.
Growers, producers, logistics companies, and consumers benefit from the flexibility and consistency of the solutions used. Thanks to vertical farming and greenhouses in extremely small spaces, as well as large, sensor-based monitoring of crop growing, there are now options to ensure food supply for a growing population. Geopolitical conflicts and local events mean that we are currently discovering just how susceptible we are to disruptions in supply chains. This is a good reason to think outside the box when it comes to food production and to utilize the possibilities of blockchain and IoT technologies.