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Official kick-off for “foodChain” project to digitise agriculture

The Schöneiche organic farm in the Dahme-Spreewald district is going digital: in future, the project will use the example of Spreewald gherkin and organic potato on a total of 42 hectares of agricultural land to test how mobile technology with the 5G standard can contribute to optimising food production. The project partners of “foodChain” – the Landkreis Dahme-Spreewald, TITUS Research GmbH, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB) and Heinz-Peter Frehn and Christoph Frehn Biohof Schöneiche GbR – now presented the project activities at the official kick-off event and provided on-site insights into the technical details surrounding field robots, drones, AI & Co.

Steinreich/ Wildau, 18 October 2022.
Various 5G applications are being used as part of the “foodChain” project, which will run until the end of 2024. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) with three million euros. The basis is a mobile 5G campus network, which is being set up at the Frehn organic farm in Steinreich and ensures real-time communication between machines as a spatially limited network with high transmission speeds. “The possibility of being able to send extensive data to many participants very quickly also enables many new technical solutions in agriculture. For example, video data can be sent from a tractor to the base station and evaluated there with very powerful computers. The calculated result for controlling the cultivation machine can then be sent back very quickly and it is no longer necessary to equip each tractor with extremely complex computing technology,” explains Dr Volker Dworak from the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB). He is also investigating, among other things, what the data losses are in dense crop stands and how field robots can be controlled with the help of 5G.

Drones enable detailed assesment of soil and plant condition

The fields will also be equipped with field robots with extensive sensor technology that enables precise data analyses. In addition, an autonomous track-maintaining, drawbar-drawn cultivator and a fleet of drones will be used. “The unmanned aerial vehicles are not only capable of transmitting video recordings of the strokes, but also enable additional infrared or multispectral recordings. Based on these, the farmer is able to make a precise assessment of the soil and plant condition, for example with regard to pest infestation, cold or heat damage and photosynthesis activity,” explains Vanitas Berrymore, who heads the project at TITUS Research GmbH. Automated agricultural machinery can then carry out the appropriate work after the data has been transmitted and evaluated. As part of the project, existing agricultural machinery will thus also be equipped with artificial intelligence, for example, to record the quality, quantity, speed and yield density of the gherkin harvest in real time.

A possible answer to the shortage of skilled workers

“The shortage of skilled workers means that the cultivation of our land has to be carried out with increased use of machinery, but this requires a stable and reliable internet connection. This is exactly where ‘foodChain’ comes in: Because with mobile 5G networks, for example, we have the chance to both compensate for the lack of skilled workers with the help of technology and machine use and to optimise the cultivation conditions of our vegetables,” explains Heinz-Peter Frehn, Managing Director of Biohof Schöneiche GbR.

Sustainable agriculture through smart farming

“In view of population growth and climate change, one of the greatest challenges of our time is to provide a rapidly growing number of people not only with sufficient food, but also with healthy food,” explains Stephan Loge, District Administrator of the Dahme-Spreewald district. “Smart farming’, which combines modern information and communication technologies, has the potential to promote more productive and sustainable agriculture. I am therefore very pleased that we are now setting the course towards Agriculture 4.0 with ‘foodChain’ in the Dahme-Spreewald district.”