Agriculture 4.0: a fast-growing sector

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The combination of the word “agriculture” with a suffix such as “4.0” may seem an oxymoron at first reading as the agricultural sector is traditionally associated with a conservative vision. Today, however, it is necessary to depart from this view, as the effects of digitalisation are also beginning to be felt in agriculture. This is not a trend, but a real revolution which is affecting the entire industry, improving its efficiency and sustainability.

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Artificial intelligence and robotics in agriculture

For some time now, there has been a discussion about digital farming: a true green revolution in the way of conducting and thinking about agriculture to make it more productive, efficient and environmentally sustainable. Most innovations are based on AI and robotics: traditional agricultural practices, such as soil preparation, sowing, water and nutrient management, weeding, harvesting and sorting of harvested produce, are all actions that can be automated. The aim of these technologies is to offer the highest and most precise support to the farmer, giving space to the precision agriculture.

What are the main technologies we can use to digitalise an agricultural company?

When we talk about agriculture 4.0, we refer mainly to: drones, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, all innovative solutions useful to extend, speed up and make more efficient the activities that affect the entire production chain.

Drones

Drones, in agriculture, are mostly used for land mapping, but the most advanced ones are able to use sensors and infrared views to detect problems that cannot be detected with the naked eye.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Agriculture is particularly benefiting from the use of IoT innovations. Among these, the most popular are sensors. A sensor is a device which allows certain parameters to be measured and communicated to a management system. In agriculture, there are several factors that it is useful to keep under control in order to better manage huge plots of land.

Artificial Intelligence

With regards to artificial intelligence, the two main areas of application are:

Advantages of Agriculture 4.0

It is well established that Agriculture 4.0 brings numerous benefits on several fronts:

Robots in agriculture: which countries are leaders

Japan currently ranks first in the world for agricultural robot research and development. In the second place we find the United States, where the company Kubota made operational a new Research and Development Unit aimed at making agricultural robots autonomous. Intelligent agriculture is also being talked about in China and, among other things, a “cloud agriculture school” has been established with the aim of training a group of “new farmers”.

Challenges in Italy in 2023

According to the studies carried out by the Osservatorio Smart Agrifood of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano and the Research and Innovation Lab for Smart Enterprises (RISE) of the University of Brescia, despite the health emergency, the Agriculture 4.0 market in Italy has exploded, rising from EUR 540 million in turnover in the first half of 2020 to EUR 1.3 billion by the end of 2020, and to EUR 1.6 billion in 2021 (+23%).

Certainly, the growth of the market has also been driven by incentives, in particular the National Rural Development Programmes (RDP) and the Transition 4.0 Plan.

ACRE competition

In June 2022, a real competition between agricultural robots was held in France called ACRE, which stands for Agri-food Competition for Robot Evaluation. The competition was funded by the European Commission as part of the project Horizon 2020 METRICS for more widespread use of robots and artificial intelligence. During the challenge, the robots performed tasks such as visual weed recognition, the ability to move autonomously in the field without ruining crops, and weeding.

In Italy the next agricultural robotics event

The good news is that this year’s appointment with agricultural robotics will take place in Italy. The 2023 edition will be organised by the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering in collaboration with the Smart Agrifood Observatory of the Department of Management Engineering of the Politecnico di Milano and the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences – Production, Territory, Agroenergy of the University of Milan.

The main objective will be to bring the world of the Italian agricultural machinery industry closer to researchers in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence in order to create partnerships.

The future of agriculture will be determined by the degree of technological innovation

The future of agriculture will necessarily be linked to that of digital transformation. The number of startups in the agriculture 4.0 sector continues to grow and make progress, but there is still a long way to go.  

For information on innovative agritech solutions contact the professional team at HT Apps, they will be able to propose the most suitable project for your needs. If, on the other hand, you are simply interested in the topic, continue reading our JOurnal.

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