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Digital Farming

The Internet of Fields

Digital farming represents a symbiosis between nature and IT, with farm fields becoming intelligent and drones delivering data on soil quality. This digitization of agriculture even has the potential to end world hunger.

11 Feb. 2016

When is the soil temperature best for sowing? When will the next precipitation come? Will seeds grow better on the top or bottom of a hillside? For thousands of years we have been trying to understand nature’s signals. But all too often nature proves incalculable. This however is in the process of changing, as IT is teaching the world to speak – with a considerable impact on agriculture. According to figures released by the German Farmers’ Association (DBV), each of today’s farmers feeds 144 people – an increase of more than 300% since 1980. Nearly all the options for maximizing harvest yields have already been exhausted. But now digitization is entering the picture…

Putting your finger on the earth’s pulse

A growing number of agricultural enterprises are already relying on networked machines. According to a survey by the German BITKOM association, 20% of all German farmers are already using digital solutions. “High-tech applications are going to be a matter of course on tomorrow's farms,” says Dr. Bernhard Rohleder, Director General of BITKOM.

Some farmers are already using satellite control systems to steer their harvesters in parallel swaths across their fields. Although seated on the machine, all they need to do is monitor its motion. And with increasing frequency, they are launching drones over their fields to spray pesticides, survey soil conditions or monitor wild animals or pest occurrences. Tractors can moreover communicate with ground-based sensors that provide information on things like crop health, harvest yields and mineral composition. In combination with GPS data and forecasts concerning temperatures, precipitation and the rate of evaporation, this data can help create a comprehensive picture of the individual agronomic situation.

Initial government and private Internet platforms are already bundling all of these information sources, providing farmers with precise information on the interplay of influential factors via their tablet computers or smartphones. And they can use this information to conserve on expensive resources like fuel, fertilizer and seed.

Booming market

According to Roland Berger business consultants , the global market for smart agriculture applications will grow at an annual rate of around 12% in the period through 2020, generating new business areas in the process. This includes complete IT solutions for resource planning and utilization, agricultural business intelligence software and services related to networked equipment and the better use of fertilizer.

"Precision farming is going to change the agricultural sector from the ground up," says Norbert Dressler, a partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "But companies need to quickly adapt their business model to the changing market if they want to claim a slice of the immense potential offered by this industry," he adds.

One thing is certain: The Internet of Fields is soon going to develop into one of the most exciting arenas of the global economy. And it will help decide the future of humanity.

Come to CeBIT and find out everything there is to know about:
  • The Internet of Things, for example at the IoT Forum in Hall 13
  • New application scenarios for drones at the DRONEMASTER SUMMIT
  • The business potential of IT innovations as part of a guided tour