Agriculture 4.0. Review of the Latest Agrarian Innovations in Ukraine and Worldwide
According to UN estimates, the total population will grow up to 9.1 billion by 2020. To feed everyone, the food production must increase at least by 70%,
Only new technologies can secure a boost that big. Fortunately, the world has already gotten the innovative solutions for agrarians and some of them originated in Ukraine.
Innovations against pests
There is only one pest control instrument – pesticides. They are efficient but harmful to both the parasites and the environment.
That said, calculating the exact amount of poison substance to be sprayed on a certain field is almost impossible since no one knows the exact number of pests in such field. Thus, there is an unreasonably great number of pesticides getting into the soil with all the negative factors it entails.
Yet the newest IoT technologies (Internet of things) allow solving this problem.
For instance, the American Semios manufactures so-called “smart traps” to protect grain from pests. They represent a network of containers equipped with sensors and each of them is situated in certain areas at the field.
Traps calculate the number of pests in their area separating the harmless insects from crop eaters.
As soon as the latter grow in number to a critical point, the system notifies the user through a mobile application.
With this data, calculating the amount of poison substance required is not so difficult anymore.
It is worth noting that Semios traps are also equipped with sensors tracking the soil temperature, humidity, and the health of plants. This, first and foremost, allows identifying the signs of plant disease beforehand and secondly, tracking the soil humidity and thus, build irrigation schedules more efficiently.
Spensa and Ericsson also manufacture such systems. The first is designed for monitoring apple trees and the second one — for vineyards.
All three developments are already used in practice, mainly in the USA and Western European countries.
Smart irrigation systems
Spanish scientists have developed an intelligent irrigation system called Waterbee. It is a network of sensors placed over the entire site.
These devices check the soil conditions occasionally, its humidity, friability, saturation with various substances, etc.
Areas with lowest indicators get irrigated automatically.
According to developers, implementing the WaterBee system reduces the water consumption by 40%.
Chilean scientists have also created something similar. Their system, however, is designed for irrigation of blueberries, which is the leading export product in Chile.
The technology is based on wireless sensors. They analyse the status of plants and soil, compare them, and start the irrigation system. According to the published statistics, these technologies managed to save 70% of water.
New Generation Livestock
Innovative solutions are also getting developed for the companies involved in animal husbandry.
Some of them allow to monitor the cattle movement, others monitor the animal’s health down to their genetic characteristics.
Such a system – BovControl – is used in Brazil, for instance.
It is worth mentioning: these technologies are still in the “near future” category. Still, various companies test their first prototypes as we speak.
One of the most interesting among them is an autonomous tractor Spirit by Autonomous Tractor Cooperation (ATC). It is able to drive autonomously and go around obstacles.
Most recently, Cognitive Technologies, a Russian company, started such development.
But the manned tractors also get smarter: Blue River Technology models, for example, are able to detect weeds among healthy plants and spray them with herbicides.
Drones are getting popular in agriculture as well. They are used for remote monitoring over the lands, as well as for spraying fertilizers or any substances that can scare pests off.
What good news does Ukraine bring?
Our country has a great number of startups able to offer IT solutions for agricultural business. eFarmer is among the largest. This developer created an application “Record Keeping”.
It allows you to monitor your field boundaries using GPS and study the state of cultivated lands remotely. Moreover, eFarmer has a solution allowing to turn a conventional tractor into a smart one by means of a special mobile device and a portable GPS antenna.
The startup AgryEye has created a multifunctional sensor for analysing the soil. It can identify a soil composition and vegetation condition.
AgTech Forum has also shown some interesting developments this year in Kyiv.
These are: Kray Technologies (world’s first industrial drone for chemical spraying for the field crops), Water Cloud (a machine for producing water from air), BioSens (sensor that scans foodstuffs for toxins), etc.
Maximum labour automation is a trend for the next several years in all professional areas not limited to the agriculture only.
Technologies aimed at the long-term storage and transportation of dairy products will also be relevant.
Even now, we can see smart grain and vegetable storehouses able to adjust the climate control system as they independently track the temperature of the harvest.
Vertical farms are a very much promising technology as well. They are basically greenhouses able to recreate all the conditions for plants to grow.
As a rule, plants are placed in special pallets located vertically one over another, which enhances the yields manyfold.
The American startup Plenty is the first to attempt implementing this idea.