Third Periodic Report for FutureFarm (2010)

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This is the third year report (Jan to Dec 2010) of the FP7 project FutureFarm (212117) ‘Integration of Farm Management Information Systems to support real-time management decisions and compliance of management standards’

Summary description of project context and objectives

In the future, European farmers will have to effectively manage information on and off their farms to improve economic viability and to reduce environmental impact. All three levels, in which agricultural activities need to be harmonized with economical and environmental constraints, require integrated ICT adoption: (i) improvement of farm efficiency; (ii) integration of public goods provided by farming into management strategies; (iii) relating to the environmental and cultural diversity of Europe’s agriculture by addressing the region-farm interaction. In addition, the communication between agriculture and other sectors needs improvement. Crop products for the value added chains must show their provenance through a transparent and certified management strategy and farmers receiving subsidies are requested to respect the environment through compliance of standards.

To this end, an integration of information systems is needed to advise managers of formal instructions, recommended guidelines and implications resulting from different scenarios at the point of decision making. This will help directly with making better decisions as the manager will be helped to be compliant at the point and time of decision making.

In FutureFarm the appropriate tools and technologies will be conceptually designed, prototypes developed and evaluated under practical conditions. Precision Farming as well as robotics are very data intensive and provide a wealth of information that helps to improve crop management and documentation. Based on these technologies a new Farm Management Information System (FMIS) will be developed.

As most relevant farm data will be readily available in the proposed information system, or may be automatically integrated using standardised services and documentation in the form of instructions to operators, the certification of crop production process and cross compliance of standards can be generated more easily than with present systems.

Consortium development

Project meetings were held in Prague (February 2010) to review the second year and plan the third, and in Cologne (November 2010) to prepare for the end of the project. In the meantime, a Steering Committee meeting took place by teleconference means. Minutes are available on the web site www.futurefarm.eu.

The intensive collaboration between the project partners, the stakeholders and the industry during this year is demonstrated by the numerous meetings held (more than 40). 

More than seventy five (75) presentations have been given about FutureFarm activities and deliverables, of which twenty six (26) were during the GeoFarmatics Conference in Cologne, November 2010. The conference was organized by FutureFarm in collaboration with the CAPIGI network and the EU research project AgriXchange.

The consortium, towards the end of the project, identified the need for further dissemination activities. Therefore, a project prolongation was requested from the Commission and accepted. The FutureFarm project now finishes in May 2011.

Description of the work performed and main results

Road-map methodology for adoption of knowledge management

An analysis of principles for adaptive knowledge management on pilot farms was conducted and its results were validated in a workshop. A vision statement and road-map methodology for adoption of knowledge management in farms has been drafted, although it is still being updated to reflect the whole consortium’s views.

Analysis of EU standards

A further analysis on the EU standards was carried out. The significant results were delivered from the differences of the implementation of the various EU and international standards in agriculture. Additionally, the vocabularies produced showed the differences in the terms used to express field operations/activities. These differences should be taken into consideration by the authorities producing standards and protocols, if EU will aim at harmonizing the standards in a European or even global environment.

FMIS specification

A baseline conceptual model for the FMIS outlining the functional elements and their interrelationships has been delivered. Furthermore, decision processes and information flows within specific agricultural domains have been identified. These processes are used as a framework and guidance for the design of the physical information system. They were finally translated into flow diagrams.

The various components – services of the FMIS and their functionalities have been identified and specified. Finally, the documentation and specification of the envisioned FMIS, involving the core results from deliverables 3.1 to 3.6., has been produced and consists the bottom-up specification of the FMIS.

A service oriented architecture to make agricultural standards available to farm software via the internet

Specifications have been developed for a service-oriented architecture to make agricultural management and production standards available to farm software via the internet. This enables the software to be to some extend self-configuring based on the farm’s location and the farmer’s specified profile in terms of voluntary standards. Initially, this simplifies the production of manual checklists for the farmer. Initial specifications have been developed for an automated assessment of farmers individual checklists.

Basic prototype software has been developed based on these specifications. Presentation of this software at the Agritechnica trade fair indicated that there was a great deal of potential interest in such a system from academics, advisors and software companies. Bringing relevant stakeholders together in expert workshops (Leipzig, Köln) has shown that there is sufficient interest to allow development to continue after the end of the FutureFarm project. The prototypes developed up until now will be made available under a liberal open-source license so that commercial software companies may benefit fully from them.

Socioeconomic assessment of PF technologies

The economic profitability of selected Precision Farming technologies and Controlled Traffic systems has been assessed at farm scale. The selected PF technologies are site specific management of weed, lime and nitrogen as well as auto guidance.

The economic and environmental impact from implementing controlled traffic faming and PF has been assessed for Danish conditions at an aggregated level.

The socioeconomic consequences in both scenarios are small but positive on GNP and domestic consumption. The improved productivity in the farm sector leads in general to a higher production with socioeconomic benefits. The consequences are small but in effect it leads to minor increase of production costs in sectors that are not closely related to the farm sector. It causes minor deterioration of competiveness for these sectors which results in decreasing production. In relation to agriculture, it shows that the payment of land (compensation of land) in all scenarios increases. In addition, the use of pesticides is expected to decrease.

Environmental impact assessment of PF technologies

A number of environmental indicators were estimated including: nitrogen surpluses, pesticide use and fuel consumption for two technical scenarios. The first one is controlled traffic and the second scenario is a full implementation of precision farming with controlled traffic, site-specific weed management and site-specific N-and lime application. Findings indicate that an implementation of controlled traffic farming systems have a significant impact on fuel savings (25 – 27 pct.) compared with conventional farming practices. Auto guidance and controlled traffic farming enable the farmer to save significant fuel amounts due to fewer overlaps with better navigation and from better logistics. Among the four crops investigated (wheat, rape seed, sugar beets, maize) the fuel and herbicide savings had the highest effect.

Energy Consumption and Mitigation Strategies

The energy analysis of Denmark revealed that ploughing ranks first amongst the direct energy costs and use of artificial fertilizers and crop protection chemicals rank high on the list of indirect energy use. Under Greek conditions, depending on the crop, irrigation and ploughing compete as direct energy costs. Similar as in Denmark, fertilizer use and chemical crop protection rank high on the list of indirect energy consumption.

Mitigation strategies for direct energy consumption include:

  1. Reduction of irrigation. In those rare cases in Denmark, this might be an option. For Greece this is no option, since there agricultural production is largely based on irrigation.
  2. Reduction of ploughing, by implementing no-till systems.
  3. Improved field management, including implementation of soil structure preserving measures such as using the correct dimensions for machinery, tires and their pressure (reduced ground pressure; RGP), controlled traffic farming (CTF).
  4. Yield increase, which would reduce energy consumption per unit of product.
  5. Changing the source of energy. The efficiency of diesel engines has not shown much improvements past decades. Hydrogen driven tractors might make a difference. Also electricity driven vehicles would be valuable option, yet the generation and long term storage of energy still is a challenge.

Mitigation strategies for indirect energy consumption include:

  1. Reduction of artificial fertilizer for instance by implementing organic farming
  2. Alternative tilling strategies would reduce indirect energy use as well, yet it might enhance the use of chemical crop protection.

Precision farming potential in EU

During this period of the project those studies were completed that analysed the potentials for implementing new information based technologies like precision farming in the EU-member states. The result is a pan-European assessment. The regions with comparable high capabilities for the adoption of these technologies are from today’s view predominantly located in Northern and Western Europe. The medium and low capabilities are dominating on the one hand at the Atlantic shore and in the Mediterranean region and on the other hand in the most regions of the new member states of the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe.

 

Expected final results and their potential impact and use

We are seeing the continued difficulty of formalising vague rules and implied understanding inherent in many guidelines which makes the ability to rationalise cross compliance very difficult. The ICT systems required to implement our recommendations are developing well and are already in the prototype stage. If these recommendations are to be utilised, further work must be carried out to formalise the definition of EU regulations, directives and guidelines.

The use of PF technologies under specific conditions can result in savings of fuel and herbicides, making them an important tool in mitigating the environmental impact of farming.

The architecture (service oriented) proposed to make agricultural standards available to farm software via the internet could be utilized successfully both for farmer’s assistance and for farmer’s evaluation. Nevertheless, the architecture proposed requires changes in the way these standards and regulations are published; both in their form and in the organizations that publish them.

The work done during this project on FMIS specification can be utilized both by the policy makers and the software companies do that FMIS development is based on common standards and interoperability is enhanced.

The assessment of the precision farming potential throughout Europe can guide policy makers in producing policies-regulations-incentives for precision farming adoption in specific European areas/countries.

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