FutureFarm Project Final Report
Although most people can see the benefits of using a more precise approach to manage crops with additional information, the tools provided by precision farming and other information technologies have not yet moved into mainstream agricultural management. The increased complexity of the systems inhibits easy adoption and makes calculations as to the financial benefits uncertain. These issues can be resolved by improving the decision making process though better Management Information Systems, improved data interchange standards and clear management methods.
The FutureFarm project’s starting point has been the identification of the current and future data, information and knowledge management needs on the farms, as well as on the way that these needs will evolve in the future and that will influence farm data, farm information and farm knowledge management systems. Existing systems were categorized and evaluated through interviews with the project’s pilot farms.
Farm Management Information System (FMIS) specification was produced, by using a user-centric approach. The system boundaries were identified as well as the farmer’s personal management strategies. The integration in the FMIS of information coming from online soil sensors was used as an integration case study. The architecture of the proposed system is based on the Service Oriented Architecture. The main characteristic of such an architecture is that it allows to different publishers to develop components of the FMIS which can then be integrated to it with the use of a common vocabulary. The concept of the assisting services for the future FMIS was defined. Actors and information flows, usage processes and data elements for the FMIS have been modelled and analysed, and functional requirements of FMIS have been determined. The outlined system elements and requirements are very complex and diverse depending on the farm production type, level of automation and inherent business processes. When looking to the future, external services as decision making assisting features will become an important part of FMIS concept. At the moment, the utilisation of scientific models together with the large amounts of data in different formats produced by modern farm machinery, sensors located within the farm, remote sensing, etc. is still an open area of research and new methods are developed continuously. The seamless incorporation of new functionality and assisting features into an existing FMIS is of paramount importance.
An analysis of selected agricultural standards resulted in a methodology on how (and under which conditions) these standards could be stored in a machine readable format. Then, the software architecture as well as a prototype system for automated agricultural standards retrieval (and evaluation) was produced. Although specific problems still need to be solved, whether this system will be utilized or not is mainly a political question.
Further investigation is required in order to find out how automated retrieval of agricultural rules and standards can be adopted by the agricultural sector in Europe. Also, developing autonomous and visual crop detection and crop modeling in order to model nitrogen response and weed development in combination with the water response functions is now required in order to prove the advantages of the use of precision farming technologies. The use of semantics is inevitable for an open service oriented FMIS, but therefore the development of a common ontology language for the agricultural sector in Europe is required.
Precision farming was seen within the project as a technology that demands the development of information systems in agriculture. Therefore, the strategies in which farmers communicate and cooperate in the adoption of precision agriculture were identified as well as the precision farming potential of the EU areas. The most prominent precision farming technology to be used in the near future was found to be control traffic farming on the basis of its economic returns. The highest precision farming adoption potential have areas on the central parts of Western Europe.
The specifications of a farm’s portal from the external stakeholders point of view, revealed that the history of the farm, information about the producers in the form of curriculum vitae, farm location, climatic and soil conditions and, last but not least, farming practices, is the information that the consumers would like to see in it. Farmers would also like to be able to market other farm services through the portal, in the case of a multifunctional farm.
The consortium believes that further ICT developments in agriculture will include the development of agricultural robotics in collaboration with advanced FMIS systems.