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Smart farming and the role of embedded systems

22 February 2013

At Embedded World 2013 (Nuremberg, February 26-28), Fraunhofer researchers will demonstrate 'Smart Farming' - how the interaction of machines in cyber-physical systems operates safely and securely.

In the future, agricultural machines will be able to communicate with each other and will be controlled via smartphone or tablet (image: Fraunhofer IESE)
In the future, agricultural machines will be able to communicate with each other and will be controlled via smartphone or tablet (image: Fraunhofer IESE)

Climate change, population growth and increasingly scarce resources are putting agriculture under pressure. Farmers must harvest as much as possible from the smallest possible land surface. Until now, the industry confronted this challenge with innovations in individual sectors; intelligent systems regulate engines in order to save fuel, for instance.

With the aid of satellites and sensor technology, farming equipment can automatically perform the field work; in doing so, they are more efficiently able to distribute seed, fertilizer and pesticides on the land. Nonetheless, optimisation is gradually hitting its limits.

The next step is to network these individual systems into cyber-physical production systems. These map the entire process electronically, from the farm computer to the harvesting operation, substantially increasing efficiency and quality.

At Embedded World (booth 228 in Hall B5) researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE in Kaiserslautern will demonstrate how agriculture will be able to benefit from networked systems in the future.

For their exhibit, an piece of farm equipment moves across a plot of land within an agricultural diorama. Located at the edge of the farmland are two tablet PCs. Visitors to the trade show can use them to start up the automated control of the farm equipment. Six screens are suspended above the model farm. They display the processes behind the automation, showing how software manages the functionality.

The visualization is intended to help visitors understand the challenges of, and solutions to, interconnecting embedded and IT systems. With intelligent networking, farmers can improve farming productivity. 

The networking of agricultural operations is not limited to simple task management for agricultural machinery. Besides seed and fertilizer producers, sensor technology and data service providers are joining in the mix, offering geodata and weather data; smartphone apps are also available for identifying pests.

“The challenge lies in linking all systems intelligently, and in creating standards for interfaces so that all participants can benefit,” says Dr Jens Knodel, Fraunhofer IESE's Smart Farming project manager. 

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