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Promoting sustainable agriculture, combatting climate change and land degradation, halting the loss of biodiversity, ending hunger and guaranteeing food security and, at the same time, reducing social inequality. This is the global challenge in which contemporary agriculture plays a crucial role.
In this scenario, technological innovation has proven itself to be the decisive ally of the sector, in the production and distribution of agricultural products and, even more so, of knowledge. Contemporary agriculture borrows the logic of Industry 4.0, synergistically combining the technologies typical of Interconnected Agriculture and Precision Farming, such as the Internet of Things, the Internet of Farming, Big Data Analytics and Blockchain.
Thanks to this approach, Smart Agriculture is able to contribute significant improvements to the sector, with a strong economic, environmental and social impact. Examples include making more effective use of phytosanitary products or reducing diesel consumption, with advantages in terms of cost savings, a reduction of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and consequent reputational repercussions and marketing returns for the farmers, in light of the growing sensitivity of consumers to these issues.
Sustainability therefore strongly depends on the ability to make the best possible use of the available resources, as well as to optimise processes and information flows, once again, from farm-to-fork. It is in this very perspective that Reply positions its Agriculture 4.0 approach and the concept of Sustainable Development.
In order to support operators in the agricultural sector along the path of ecological and digital transition, Reply has defined the three pillars for Agriculture 4.0:
Solutions for the monitoring and close measurement of agricultural activities: from cultivation processes, to the impact of climatic and environmental factors, in order to extract as much information from the data available and to create value.
Data-driven technological infrastructure designed to enhance the analytical capacity and the strategic vision of actors in the agricultural sector, thus taking the decision-making processes and making them increasingly more complete, timely and up to date.
Technologies aimed at providing farmers with operational support in the field, taking full advantage of the knowledge generated in the earlier stages: from process automation, to the interconnection between tools.
Accuracy, precision, robustness, long life, ease of installation and parameterisation. They help increase efficiency and can be used in an IoT-based network.
Field mapping, enhancement of predictive activities, optimisation of agronomic input management and support of administration activities.
A true mobile data hub, increasingly more autonomous, connected and efficient, is designed to help optimise the planning and management of farm processes.
Ease of access and integration in the agricultural sector, to help optimise the use and management of agricultural land and enhance operators’ decision-making capabilities and predictive capacity.
Platform for the centralised management of large amounts of data (Big Data), through the intuitive visualisation of data and simulation of results.
In Italy, the cultivation of hops is a niche market associated with very high growth rates. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of national beer producers are choosing to rely on Made in Italy and, where possible, on locally sourced 0 km raw materials.
Reply and the Department of Food and Drug Sciences (Professor Tommaso Ganino and Dr. Margherita Rodolfi) of the University of Parma have initiated a collaboration aimed at creating a research and digital transformation programme dedicated to the cultivation of hops, in order to help growers generate value through the use of digital technologies.
In particular, the issue of treatments assumes a crucial role for the farmer since, on the one hand, if the agricultural land is not properly defended, the risk of losing a significant part of the crops is quite serious; on the other, excessive use of phytosanitary products can compromise the quality and environmental sustainability of crops.
Such decisions require close monitoring of a large number of parameters, many of which are not easy to measure and cannot be controlled by farmers, such as the environmental conditions of the land, meteorological factors, the state of the soil and the growth of the plant, to name a few.
These parameters need to be monitored closely and on an ongoing basis and it is precisely in the management of such complexities that the collaboration between Reply and the University of Parma concentrates its efforts.
The synergy between the University's agronomic know-how and Reply’s technological and digital expertise has made it possible: to define a Digital Development 4.0 Plan aimed at the cultivation of hops. Starting from the analysis of decision-making needs and of data that is currently available, the Plan provides for a series of short, medium and long term projects capable of evolving field management practices with an increasing focus on 4.0 and data-driven agriculture.
The collaboration is currently under way, with the first phase of the Roadmap (relating to short-term projects) being completed. Reply‘s support does not end with the creation of technological infrastructures and software solutions, it also includes the continuous training of advanced algorithms in order to generate value-added insights, thus enhancing the decision-making ability of key decision makers and directing them towards more correct and sustainable choices.
An integrated technological approach is needed in order to maximise the impact of digitisation and to seize the opportunities offered by the 4.0 paradigm in full. To identify the most suitable solution, it is necessary to carefully consider the characteristics of the specific crop, the size of the cultivated area and the processes involved.
Digital technologies enable new preventive approaches that make it possible to promptly identify the very first symptoms associated with a pathology and to take prompt action, only where and when necessary.
It is possible to gain a better understanding of the soil behaviour, to detect loss of homogeneity and exposure to water stress, to optimise the use of water, irrigating only where it is actually needed and reducing waste.
Digital technologies provide decisive support. They enable farmers to monitor fields continuously and to identify the optimal timeframes within which to harvest, with greater assurance of a good quality product.
Being able to know the yield of an agricultural plot in terms of productivity and quality, in advance and at an opportune time, offers farmers a greater capacity for strategic vision and facilitates the management and organisation of activities.
Advanced Traceability is the infrastructure of hardware and software technologies used to collect data from different sources and transform it into useful information for business. Advanced Traceability makes it possible to track products, raw materials, monitor all the various stages of production, refinement, distribution, as well as to identify the subjects involved along the entire supply chain. The term "Biotagging" refers to markers based on DNA and biological substances. We also refer to the creation of invisible markers consisting, for instance, of proteins that, once inserted into the product, enable its traceability.
Reply is the first European company to have launched an experiment dedicated to Biotagging in the Food sector, with extra virgin olive oil as the protagonist.
Connecterra is a Dutch startup that is part of Breed Reply's investment portfolio, whose goal is to accompany the dairy industry in the transition towards a sustainable and more efficient business model.
The Connecterra end-to-end solution primarily involves the use of a wearable device capable of monitoring the herd. Connecterra complements this with an Animal 3D and IDA positioning system, a Virtual Assistant service (consisting of a smartphone app) that provides the farmer with information on the health of the animals directly on a mobile device. IDA combines sensor technologies, cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence to facilitate the early detection of diseases in cows such as ketosis, mastitis or digestive problems.
CNH Industrial, the first company to experiment with a self-driving tractor, has created an innovative Big Data Analytics project in collaboration with Reply, aimed at the prompt and real-time monitoring of industrial vehicles. By combining IoT technologies and Machine Learning techniques, data obtained from connected vehicles is collected on a single versatile and flexible platform and is cross-referenced to other information sources (workshops, maintenance reports, etc.) and is finally reprocessed to carry out advanced vehicle analysis.
The daily monitoring enables CNH to prevent problems, anticipate customer needs and offer personalised after-sales services.
CLAAS, a German company and leader in the combine harvesters and self-propelled forage harvesters sectors, selected Reply as its technology partner for the development of an IoT platform based on Microsoft Azure, designed to coordinate different product-related services with ease.
The solution received the “Machine of the Year” award at Agritechnica, a leading trade fair focused on agricultural technologies and machinery. Using DataConnect, farmers can collect all the data relating to agricultural machinery supplied by different manufacturers. The platform, currently in use, can connect up to five agricultural machines to the clients’ and collaborators’ server applications, ensuring safe and reliable communication.
Bluegrove, a Norwegian company that is part of Breed Reply's investment portfolio, operates in the aquaculture industry and promotes more efficient and data-driven development and production models.
Bluegrove’s Cybernetic Biophysical System (CBS) offers a combination of measurement, analysis and human expertise that enable operators to adapt the feeding methods in real time, based on the behaviour and appetite of the fish. The solution helps prevent the onset of diseases (identifying anomalies in behavioural patterns or in environmental circumstances as early as possible), reduces CO2 emissions, feed waste and fish mortality, promotes the growth and welfare of the animals, as well as measuring and improving the water quality.