Data-driven sustainability


The essential connection between technology and sustainability

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.

Source: www.prnewswire.com

The approach developed by Reply

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:

MEASURE

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.

DECIDE

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.

ACT

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.

Smart and precise agriculture

Proximity sensors

Accuracy, precision, robustness, long life, ease of installation and parameterisation. They help increase efficiency and can be used in an IoT-based network.

Drones / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Field mapping, enhancement of predictive activities, optimisation of agronomic input management and support of administration activities.

Smart Tractors

A true mobile data hub, increasingly more autonomous, connected and efficient, is designed to help optimise the planning and management of farm processes.

Artificial Satellites

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.

Decision Support System

Platform for the centralised management of large amounts of data (Big Data), through the intuitive visualisation of data and simulation of results.

REPLY USE CASE


Intelligent cultivation of hops

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.

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Ongoing Agritech Revolution:
areas of application with high potential for technological development

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.

Defence

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.

Irrigation

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.

Harvesting

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.

Prediction

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.

Agriculture 4.0: other success stories