In UTOPIA we will develop an open framework in which relevant precision agriculture data can be stored in the cloud and accessed through an intuitive user interface. In the developed system (robotic) paths and crop monitoring strategies can be easily set by the user, and the drones/USV's/AGV's are then automatically deployed for a mission as specified by a stakeholder (for instance a farmer). This will allow farmers to use advanced precision agriculture technology:
- With no additional labor costs or time investments (compared to their current activities) because the system is completely automated;
- Without the need to be re-educated. No programming or engineering skills are required in order to operate the UTOPIA system.
The robotic paths and data-format will be harmonized so that one platform can be used for multiple use-cases (terrestrial/marine/aerial) in a reduced bandwidth environment with otherwise high-bandwidth data-sources (e.g. camera imagery) and processed sensor data to reduce the influence of environmental conditions for enhanced performance when working autonomously. An open framework will reduce development costs for agri-equipment companies.
Project Objective: enabling farmers to implement precision farming with an affordable time and cost investment by providing them an open data platform that interfaces with low-level mapping, planning and measurement technologies.
According to the UN, in this century the world population will increase rapidly till 6 billion people. Moreover, even today there are 815 million people, around 11% of the world population, who suffer from chronic hunger or lack of proper nutrition. There is a consensus that farming needs to become sustainable by increasing the yield per square meter, as creating more farmland would most likely come at the expense of other ecological systems. More unconventional resources will also need to be utilized; the UN has identified seafood as a promising food source, thus making use of the oceans that cover 70% of the world. However, offshore farming has additional challenges compared to land-based farming due to reduced accessibility.
Precision-farming is identified as one of the promising developments to mitigate a large part of the aforementioned challenges. New affordable sensors and agri-robotics are becoming available in the market, enhancing the land/sea concession processing with precise geospatial sensor-data.
Increasing the measurement and actuation intervals of e.g. monitoring for pests and watering are expected to contribute to increased yields and e.g. lower water consumption. Moreover, derived data like yield estimation can contribute to a more optimized food-chain from source to store.
Main project activities
UTOPIA targets multi-stakeholder, complex heterogeneous, autonomous, data-rich and highly interconnected power-efficient systems in an agricultural context. The academic work, therefore, relies on real-world specifications to identify the needs of the envisioned framework. Two promising use-cases in two different sectors for automated precision farming are selected, to provide commercial (buyer), agricultural (farmer) and technical (system developer) input.
Expected social impact
Currently the agricultural sector is facing huge sustainability challenges, especially those related to environmental, labour and social aspects in production. Various factors limit further incremental improvement of current systems. Breakthroughs and a paradigm shift are required for next-generation agricultural production systems that are sustainable, circular and nature-inclusive. UTOPIA proposes such a change through scalable data-driven precision agricultural practices. Increased yields will contribute to the required increase of food production for the world.
The automated data retrieval, processing and remote management of an offshore farm are required to enable safe and cost-effective growth of offshore crops. In order not to make the same mistakes as made with extensive monoculture farming on-land it is important to obtain a scientific and nature-inclusive approach. UTOPIA brings tools that are instrumental for support of scientific research, just-in-time seeding, installation, nurturing and harvesting the crops, with eye on ecology and yield while reducing unsafe work.
Implementation and plans to reach target groups
From the perspective of scientific activities, we will organize workshops to learn and share UTOPIA's new technology in a practical and efficient way to the farmers. The goals of the workshops will be to create a complete ‘chain’ using the prototyping platforms/software. The projects developed within workshops will be connected to the cloud and thus allow visualization of sensor data and enable controlling/monitoring the project from the phone/laptop. Since the students are the entrepreneurs of the future and that prototyping skills are needed to develop products, we will offer these workshops to them as well.
- Dennis Kooijman - Intelligent Autonomous Mobility Center (I-AM Center), The Netherlands
- Sinan Öncü, Bogazici University, Istanbul
- Steve Vanlanduit, University of Antwerp, Belgium
- Haris Ahmad Khan, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands
- Ivo W. Wieling, Aqitec Projects BV, The Netherlands
- LNV, The Netherlands
- TUBITAK, Turkey
- FWO, Belgium