Initiatives throughout the world are taking shape to develop "smart" or intelligent agriculture to boost food security as the world's population grows.
Earlier this year, I had written about a farm automation project in the UK that successfully harvested its first barley crop using only autonomous vehicles and drones, with an output of 4.5 tonnes that would be used to make beer. Since then, I have seen significant initiatives around the world, from Europe to India to New Zealand, to introduce "smart" or intelligent agriculture, especially with concerns about food security as the world’s population grows. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global demand for food will increase 60 percent between 2006 to 2050.
With this in mind, the German research organization Fraunhofer has signed a letter of intent to collaborate with the Portuguese research funding agency FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) for developing intelligent agriculture systems.
They have agreed to test new technological approaches for improving the cultivation of wine, vegetables and grain, using digital technologies and communication interfaces for advanced process technology to optimize the use of agricultural and forest areas. They say they will look into the use of satellites, sensors, smartphones, tablets and apps to collect, prepare and analyze agricultural data, improve irrigation systems, set up sustainable circulation systems for nutrients and test new solutions for energy-efficient agriculture and forestry.
One of the first steps will be for a joint task force to develop potential application areas and scenarios. Among others Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be part of this task force.
Since 2008, Fraunhofer has maintained the Fraunhofer Center for Assistive information and Communication Solutions (AICOS) in Porto under the umbrella of the Associação Fraunhofer Portugal Research and in conjunction with the University of Porto.
Their scientists are developing concepts and solutions for creating, for example, new intuitive mobile devices and simplifying the interfaces between mobile phones and the internet. In September 2017, Liliana Ferreira was appointed as director of the Fraunhofer Center in Porto. An invited full professor of engineering at the University of Porto, the 37-year-old Portuguese native previously carried out research in several organizations such as IBM Research & Development Böblingen, the Institute of Electronics and Telematics Engineering of Aveiro, and the Ubiquitous Knowledge Lab of the Technical University of Darmstadt.
Her research is mainly focused in the areas of human language technologies and artificial intelligence, namely, clinical language understanding, clinical and health knowledge representation, natural language processing (NLP), information extraction, and healthcare informatics.
AICOS will play an important role in the new precision agriculture project. For instance, the researchers plan to develop software tools to collect and analyze agriculture and forestry data and display it on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
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