A pilot project in the Salo region of Finland aims to bring the benefits of digitalisation to food production. The project will use IoT LoRaWAN technology in Digita’s network to streamline the work of agricultural entrepreneurs as part of the smart farming trend of the 2010s.
In Finland, the number of farms is falling and farm sizes are growing. Individual farmers own more land and are buying fields long distances of up to dozens of kilometres away. This sectoral trend is posing challenges for farmers, who have traditionally had to visit their fields to check them, for example, says Mika Flinck, Head of Sales at Digita.
Digita’s IoT network, which is based on LoRaWAN technology, is ideal for the digitalisation and status monitoring of farming operations, continues Flinck.
Fields have to be visited in order to check their condition. Before tillage in the spring, for example, you need to check whether the frost has thawed. IoT technology can be used to send information to a smart device, saving time on driving back and forth, says Sami Metsänperä, CEO of software development company Soficta Oy.
Digitalisation can help to make farming more efficient, with sensors and gauges set to become everyday items on future farms. Monitoring is improving: field status information can be obtained without physical visits and possible lost time. In addition to cost savings, more accurate data collection and monitoring bring environmental benefits, while opening up new business opportunities for the IT industry.
The objective is to bring relief for farm entrepreneurs
Before the project began, a pre-study and a workshop day held with local farmers gave an indication of their interest in the benefits of digitalisation. Agricultural entrepreneurs would like more information on issues such as cultivation conditions, stock, buildings, machinery and energy consumption.
In addition, they wanted more detailed information on issues such as the weather. In practice, the idea is to build micro-stations in order to provide a denser version of the weather data network provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Weather stations are brought to farms and farmers are given access to the data. This informs them of whether there really has been rain on a field ten kilometres away. When spraying plant protection products, for example, the weather must be sufficiently calm: the technology informs the user when the wind is dropping and field visits can be timed more precisely.
The project was launched in the summer of 2017. Between 15 and 30 agriculture entrepreneurs from the Salo region and neighbouring areas are involved in the collaborative project between Salo-based technology companies, agricultural professionals, the City of Salo, and Sitra.
The strong driver behind the project is to explore how to streamline the work and production of agricultural entrepreneurs, and gain more yield with the same or lower costs. Agricultural entrepreneurs want to boost their own activities, for example by spreading the right amount of fertiliser, and starting work on the fields at the right time in the spring without driving all over the region checking fields. The data is already available through technological means, says Metsänperä.
The pilot phase of the Farmidata project is well underway. Another aim is the future export of the services identified during the first phase of the project.
The first phase involves identifying needs and engaging in small pilots. The idea is then to engage in a larger overall project which involves the scaling to national level of the various services, or promising methods, processes and business models identified during the pilot. In addition, the third phase involves identifying an international business, explains Metsänperä.
Further information on the Farmidata project: