Dutch farmers watching the future of agriculture

31-05-2023 | |
Oddbot in the cultivation of carrot. - Photo's: NPPL
Oddbot in the cultivation of carrot. - Photo's: NPPL

The second edition of the Dutch exhibition Future Farming & Food Experience (FF & FE) attracted about a thousand visitors. Double from last year. From laser weeding and human fertilizer to automatic planting, ‘just ask questions’ and the data roadmap. The contours of the future of agriculture could already be seen on May 25 at the Farm of the Future in Lelystad, The Netherlands.

FF & FE was there precisely to give the farmer direction in the stormy weather in which agriculture lives. To show where the sector is ‘going’. To indicate something of a ‘harbour’. Lots of technology, lots of robots, but also dialogue about social issues in The Netherlands.

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Things to see at the demo field

A self-steering tractor drives lonely circles on the demonstration field. Not much further on, a machine that automatically plants cabbage plants. Next to it the vSET (vegetable seed embedding technology). This machine has a seed tape on which the seeds are already applied. All at exactly the same distance. The ribbon is, as it were, folded into the ground. The carrier material also aids germination.

The neighbor a little further has linked a blowdown machine (BLEAP Spotspray) to task cards and a drone. Many weed robots on the other side. Like the Pixel Farming. This robot attacks weeds by hoeing, but can also eliminate weeds with a laser. Solar panels on the roof of the machine for electricity supply. Yet another provider ‘mills’ away weeds, as it were. There are machines that can be used for various crops, but the Oddbot, for example, is specially designed for carrots. A variety of choice for the modern farmer. It may not be possible to deploy it en masse tomorrow, but it became clear during FF &FE that in the foreseeable future the fields will be dominated by other than the well-known machines.

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Dialogue and data

Technology could also be found on the data ‘square’. Various suppliers showed how data can work for the farmer. Not coincidentally, one of the dialogue sessions on FF & FE was also about data. Dutch organisations, like Wageningen University & Research, are working on a so-called Roadmap DATA-Ecosystem open crops. Good use of data offers great potential. But the storage and use of data is not yet well organized on the farm. We are working on a data vault construction that guarantees the availability and privacy of the company’s data. It also makes it possible to share data for precision management, better data analyzes can be performed and accountability towards third parties is simplified.

Other dialogue sessions dealt with the use of human manure, regenerative agriculture, and the potential of the field bean was also discussed. Is a good balance possible for the field bean in the future? Outside on the food square, TV chef Sharon de Miranda showed how delicious the field bean can taste in any case. In any case, farmer Henk Janknegt said that he sees potential in the bean and not just because of the eco-regulations. Although it will probably not be found in a can in the supermarket, it was heard.

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Collaborate on innovation

In the midst of all that innovation in the fields, there was also an innovation of a different nature. Little news. Work is underway on a series of regional field labs, just as the Farm of the Future is a field lab. A counter will soon open where clusters of farmers, companies and knowledge institutions can apply for subsidies to start a regional field lab. These are mainly intended to test innovations in practice, in the region. After all, each region has its own specific challenges. This initiative falls within the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) network. This network exists to learn from each other’s projects.

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Ed Asscheman Online editor Future Farming