We have been involved in developing robotic soil measurement for agriculture in the Afarcloud project, which ends this month. The project has involved 13 European countries and several partners.
Afarcloud is a project funded by ECSEL and Business Finland to provide solutions to the economic challenges of agriculture. The project developed a platform that connects different agricultural systems to be integrated to work together in real-time to improve productivity, efficiency, animal health, and food quality and reduce labor costs. This platform is designed to enable monitoring and decision-making of farm operations based on big data and real-time data collection.
The aim is also to make agricultural robots accessible to more users, opening up new applications and ensuring reusability by combining the capabilities of heterogeneous standard vehicles to increase farmer yields and reduce labor costs.
We were involved in the Afarcloud project, building a demo system for measuring soil tightness. Currently, farmers measure the soil tightness of their fields with hand-held penetrometers, which ties up one person to go around the fields to take measurements. These measurements are important because soil compaction, among other things, prevents water from being absorbed deeper into the soil, which can rot the plant roots and hinder plant root growth and nutrient uptake. Compaction also prevents fertilizers from being absorbed deeper than the surface layers of the soil, which means that they can easily leach into water bodies as surface run-off.
High-quality measurement results help the farmer to determine the need for tillage and improve soil quality. This can improve growing conditions for crops and reduce surface run-off of fertilizers.
The demo robot will operate through the Mission Management Tool software tool developed at Afarcloud. The user sets the desired measurement frequency for the selected area, and the measurement robot returns the data from the field in real-time for the user’s use. This makes it possible to increase sampling frequency and obtain a more accurate picture of field compaction. The autonomous mobile measurement robot also frees farmers to concentrate on other tasks.
Our demo robot only includes a soil depth measurement, but the Afarcloud project has also developed other measurements to analyse soil properties in the field. The final measurement robot should therefore include more instruments to get a complete picture of the site. Alternatively, the soil tightness meter could also be connected to an existing machine that moves around the fields.
The Finnish consortium of the Afarcloud project was led by Centria University of Applied Sciences. We were joined by VTT, Mtech Digital Solutions and Spectral Engines. The pilot site was Kotipello’s farm in Ylivieska.
- Started: 1 September 2018
- Ends: 30 November 2021
- Partners: 54
- European countries: 13
- Funders: ECSEL and Business Finland
- ECSEL project number:783221