business applications

agriloc - ARTES 20 Demonstration Project – Sustainable Mission Planning and Superior Routing of Farm Machinery

The objectives of the agriloc project are to demonstrate how satellite navigation and satellite telecommunication can together provide the basis of solutions for Highly Precise Farming, allowing for the treatment of individual plants. In parallel new test systems, procedures, and services will be conceived to support the development and later test reports and label-testing which are important to the end-users in the purchasing decisions.

Users and their needs

The primary target users of agriloc are large-scale arable farmers, growing mainly small grains typically in crop rotations with corn and specialty crops (such as potatoes and sugar beets) in highly mechanised production processes.

Two further market segments considered are livestock farmers (dairy or cattle) who have sufficient size to grow their own feed (arable part of their operation) and contractors who run operations very similar to large arable farmers. The technology to be developed will also be of interest to specialty farmers who grow row crops (such as vegetables and fruits) and are often characterised by significantly smaller farm size and a lot of manual labour. Although the individual production systems can look very different, they all have common goals.

The main driver for these users is the need to achieve a higher yield per acre and better crop quality. This implies an exact seed placement that allows the plant to optimally develop and this is enabled by a highly-accurate, permanently available navigation and control.

Secondary goals of these users include increased efficiency, reduced cost (e.g. of fuel, seeds, fertiliser and labour) and maximising uptime of machines.

The pilot service demonstrations are planned in Germany. In the future agriloc services are planned to be provided in the whole of Europe.

Service/ system concept

The intended solution consists of three main complementary parts, with each partner being responsible for one part. The guidance solution, enabled by GNSS and developed by John Deere, will be implemented in the steering system of the vehicle. The reliable connectivity solution, an Intelligent Switching Modem using a combination of terrestrial and satellite telecommunication and developed by Telespazio VEGA, will ensure that the guidance solution always has access to the RTK data required. The test solution, developed by DLG, has a double function. During the development phase, it will be used for independent testing of the guidance and navigation and connectivity solutions and later for the test reports and label-testing which are important to the end-users in the purchasing decisions.

Space Added Value

Precision Farming relies on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and associated satellite based wide-area differential GNSS. Satellite Communications provide the highly reliable and globally available medium for continuous automated Precision Farming processes such as planning, fleet management, synchronisation of machinery, and transmission of satellite navigation correction messages.                          

The benefits of the agriloc systems & services can be grouped as follows:

  • Increase in productivity.
  • Increase in availability of machinery.
  • Reduction of production costs.
  • Reduction of environmental impact.
  • Increase in user-friendliness.

These benefits are achieved with the agriloc systems & services through higher yield or quality, faster or more efficient operation or ease of use, longer operation window, increased machinery uptime as a result of reliable connectivity for automated processes, and through savings in fuel and agricultural and other input factors, including labour.

Current Status

Current developments with respect to the different work areas are provided below:

Broadband Satcom: A portable reference system has been set up and demonstrated to farmers. The system has two ruggedised carrying cases: one for the electronics and one for the self-pointing satellite dish. The system provides Broadband Internet access everywhere via Satellite, WiFi connection, IP Phone, and Broadband for Web access, video streaming, etc. The system will be provided for testing to farmers, agricultural machinery dealers, and technical personnel during the pilot demonstration phase. 

Stationary Broadband Satcom: Several such systems have been provided to several farmers for testing. Based on the user feedback, various improvements (hardware, service, offer bundle) have been implemented and some of the testers have meanwhile become commercial customers. 

Mobile Satcom: A prototype hybrid modem which switches (depending on availability of connectivity) between mobile network and satellite has been developed and tested. The main application focus in agriloc is RTK transmission for automatic steering systems. So far the modem has been successfully tested with various RTK services and the John Deere StarFire system. During the pilot demonstration phase the system is being provided to farmers to test the system under operational conditions at their farms. 

Guidance Navigation and Control: Tracking of Galileo and Beidou Navigation Satellites with a StarFire Receiver has been demonstrated in a field environment. The tracked satellites and their influence on the position solution and accuracy have been shown on a laptop connected to the diagnostic port of the receiver.

GNC Testing: The previous DLG Test procedures for the measurement of transversal precision of automatic steering systems have been enhanced by using a new tachymeter-based measurement device. The new measurement device allows measurements with higher driving speeds of the tractor-implement units, and more accurate AB line,  contour and track-to-track evaluation. 

Additionally a camera-based system for the measurement of longitudinal positioning has been developed. Therefore, in future it will be possible to analyse the accuracy of GNC systems in two directions. 

Currently the modified DLG Test Service for GNC Systems is offered as R&D-Test only. In the near future, the integration of the new partial tests into the existing DLG test frame for automatic steering systems is foreseen. 

Mobile Connectivity Test: The test of mobile connectivity systems is involved in the DLG Test procedure for automatic steering systems. The test procedure of this partial test has been optimised and enlarged to new receivers for correction signals with different transmission paths.

Portable and stationary broadband Satcom Test: Test procedures for stationary and portable broadband Satcom systems have been developed. The test procedures consider the very special conditions of practical use in agriculture. Besides the performance test, partial tests of robustness and user friendliness have also been established. 

Currently the DLG Test Services for stationary and portable broadband Satcom systems are offered as an R&D-Test. The making of a DLG Test frame for quality label test of broadband Satcom systems is in progress. In the near future the DLG Test Centre will offer a DLG Quality Label Test for broadband Satcom systems.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Osman Kalden
Telespazio VEGA Deutschland GmbH
Europaplatz 5
64293 Darmstadt
Germany
+49 (6151) 8257 0

ESA Project Manager

Tony Sephton
ESCAT
Atlas Building Harwell Science & Innovation Campus
Didcot
Oxfordshire
OX11 0QX
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1235 250091

Status Date

Updated: 03 May 2017 - Created: 05 January 2016