TalkingFields aims to increase the efficiency of agricultural production via precision farming by means of geo-information services. It integrates space and ground-based assets to achieve this target. The TalkingFields Demonstration Study is the result of a feasibility study which was successfully concluded in 2009.
Precision Farming aims at increasing productivity of agricultural cultivation via a more efficient utilization of natural and anthropogenic resources (land, seeds, fertilizers, plant protection agents and water). The objective of this activity was to develop and implement a set of cost-effective end-to-end Precision Farming services for winter wheat, maize and sugar beet that allow the farmer with little effort to adopt a comprehensive site-specific farming system.
Users and their needs
Targeted users are mainly arable farms in Germany and Eastern Europe, with a focus on winter wheat, maize and sugar beet. Traditionally, farming was an activity dedicated to the production of food for humans. In the last few years, the Energy Industry has also become an active player in the field of agriculture mainly due to the recent success of bio-fuels. Precision Farming requires an open mind regarding new technologies and their application, which is where agricultural machinery manufacturers come in. Also, younger farmers are starting to be aware of the business advantages that can be derived from new technologies.
Because of the growth in world population, the global nutrition demand is continuously increasing. However, it is not possible to further increase the surface of cultivable land significantly. The only available option is to increase field production in a sustainable way. Traditional farming techniques do not always utilize the resources efficiently, which can lead to an unnecessary increase of production costs. Examples of this are the following:
- Inefficient usage of farming machinery increases fuel consumption.
- Homogeneous, high fertilization has a measurable impact on production costs as well as on land and water pollution.
To maximize efficiency and save costs at the same time, farmers need to characterize their fields and to identify the heterogeneities of crop development as well as the spatial distribution of different soil characteristics (soil probing is mandatory in many countries). Farm managers also require information on the precise location of heterogeneities in their fields in order to be able to apply site-specific management.
Service/ system concept
The concept is the following: the farmer requests a service from the catalogue for a particular area that has to be located using Navigation Technologies. The service provider, based on the Navigation information and Earth Observation data, together with a land surface model, prepares the specific products. The farmer, based on the TalkingFields products, his personal experience as well as on Navigation information, plans and performs the necessary crop management measures in the specific location. In this way, every part of a field receives individual treatment, saving costs and improving the effective yield.
TalkingFields has successfully developed the following services and products:
Technologically, the (in principle) daily provision of current biomass values to the farmer as well as the yield forecast are made possible by the assimilation of the crop information derived from EO satellites into a land surface model, which simulates daily growth under current weather conditions in a spatially distributed way and hourly time-steps during the whole season.
Space Added Value
For the TalkingFields services, the integrated use of Satellite Navigation and Earth Observation satellites is extremely important. The GNSS component provides the localization that enables farmers to conduct precision farming operations such as plant protection and fertilizer applications. Earth Observation satellites provide information about the crop status on all fields of a farm in one single snapshot. Satellite Communication makes service provision possible in areas where no terrestrial links are available.
TalkingFields is an integrative service incorporated in an established Farm Management Information System, combining mainly GNSS technologies with Earth Observation. Earth Observation sensors deliver spatial information about the development of the crop (e.g. multi-temporal observation of biomass, nitrogen status, water content, crop maturity). This information is assimilated into a crop growth model to provide absolute values of dry biomass or yield. The result is delivered to the farmer in a format which is compatible with his farm software and then used to generate e.g. site-specific application maps for GNSS-supported plant protection.
A set of end-to-end Precision Farming services have been developed and implemented into a demonstrator. The services have been applied for several demo users whose feedback was integrated into the service chain. After the demonstration phase, TalkingFields is now ready for operational service provision.
The uniqueness and innovation of TalkingFields lies in several factors. It provides complex integrative services to farmers in a comprehensive and comprehensible way. It provides the complete service chain from the satellite to the machinery that actually performs the application on the field. The space component is thus integrated in the standard agricultural processes as well as the standard agricultural software, guaranteeing ease of use for the farmer and thus a level of acceptance among the farming community that hasn’t been available before.
TalkingFields has successfully concluded its Demo Study and is now operational. Major achievements include:
- Market roll-out for TF Base Map and TF Zone Map already achieved during demonstration phase.
- More than 55 000 ha service area for TF Base Map and TF Zone Map already processed.
- More than 60 customers have already ordered and paid for TalkingFields services. Orders have been processed from 8 countries: Germany, Russia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, Hungary and Kazakhstan.
- Strong market position in Germany due to PC Agrar customer base and combined offer with soil probing service of PC Agrar.