TalkingFields Feasibility Study - Services for Precision Farming

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TalkingFields is an initiative trying to increase the efficiency of agricultural production via precision farming by means of geo-information services integrating space and ground-based assets in an integrative way.

Precision Farming tries to increase productivity of cultivation of fields by a more efficient utilisation of different agricultural resources (land, seeds, fertilisers and water mainly). Up to now, available systems and tools concentrate on a specific area of precision farming, requiring an enormous investment by farmers. The objective of the activity is to demonstrate that technology is mature enough to provide cost-effective end-to-end Precision Farming services while showing farmers what space technology can do to help their business.

Users and their needs

Targeted users are arable farms. Traditionally, farming was an activity dedicated to the production of food for human and animal purposes. Nevertheless, in the last years Energy Industry has also become an active player in the field of agriculture due mainly to bio-combustibles. Precision Farming requires an open mind regarding new technologies and their applications, and here is where the Energy Industry is taking some advantage. Also, younger farmers are starting to be aware of the advantages to their business derived of this concept.

TalkingFields is addressed mainly to these two types of users, and target demonstrations could take place in Germany.

Because of the continuous population growth in our world, ever more food is needed. But it is not possible to increase the surface of cultivable land. The only option is to increase field production whenever possible in a sustainable way. Traditional farming techniques do not always make an efficient utilisation of resources, which at the end leads to unnecessary increase of production costs. Examples of this are the following:

  • Inefficient usage of farming machinery increases fuel consumption.
  • Homogeneous fertilisation has an appreciable impact in production costs as well as in land and water pollution.

To maximise efficiency and save costs, farmers need to characterise their fields, see the differences in canopy development and the spatial soil heterogeneity (soil probes are obligatory). They also have to know where these heterogeneities are precisely located in order to be able to apply the necessary actions in the proper location.

Service/ system concept

The proposed concept is the following: the farmer requests a service of 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 model, prepares the specific products to help the farmer decide what to do. The farmer, based on the products, his experience, and also Navigation information, performs the necessary actions in the specific location. In this way, every piece of field receives particular treatment, saving costs and improving the final yield.

Space Added Value

Precision farming cannot exist without Satellite Navigation. Earth Observation provides a global overview of the fields and their characteristics in one single snapshot, saving time and money. Satellite Communications link all the issues together in those areas where no terrestrial links are available. However, the combination of all space assets opens the door to integrated services in which the measures and actions taken from EO imagery can be precisely taken in.

Product Features

TalkingFields is intended to be an integrative service incorporated in an established Farm Management System, combining mainly Navigation technologies with Earth Observation. The idea behind it is to process data coming from Earth Observation satellites according to the end-user requests and send the results to him for utilization on his farm. The farmer can use this information in combination with Navigation Technologies to locate the area of his field that requires attention and cultivate site-specifically.

Key Issues

The project has been able to demonstrate that technology is mature enough to start providing precision farming services. A set of services have been identified and there are users willing to start paying for them.

Current Status

Feasibility study finished.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Heike Bach
VISTA Geowissenschaftliche Fernerkundung GmbH, Gabelsbergerstraße 51
D-80333 Munich
Germany

ESA Project Manager

Giovanni Garofalo
ESA/ESTEC Keplerlaan 1
Noordwijk
2200 AG
United Kingdom

Status Date

Updated: 21 May 2009 - Created: 15 February 2014