New technologies to make agriculture more sustainable and profitable

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RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden now starts a testbed for digitalized agriculture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Campus Ultuna in Uppsala, Sweden.

At the testbed new technologies and innovations in agriculture will be tested and developed in a real environment. The testbed will give Swedish industry good opportunities to establish themselves in the agricultural industry.

The objectives for the testbed are sustainable and profitable food production, reduced environmental impact, as well as increased capacity for new innovative services and products. Several of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development are addressed through the testbed, including Zero Hunger, Climate action, as well as Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Agriculture is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden after industry and domestic transport. Parts of these emissions can be reduced through support for better decisions and better control of operations. By electrifying and automating agricultural machinery, fossil-based emissions can be greatly reduced, and the machines can be driven by farm-produced energy. At the same time, sensors and systems for data analysis can increase agriculture's sustainability and profitability through, for example, smarter use of water and pesticides.

By growing season 2019 RISE begins to grow wheat, oats, canola and malting barley at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Campus Ultuna. The fields are one hectare each, but the purpose is not quantity but quality, and the focus is on technology for collecting digital information about the crop. Examples of data collected directly from start are the soil's nutrient content and moisture at various depths, local weather on the fields, multispectral plant status, and three-dimensional images from UAVs and satellites, as well as operational data from all machines and tools that work on the fields.

In addition to the data generated directly on the field, data is also collected from surrounding systems, such as the Swedish Agricultural Agency's support system, cultivation recommendations for each crop or price information from the Swedish agricultural cooperative Lantmännen. Everything is linked to a cloud service that can handle and analyze data and then present the results of the analyzes.

“The purpose of the test bed is to create an arena for cooperation on new agricultural technology. In the testbed we will lay the base for developing a decision support system for agriculture and testing how new machine systems based on autonomous operations and electric propulsion can be used in agriculture. We start by collecting quality-assured data for plant cultivation, which can then be used to build computer-based decision support for this," says Jonas Engström, project leader for the testbed.

“Today, large amounts of information are generated in agriculture, both from machinery and farming systems, but the overall analyzes are done manually and are often based on intuition and the farmers own experience. Using the testbed's data collection and analysis system, companies and researchers will be able to develop new technologies, new applications, system solutions or fully data-driven innovations that can help agriculture to become both more sustainable and profitable”, says Jonas Engström.

Expertise from a variety of disciplines within RISE is linked to the testbed, in addition to all the skills represented by other partners. Researchers from both RISE and SLU in agriculture, precision farming, Internet of Things, autonomous machines, electrification, artificial intelligence and electronics and sensors are linked to the testbed.

“The test beds for digitalized agriculture clearly show the value of gathering expertise from different disciplines and industries as we have done in RISE. The testbed provides an opportunity for both increased competitiveness for agriculture and for Swedish industry companies to establish themselves in the agricultural industry and develop new products and services that can be tomorrow's Swedish exports”, says RISE CEO Pia Sandvik.

The testbed for digitalized agriculture has been made possible through support from Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova and more than 20 partners, including SLU, Lantmännen, Dataväxt, Federation of Swedish farmers, SMHI, Ericsson, Telia, Volvo Penta, Yara and the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

“Telia's contribution in the testbed for digitalized agriculture is based on our infrastructure with connection by Narrow Band IoT and our IoT platform for the collection of generated data. The Narrow Band IoT, with its energy-efficient technology and unmatched surface coverage, is especially suitable for connect, for example, battery-powered sensors underground. With Ericsson as a close partner and the expertise that other stakeholders in the testbed, closely related to the agricultural sector, can contribute, we can find new ways to optimize agricultural results and streamline the daily life of the individual farmer,” says Björn Hansen, Head of IoT, Division X Telia Company.

“Ericsson estimates around 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections by 2023 [Ericsson Mobility Report June 2018]. In agriculture, the use of sensors to guide farming is a noteworthy trend. Connectivity will contribute to higher yields in farming as well as a more sustainable world. For example, in Malaysia a sensor-equipped system led to mangrove sampling survival improvements of up to 50%. I am personally excited to follow the realized effects in the Uppsala testbed - energy costs drop, water use drop, greenhouse gases drop and yield improvement,” says Margareta Borg, Head of Strategy and Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility, Market Area Europe & Latin America, Ericsson.

Facts about the testbed for digitalized agriculture

The testbed consists initially of four fields of each one hectare with different crops where data about the crop is collected. The field is located on SLU Campus Ultuna and is owned by SLU. In connection with the fields, there are areas for testing of autonomous machines, as well as RISE premises with offices, prototype workshop and warehouses.

Coordinator and project manager: RISE.
Partners in the test bed: SLU, Ericsson, Telia, Volvo Penta, SMHI, Swedish Board of Agriculture, Federation of Swedish farmers, Uppsala Municipality, Uppsala Region, Lantmännen, Dataväxt, Yara, Bayer, LRF Consultant, Intellolabs, Deep Forestry, Solvi, Ecoloop.
The first cultivation season is 2019, when as a minimum BAT (best available technology) available on the market will be used.
During the three-year project, the ambitions will be gradually increased in terms of data collection, data analysis and, in particular, autonomous and electric machines.
The test bed as an arena for new technology will be built on projects that focus on specific areas. Already now, a project to build an open image database for plants with AI and machine learning is approved, as well as a project for developing Head-Up Display for machines. Other projects are waiting for evaluation.

Parts in the testbed:

Sensors that measure access to water, precipitation, temperature, air and leaf moisture, nutrient status and light reflection.
Drones with different types of sensors that can provide measurement values ​​for the diagnosis and forecast of the crop.
Connection of machines that operate on the fields, such as measurements of energy use and performance, control and logging of various actions such as seed, plant protection and nutrition.
Communication solutions such as mobile connection via 4G, NB-IoT (narrowband Internet of things, technology for low-energy sensors) and in later 5G, as well as other radio technologies.
Connected systems such as open data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture, weather data from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute and financial information from LRF Konsult.
Data management in the form of a cloud service that can handle and analyze data and then present the results of the analyzes as a base for decision making.
New ways of presenting data, for example, through Augmented Reality (AR) for feedback to the farmer and machine operators.
Autonomous machines that receive control data through the testbed's data infrastructure to perform driverless operations on the fields. In the long term, smart grid solutions to manage energy supply for power-driven machines.
For more information please contact:

Jonas Engström, project leader RISE: +46 70-515 56 77, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What is a testbed?

Testbeds are an important part of the ecosystem for innovation - for efficient development and market introduction of new products, processes and services. The testbed concept contains everything from equipment and pilot machines to policy labs, virtual and exploratory environments with associated expertise for continuous development. Here, competences, industries, problem owners and users meet to develop the future's innovations. TestbedSweden gathers and presents Swedish testbeds and demonstration environments:


RISE is the Swedish Research Institute and innovation partner. In international collaboration with industry, academia and the public sector, we ensure the competitiveness of the business community and contribute to a sustainable society. Our 2,700 employees support and promote all manner of innovative processes. RISE is an independent, state-owned research institute that offers unique expertise and about 100 testbeds and demonstration facilities, instrumental in future-proofing technologies, products and services.