[robotics-worldwide] [meetings] Agri-Food Workshop at European Robotic Forum: How far is the Robotics from the Agriculture 4.0?

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[robotics-worldwide] [meetings] Agri-Food Workshop at European Robotic Forum: How far is the Robotics from the Agriculture 4.0?

Ferdinando Cannella
Agri-Food Workshop at European Robotic Forum: How far is the Robotics from the Agriculture 4.0?

Tampere (Finland)
Thursday 15th March 2018
From 8:30 to 10:00

Ferdinando Cannella, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologi, Italy
Emanuele Frontoni, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy

In recent years there have been many studies on the continuing growth in demand for food (as well as feed, fibre and biofuels) which came to the same conclusions: it is necessary to increase the agricultural productivity and/or the available arable land [1].

-          scarceness of natural resources, and that they must be used in the most efficient and sustainable way [1][3].

-          not only the arable land can only be increased by converting land (i.e. forests, pastures), incurring a serious risk of negative environmental consequences (increased emissions of greenhouse gases (Flynn et al. 2012)),

-          84% of currently used land is threatened by degradation and deterioration; mainly due to human activity, pollution, natural disasters and climate change [4].
The only realistically feasible and sustainable strategy to meet the increasing demand for food, feed and fibre, is therefore,  to increase productivity. According to the average scenario in a long term perspective, between the most pessimistic [5][6] and the most optimistic [7], farmland productivity (compared to 2005) should increase by at least 60% in order to meet the predicted demand until 2050 [1][8]. If so, it is time for a paradigm shift in agricultural technology.
Considering the above mentioned situation, technological change should not only focus on raising low productivity, but also on developing innovative ideas. The development of new technology should upgrade the current state of art by also taking into account new and improved business models which can encompass the complexity of technology changes making them available and affordable to potential adopters through an increase of their resources efficiency, productivity and sustainability.
Last not least, in Europe there 75% of small farms (less than 10ha) that leads to the following conclusions expressed by Ulrich Adam, (secretary general of the European Agricultural Machinery Industry Association - CEMA): "For certain technologies, larger farmers were among the early adopters of what have been smarter and more precise versions of farm machinery, while smaller farmers have sometimes been more hesitant (or unable) to make the necessary investments,....Precision Farming (PF) technologies are still expensive and unaffordable to most farmers, especially for the smaller ones" [24]. PF is a modern farming management concept using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes"[13].
However, PF is only a component of Agriculture 4.0, which has its cornerstones in automation, cloud computing and in the networks. The Agriculture 4.0 requires a massive data to feed the models of the plants and then to figure out their current status (growing, health, defense, etc.). Moreover the final aim is to mate the harvesting with the marked demand and to make these models easy-to-use for the largest part of the farmers. Then, this workshop aims to the define:

-          What will be the role of the robots, according to the current state of art?

-          How the contribution can be effective on Agriculture of the future?

-          Is it possible already to define the bottlenecks and/or the limitations?
In order to answer this question this workshop and the following discussion in the further workshop (Usability and
ecosystem to empower farmers with dependable robotics) aim at highlight the keys technologies related to the robotics :

1)                  A sensor network based on fixed sensors placed in the soil, underground, on plants, in the air and in the sky, and mobile sensors on the robots. The sensor network will generate big data that will be fundamental both for feeding the health and growth models of farmed products and optimising the cares and resources necessary for growing up them.

2)                  Mobile robots (ground and aerial vehicles) equipped with sensors (cameras and force sensors) it will be developed, built and tested for overall monitoring of the plant/crops health and growth. The ground robot will also be equipped with instrumented grippers that permit both the selective monitoring of plant by plant or fruit by fruit or vegetable by vegetable, and so on, and  the collection of detailed statistic measures regarding the geometry, colour, surface, temperature, etc., of every single farmed product.

3)                  Manipulators will be able to recognize ripe fruits and vegetables and harvest them.

The workshop will consist of a series of targeted presentations of approximately 10 minutes on different aspects of Agriculture 4.0, in particular focused on the robots, with intermittent discussions.

1)      Ferdinando Cannella, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) - How far is the Robotics from the Agriculture 4.0?

2)      Fei Chen, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) - VINUM: Grapevine Recognition, Manipulation and Winter Pruning Automation

3)      Barbara Mazzolai, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) - PLANTOID: Robotic solutions inspired by plants

4)      Adriano Mancini, Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM), Topcon Agriculture - UAVs & Multi/Hyper Spectral Vision: current and future trends and applications

5)      Emanuele Frontoni, Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM) - How Big Data are reshaping Agriculture 4.0

6)      Tsampikos Kounalakis, Aalborg Univesity - Agri-food robotics: research challenges and business opportunities

Motivation_and_objective: The Agriculture 4.0 requires a massive data to feed the models of the plants and then to figure out their current status (growing, health, defense, etc.). Moreover the final aim is to mate the harvesting with the marked demand and to make these models easy-to-use for the largest part of the farmers. What will be the role of the robots, according to the current state of art? How the contribution can be effective on Agriculture of the future? Is it possible already to define the bottlenecks and/or the limitations?

Approach: The workshop will consist of a series of targeted presentations of approximately 15  minutes (2' for Q&A) on different aspects of Agriculture 4.0, in particular focused on the robots, but we will elucidate all the main aspects: Data Mining, Tractors, Sensors and also a Case Study

Agenda: 10' Introduction on State of Art of Agriculture 4.0
70' Presentation
10' Introduction of the open discussion

How can participants contribute to, and prepare for, the workshop?
Participants will be asked to participate in a brainstorming session on current state of art and then to figure out the future scenarios of the Agriculture 4.0 with robots.
A survey will be carried out via questionnaire in order to collect the common idea about the robot flexibility in the next future.

Follow-up: A short report will be issued after the discussion and the survey and it will be available to the Topic Groups focusing on Agricultura 4.0 & robots
Further information, e.g. web links:

Ferdinando Cannella, PhD, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
Fei Chen, PhD, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
Barbara Mazzolai, PhD, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
Adriano Mancini, PhD, Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM)
Emanuele Frontoni, PhD, Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM)
Tsampikos Kounalakis, PhD, Aalborg University (AAU)


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