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Bosch Global

Two tractors drive across farmland and spray plant protection.

Smart Agriculture — Buried. Submerged. Launched.

How sensors help to lower costs and increase yields

Reading time: 5 minutes

Frostbitten strawberries? Contaminated oysters, overheated asparagus — or diseased tomato plants in the greenhouse? These and similar losses are a thing of the past when sensors in the soil or water are used to optimize yields for stronger resilience. They not only benefit farmers, but also help feed growing populations over the long term. Our understanding of smart agriculture is resource-friendly and sustainable.

Beating weeds

A farmer drives with his tractor over a field of crops and sprays plant protection.

As the world’s population grows, the amount of farmland per capita shrinks. According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), farmers will have to sustainably increase their yields by about 50% by the year 2050 in order to feed everyone. To achieve this, the agricultural sector needs innovative crop protection and technology solutions. Weeds compete with crops like wheat and corn for sunlight, water, and nutrients. This leads to lower yields. To combat these undesired plants as effectively as possible, herbicides are generally applied over large surface areas, covering crops and fields in the process. Bosch and Bayer are therefore working together to further develop Smart Spraying technology that uses camera sensors to distinguish between crops and weeds. This will enable crop protection agents to target the weeds — and protect the environment.

Farmers will have to increase their yields by 50 percent to feed the world in 2050.

Have a good night, Mr. Bauer!

Strawberry farmer Martin Bauer is in the middle of his greenhouse and holds a strawberries in his hands.

Martin Bauer, a strawberry farmer, used to lose 50 to 70 percent of his harvest every two or three years when nighttime frosts wiped out the fruit. Today he benefits from lower costs and higher yields. A sensor system from Bosch keeps watch over the state of the strawberry plants on six of his twelve fields. The system was developed by Deepfield Robotics, a Bosch start-up. The sensors measure soil moisture and inform farmers when the ground is too dry. They also measure air temperature and humidity. If values at the fields exceed certain limits, farmers are informed via an app. And whereas Bauer used to have to go out to the fields in the middle of the night 10 to 15 times during the harvest season, the sensor system now also lets him get more sleep.

Martin Bauer used to have to go out to the fields at night 10-15 times if frost was likely.

Oysters, fresh and juicy

Oyster farmer Justin Goc standing at the seashore.

Justin Goc has a similar story to tell since using Bosch’s ProSyst IoT platform. An oyster farmer in the Australian state of Tasmania, an app gives him precise information on the right times to harvest. Measurement stations in direct proximity to the oyster beds register water depth and salinity as well as temperature and air pressure. Algorithms from The Yield, a Bosch partner, compile and analyze the data. The system is an enormous improvement that greatly reduces harvest failures. Oysters are filter organisms that quickly absorb water-bound toxins or contaminants which can be harmful to humans, particularly in rainy weather. In many countries, harvests are monitored by official agencies and prohibited in cases of doubt, even if measurements are made hundreds of kilometers away and are correspondingly imprecise.

More people need more food

Large-scale crop failures are not only a problem for individual farmers. If the world’s population continues to grow at a similar rate, there will be a sharp increase in the need for food. “The agricultural industry needs far-reaching changes,” says Ros Harvey, founder and managing director of The Yield. The Yield is an Australian start-up that is working with Bosch to make farmers fit for the future. “Compared to other sectors, agriculture is just starting to digitalize.”

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Interview with Ros Harvey, CEO and Founder, The Yield

Healthy tomatoes in the greenhouse

Farmers and growers have to contend with the whims of nature. They sometimes have to act quickly to save harvests that are threatened by winds, weather, or tides. In addition to environmental influences or even natural catastrophes, pathogens are also a major risk factor. But they are not always evident to the eye. With Plantect, Bosch has brought a service onto the market that can predict with 92-percent accuracy whether a disease will befall greenhouse tomatoes. How does this system work? Sensors installed in the greenhouse measure temperature, leaf moisture, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. Artificial intelligence analyzes these values, combines them with weather forecasts, and sends warnings to farmers via an app.

Plantect’s forecasts of plant diseases are accurate 92 percent of the time.

Optimal olive tree irrigation

Smart technology from Bosch helps to irrigate olive trees in Spain in targeted ways that save water and resources. The process is practically climate independent. Bosch has installed the first intelligent irrigation management system for intensive olive farming at the Finca Sanabria plantation near the city of Seville. The system uses wireless sensors placed on trees to determine their need for water. The data are sent in real time to a server for processing. This generates an optimal irrigation plan, which farmers can monitor at any time via an app on their smartphones. The goal of this intelligent system is to reduce water consumption and irrigate precisely in accordance with weather conditions and actual need. This also increases yields at the plantation. Bosch is working on this project with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). It is contributing its expertise in developing microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) as well as connected and cloud-based solutions.

Summary

Bosch helps farmers by providing smart solutions that increase yields and agricultural productivity and reduce crop failures and pathogen levels. Most of these solutions make use of connected sensor systems.

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