From shovel to GPS: field cultivating technology | Business

Precision farming, digitization, artificial intelligence, drones, sensors to detect pests or to know the needs of plants, geolocation systems in livestock and crop farms… are tools that were hardly known and used in agricultural activity until a few years ago. Today, although it may not seem so at times, it is terms that the sector has already become familiar with, especially the new generations, with the aim of gaining efficiency, profitability, savings and achieving sustainability.

According to data from the Spanish Association for the Digitization of Agriculture, Agro-Food, Livestock, Fishing and Rural Areas, AgroTech, Spain ranks first in the development of this type of company with more than 750 companies, surpassed only by the United States. States and India, with nearly fifty different technology applications companies. With these numbers, Spain leads the sector in Europe, tripling companies from member states such as the Netherlands, Germany or France. A fact about the youth of the sector: 60% of these companies were established less than five years ago and 40% are between the ages of five and ten.

For the president of the association, Evan Lutwolf, due to its recent constitution, the volume of its turnover is not so important, although the most striking thing is that it grows year after year, even in the worst moments of the epidemic, in favor of many entrepreneurs to contract for their services. One in eight companies increased their sales in the past year and 84% of them planned to increase their workforce; It is one of the activities that increases its employment levels the most, according to its data. Today, 60% of these companies bill less than 250,000 euros. “Our agriculture and food sectors face many challenges, such as increasing productivity due to the need to be more sustainable from an environmental point of view, and in the context of very high increases in input prices, social costs, etc., and indicating the practical impossibility of setting selling prices. Lütolf believes that the challenge can only be met if progress is made in digital transformation processes that are economically feasible and profitable, while at the same time, aligned with environmental and social requirements.

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In Mazzuela, Burgos, in the deepest of Castile, half a century ago, Mr. Zacharia spread seeds and fertilizer, with a sack of “Cepadera” on his shoulder. A few decades later, his son Fidenciano did so with a fertilizer spreader attached to a tractor, but without knowing exactly where to put the product. Today, son, Eduardo, has a GPS built into the tractor. “This allows me to be more rational when sowing or fertilizing, while saving about 100 kilograms per hectare. I do the same with regard to the use of phytosanitary products,” he confirms. However, the farmer regrets that the advances represented by new technologies have not been imposed in this area, because it means having accurate information on each land, with its corresponding analyzes to process each one according to its requirements, and great savings as well. as higher returns.

corporate development your wages It extends throughout Spain, although it is concentrated in four autonomous communities: Andalusia, with a share of 21%; Catalonia accounts for 16%; Madrid 15% and Valencia 11%.

Among the many technologies applied by this type of company is the use of sensors at various points on a farm that allows farmers to monitor their crops, get data on their behavior, trends, water usage, plant water condition, average humidity, temperature, etc. . Or the use of geo-positioning tools, GPS, with the aim of achieving greater simplification and optimization of daily agricultural tasks, from fertilizing to planting, passing through harvesting, thus achieving permanent monitoring of the evolution of farms and data on the condition of large livestock herds. Using artificial intelligence, the farmer has the ability to predict the emergence of plant diseases and improve their cycle.

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The spread of new technologies throughout the agricultural sector. On the vineyard, Terras Gauda’s boss, José María Fonseca, has been one of the pioneers in the winemaking’s application in various projects, from researching new varieties to trellis control. “Since 2021, we have participated in a European AI project, big dataDrones and satellites to monitor vineyards and above all to detect potential diseases and water needs early.”

In Castilla y León, the development of the Pistachio District by the Pistacyl Group was coupled with a research project aimed at sustainability through sensors and drones that allow knowledge of water resource needs based on production forecasts.

With the data processed by Agrotech, depending on the use of each type of technology, it is possible to achieve such achievements as savings of up to 70% in water use and 40% in the use of phytosanitary products, which is due to the timely addition of savings, fuel use of machinery, in addition to avoiding potential penalties associated with obligations required in green matters by community authorities.

The commitment to digitizing agriculture has a differential impact across sectors and regions.

An initiative that has taken more than years to shoot is the Datagri Forum, led by the agricultural organization COAG along with Hispatec, agro-food cooperatives and the University of Cordoba. José Luis González, responsible for these programs at COAG, considers Spain to be at comparable levels to European eco-countries, although he recognizes that their implementation is very uneven between small and large farmers. He asserts that “the biggest challenge is to achieve the agriculture of the future, a sustainable activity in all its aspects, as stipulated in the guidelines for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Green Charter”. Asaja has taken the step of signing an agreement with a service and drone company, DSD, for its partners. For its part, UPA is developing advisory work on the digitization of agricultural activity with funds provided by the Department.

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General plans and funds

The digitization of agricultural activity and the use of new technologies to achieve a profitable and sustainable sector and at the same time with the ability to compete in all markets is one of the challenges issued by the Spanish administration. But the funds are mainly community funds, drawn from the Next Generation Programme, and from a sector that has been described as insufficient compared to that available for other activities, to which state contributions have been added.

This target includes funds from the Plan for Recovery, Transformation and Resilience, Pollutant Release and Transfer (PRTR), under the framework of Component 3 which is being contemplated as a plan to enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of agriculture and livestock for more efficiency. It has resources of 1050 million euros from the next generation (956 million for agriculture and 95 for fishing).

Similarly, within the framework of the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation, PERTE, for the agri-food sector, another 1,000 million of community funds have been allocated to promoting digitization and research, to which another 800 million have been added from the Spanish administration.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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