What about remote management of agricultural machines? With agriculture 4.0 it is possible!

19 January 2021

Using Wikipedia as reference, the main principles of Industry 4.0 are represented by the logics of automation to improve the work conditions, generate new business models, increase the yield and production quality of the machines and systems. Logic 4.0 is strictly linked to the concept of smart factory.

Three elements are linked to this approach, which are: collaboration between the production players (man, machines and tools), integration of IT infrastructures to integrate systems and companies together, optimization of energy consumption by reducing waste. This entire logical system is based on the concept of a cyber-physical system, meaning the integration and connection of physical systems with IT systems that are in turn inserted into a larger integration and network.

The cyber-physical system for application of Agriculture 4.0 systems
In this regard, the technologies involved in this new world are advanced production systems (e.g. robot, cobot), Additive Manufacturing (3D printing), augmented reality, virtual computer simulations, integration and exchange of information, industrial internet, cloud platforms (cloud computing), IT protection and security, data analyses (big data concept). All concepts related to Industry 4.0 can be perfectly implemented in the agricultural sector, thereby improving the performance and operating quality of the farming machines with a strong impact on an agronomical level for agricultural crops and on a zootechnical level regarding animal production in a precision and more efficient business management. In this context, Agriculture 4.0 is the last piece of the puzzle that raises the technical level in business management.

Agriculture 4.0, a site example
Among the many things that can be done is sowing with machines connected remotely via the web to a cloud platform, equipped with sensors and data acquisition systems with mapping of the area worked and georeferencing of the operating data (agronomic and machine operation), which are sent, stored and made available to the business management logistic system, but also with the option to integrate with on-board systems remotely (Image A). In this example, there are at least four players involved and the data exchanged with administration and related services can have multiple purposes:

figura A

The operator that manages the functions on the machine is no longer the driver but is extremely facilitated in running the area and in guaranteeing its regular operation, in particular with regard to the supply of seeds, any faults signalled in time to service already notified by an alarm, the feed-rate and status of the work, etc…;

USC-PRO sowing control system by MC elettronica
  • The entrepreneur or administration department that knows what the machine is doing in real time in order to manage all services related to sowing, meaning the work of employees, the relationship with suppliers, store management, sowing quality, etc;
  • The manufacturer, since familiarity with the malfunctions and performance parameters make it possible to have precise and detailed information at hand to improve the design of its machines;
  • The service department or whoever deals with the commercial and assistance part, entering a preventive or predictive maintenance logic, managing its customers more precisely and guaranteeing a faster service in providing spare parts or in guaranteeing interventions directly on site.

Agriculture 4.0 in the near future
We are clearly generalising and the logic of Agriculture 4.0 must be duly adapted to the different farming conditions and business systems, especially since agriculture is not a precise science and is subject to many variables to be managed as opposed to an industrial production system, but this does not exclude the adoption in a sector where tradition, experience and technology have always found strong interaction. The problem is likely to be in the technical skills that require new professional people or updating those already present.

Written by DR Agr. Mattia Trevini PhD – Agroingegno

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