IoT in Agtech: Australia invests millions in robots, digital farming

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Farmers in the Australian state of Victoria have been promised a $ 15 million financial and technological boost that is expected to be “a game-changer” for the agricultural sector.

The funding is intended to help farmers deploy robotics, wireless networks, sensors, and analytics solutions to capitalise on the enormous potential of connected technologies to make agriculture smarter and more efficient.

Read more: Brexit: Robots could fill gaps in UK farm labour market

With rising labour costs, and with utilities and supplies bills soaring, farmers are increasingly looking at how emerging technologies can help sustain their businesses. However, many come with heavy upfront costs: networks need to be installed and expensive hardware needs to be purchased.

From harvesting robots to drone-assisted aerial surveys and field sensors, the vision of the connected farm is an appealing one. But getting to that stage can require a joint effort, often between one farm and another, but also between the state and agricultural communities.

The Victoria government has announced $ 15 million of IoT-focused funding, and trials will begin in the regions of Maffra, Birchip, Serpentine, and Tatura in July. The state previously made a $ 12 million investment into IoT and agtech as part of a demonstration trial in 2016-17.

Connecting Victoria’s farms

According to a statement from the Victoria government, the funding will be put towards a range of digital innovations. These include robotics, and the development of IoT networks, wireless technology, biotechnology, and virtual fencing.

Read more: Agtech start-up Arable to measure crops and weather with IoT

Sensors and IoT networks will be installed for both farmer and public access. These will provide insights on weather and soil conditions, creating benefits across the dairy, grain, sheep, and horticulture sectors.

Farms right across the state will install sensors and connected devices as part of the project. The data generated will be uploaded to a central system for analysis, and be accessible via a software platform that will enable farmers throughout the region to make more informed decisions.

Read more: Italian start-up Evja launches smart agriculture platform for salad growers

Victoria’s minister for agriculture, Jaala Pulford, said: “Victoria is the agtech hub of Australia, and with this investment, we are looking at being a world leader. Our farmers deserve the very best tools to get the job done and digital innovation is at the heart of this. We’re proud to play our part in making this a reality.”

Jaala Pulford, Victoria’s agriculture minister

“This Internet of Things Demonstration Trial is an important step in maximising technology to help provide Victorian agriculture with a competitive advantage on a global scale,” she added.

Read more: Harvesting robot to save big slice of farming market

Internet of Business says

Despite being one of the oldest industries, farming is at the forefront of IoT, robotics, and big data applications. The reasons are manifold, and include the challenges of seasonal labour, soaring costs, climate change, unpredictable weather, changing consumer demands, and international competition.

The IoT’s mix of smart hardware, AI, sensors, and data analytics mean that farmers can gain real insights into how efficiently and sustainably their farms are operating, gather data over time – and in real time – and ensure that crops and livestock are developing in ideal conditions and are being properly fed and watered.

For example, drones can offer multispectral imaging from the air, and direct autonomous farm machinery to areas that need irrigation and fertilisation. Meanwhile, sensor networks in the ground can monitor crop and climate conditions and, via AI, machine learning, and analytics, help farmers to build up a comprehensive and predictive picture of how well the land is performing.

Meanwhile, the same technologies are helping farms move into cities, closer to the mouths that need feeding. High-tech startups such as Aerofarms are using sensors and big data technologies to grow crops indoors, using smart lighting and chemical engineering to create the ideal conditions for crops to flourish.

Read more: Dell takes a fresh look at IoT with Aerofarms

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Harvesting robot to save big slice of farming market

With the help of partners across Europe, researchers at Berlin's Fraunhofer Institute are developing a robotic system capable of automating the cucumber harvest. 

With inflation rising, German farming is in crisis. With the help of partners across Europe, researchers at Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute are developing a robot capable of automating complex farming processes – specifically the cucumber harvest. Malek Murison explains why this is so important.

The German cucumber market is in trouble. This might not sound like an urgent problem, but it’s indicative of a worrying trend in Western European agriculture.

Traditional harvesting processes are energy intensive and recent changes to minimum wage laws have pushed overheads to breaking point.

In many cases, cucumber farming has started to relocate to eastern Europe and even to as far afield as India. The only way to save Germany’s cucumber industry – and others like it in the agriculture sector – is to develop a more efficient and economical harvesting method.

This isn’t a minor issue; in 2017, rising fruit and vegetable prices (up 21 percent) were responsible for pushing inflation in Germany up to 2.2 percent, the highest figure for four years. Rising energy prices are worsening the problem, too.

Read more: Robot swans to measure water quality in Singapore

Automating the cucumber harvest

So the humble salad and sandwich filler is much more important than first appears.

Germany’s cucumbers are currently harvested by hand. Using huge ‘cucumber flyers’ – farm vehicles with wing-like attachments – seasonal workers lie on their stomachs and pick while the vehicle moves through the field. This form of harvesting is both labour-intensive and uneconomical.

Researchers at Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute are developing a new way to harvest cucumbers with a view to keeping this niche agricultural market in German fields.

The CATCH project, short for (in translation) Cucumber Gathering and Green Field Experiments, has been subsidised by the European Union’s robotics research project ECHORD++ Experiments.

Researchers at Fraunhofer are working alongside teams from Spain’s Centre for Automation and Robotics (CAR) and the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy.

Together, they are developing a dual-arm robotic system that’s capable of automating the cucumber harvest, as well as having potential in a wide range of other agricultural applications.

In order to effectively replace human workers, the robotic picker needs to be cost-effective and dependable. It needs to keep going, no matter what the conditions, correctly identifying ripe cucumbers before plucking them out of the ground. And it needs to match its human counterparts, and be capable of picking at least 13 cucumbers a minute.

So far, so good.

The harvesting robot has tactile perception and can adapt to ambient conditions. And its dual-arm system allows it to imitate human movements.

Read more: Forget door-opening bots, give us robot cockroaches, say boffins

Picking a cucumber like a person

The real challenge lies with building an autonomous system capable following the same processes as a human would. Instead of eyes and hands, it relies on optical and tactile sensing.

When it comes to cucumber harvesting there are some tricky situational challenges. For example, the robot has to be able to identify green objects camouflaged by green surroundings. Some are hiding behind vegetation, and there’s no strict pattern as to their whereabouts.

This part of the CATCH project is overseen by Spanish partners at CSIC-UPM. They have developed a camera system that allows the robot to locate approximately 95 percent of cucumbers.

Preprogrammed behavioural patterns and techniques enhanced from a previous EU robotics project have made bimanual searching possible. As a result, the robot can search for cucumbers in the same way that a human would.

Dr. Dragoljub Surdilovic, a scientist at Fraunhofer IPK, explains that the robot can “push leaves to the side using symmetrical or asymmetrical movements, or congruent and incongruent movements. As a result, it can automatically change directions on the fly, to approach and then grasp a cucumber.”

Initial field testing was successfully completed by the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy in July 2017.

Since late last year, the project’s partners have been conducting additional tests to analyse the potential impact of interference and malfunctions. In November 2017, the results of the CATCH project were announced at agriculture trade fair, Agritechnica.

Further tests of the new harvesting robot will soon be completed. The project partners plan to make it commercially viable as soon as possible.

Internet of Business says

This international project reveals the hidden challenges of automation, and the economic imperative behind many such projects. First, replicating complex human tasks is not easy, especially when human beings have billions of years of evolution on their side. Not every task performed by robots involves repeating the same simple patterns, especially once robots are taken off the shop floor and put to work in the field.

And second, automation and robotics don’t always involve replacing jobs; this is no zero sum game. Often automation can help retain markets – and therefore wider employment opportunities – within national borders, and create new jobs and new opportunities to innovate.

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Farming Has a Huge Impact on the Environment. Enter Carbon Trapping.

Food for Thought

Globally, our food system is thought to account for as much as a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, making it a huge contributor to the effects of climate change. However, there are hopes that the agriculture industry could also be a part of the solution. A paper published in Scientific Reports suggests that the planet’s farmland soil has unrealized carbon trapping potential, and could be used to remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the transport industry emits.

Conversations about how to reassess farming practices typically revolve around the argument of mitigation vs. adaptation. The former side is interested in tweaking current techniques to have less of an impact on our climate, while the latter prioritizes changing current methods to counteract the effect that extreme weather conditions can have on farmers, especially in developing countries.

Carbon sequestration, the process of capturing carbon in the soil itself, could address both sides of the bargain. Carbon trapping sucks a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, while simultaneously making the soil healthier and more fertile.

The paper suggests that new technology, including sensors and drones, could allow farmers to improve carbon sequestration by monitoring their soil health better than ever before. A reduced reliance on fossil fuel-burning heavy machinery, and the implementation of mulch to protect the soil’s surface, would also help.

However, it’s worth noting that there are still some burning questions about the impact of carbon sequestration. “Soil carbon is sort of complex at this point, as there are various types of conservation agriculture practices that often inform the amounts of carbon storage in the soil that are still not fully quantified,” said James Daniel, a spatial analyst with the World Agroforestry Center, in an email to Futurism. “At the moment the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) is working with other partners to design more plausible means of determining farmland soil carbon in situ.”

Carbon Capture

It’s thought that the US agricultural sector holds the greatest potential for soil carbon sequestration, but other regions show promise too. The 2.6 million square kilometers of cropland in Africa is one such opportunity, but the scarcity of labor could make it difficult to utilize the same methodology as that which American farmers would likely implement.

There are some alternatives, though. Introducing legume plants into pasture vegetation can increase soil carbon storage, and the practice of agroforestry – planting trees on farmland to fix nitrogen in the soil – could also contribute. 

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According to Daniel, legume plants improve soil quality by fixing nitrogen, while properly managed trees provide leafy foliage that can form mulch for carbon storage in the soil. “They have a huge potential in increasing food productivity, and also controlling soil compactibility, all which provide a tripartite benefits scenario,” Daniel added.

While there’s enormous potential for the greenhouse gas emissions of farmland to be offset by carbon trapping procedures, more research needs to be done. Different regions will benefit from different forms of carbon trapping, so before any kind of large-scale implementation, it’s important that we know as much as possible about what works best for different types of farmland.

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Urban Farming Is The Future Of Agriculture

Surplus and Scarcity

The planet is growing more food than ever, and yet millions of people continue to starve worldwide. People are hungry everywhere — in the country, in the suburbs. But increasingly, one of the front lines in the war against hunger is in cities. As urban populations grow, more people find themselves in food deserts, areas with “[l]imited access to supermarkets, supercenters, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food,” according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New technologies are changing the equation, allowing people to grow food in places where it was previously difficult or impossible, and in quantities akin to traditional farms.

Farming at New Heights

Urban farms can be as simple as traditional small outdoor community gardens, or as complex as indoor vertical farms in which farmers think about growing space in three-dimensional terms. These complex, futuristic farms can be configured in a number of ways, but most of them contain rows of racks lined with plants rooted in soil, nutrient-enriched water, or simply air. Each tier is equipped with UV lighting to mimic the effects of the sun. Unlike the unpredictable weather of outdoor farming, growing indoors allows farmers to tailor conditions to maximize growth.

With the proper technology, farming can go anywhere. That’s what the new trend of urban farming shows — these farms go beyond simple community vegetable gardens to provide food to consumers in surrounding areas. All vertical farmers need is some space and access to electricity, no special facilities required. Farmers can buy everything they need to start and maintain their farms online as easily as shopping on Amazon.

In fact, because it’s so easy to access starting materials, officials don’t really know how many urban farms are running in the United States. A 2013 survey by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) received 315 responses from people operating facilities they describe as urban or suburban farms. However, federal grants for agriculture development show thousands of city-dwelling recipients, indicating that the number of urban farms is likely much higher.

“You have to look at these facilities in cubic feet as opposed to square feet. We can really put out a lot of produce from a facility like this,” Dave Haider, the president of Urban Organics, a company that operates urban farms based in St. Paul, Minnesota, told Futurism. Technology allows vertical farmers to control the environment in their farms, enabling them grow a lot more in the same amount of space, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Agricultural Studies.

Image Credit: Urban Organics

Urban farms can grow more than just fruits and vegetables. Urban Organics grows three varieties of kale, two varieties of Swiss chard, Italian parsley, and cilantro, but uses the same water to raise Arctic char and Atlantic salmon — a closed-loop system often called aquaponics. Fish waste fertilizes the plants, which clean and filter the water before it goes back into the planters; excess drips into the fishtanks. 

Urban Organics opened its first farm inside a former brewery complex in 2014. In the years since, it’s brought food where it’s needed most: to people in the food deserts of the Twin Cities. In 2014, The Guardian named the company one of the ten most innovative urban farming projects in the world.

“Trying to put a dent in the industry when it comes to food deserts is really one of the driving factors behind our first farm, which was actually located in a food desert,” Haider said. Urban Organics sells its produce to local retailers and provides locally-sourced fish to nearby restaurants. “That was sort of a sort of our approach  let’s try to grow produce and raise high-quality protein in an area that needs it most.” As more people move to cities, problems like food scarcity might get even worse.

The vertical farm is also environmentally-friendly. Aquaponics systems result in very little waste. Vertical farming allows growers to use their finite area more efficiently, so we collectively can better utilize established space instead of creating more arable land, leaving more ecosystems intact. Placing the farms close to vendors and consumers means that fresher produce can reach tables with less reliance on trucks, which contribute to pollution and global warming.

What’s the Harm in an Urban Farm?

As people all over the world move to cities, urban centers sprawl to accommodate them. Often, that means taking over former farmland to support more people. In New Jersey, cities like Camden and Trenton are becoming more populous as they convert into urban spaces.

Vertical farming can limit that sprawl. “Vertical farms can actually come into these areas to recolonize the city and to take spaces that have been removed from producing anything,” Paul P.G. Gauthier, a vertical farming expert at the Princeton Environmental Institute, told Futurism.

But setting up an urban farm is often not an easy task. Finding enough space for an affordable price can present a significant obstacle for potential farmers. Vertical farmers also need to know how to operate more technology, including systems that control elements such as soil contaminants and water availability, that nature takes care of on a traditional farm.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Now, companies are popping up to help urban farmers get their facilities up and running. One Brooklyn-based company, Agritecture Consulting, helps people and organizations that want to start their own vertical farms to conduct market research and economic analyses, and to design and engineer the farm plans. The company has successfully completed more than a dozen projects to date, creating farms around the world, including some in the cramped confines of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The benefits of urban farming practices extend beyond the tangible aspects of growing food in underserved areas — there’s also a fortunate side effect of cultivating community. That’s a big draw for organizations, including Urban Organics and Agritecture Consultants.

Growing Communities

Urban Organics opened a new facility this past summer. It’s much larger than the organization’s other locations, and could provide more than 124,700 kilograms (about 275,000 pounds) of fresh fish and nearly 215,500 kilograms (more than 475,000 pounds) of produce to the nearby area each year.

The former brewing complex in which the new farm is located is undergoing a revitalization, adding artists’ condos and even a food hall, according to a press release emailed to Futurism. Haider is excited about the potential of the new facility and the impact it will have on the developing neighborhood. “Not only are we creating some good-paying, quality jobs with some medical benefits, but these are jobs that just didn’t exist in the area prior to Urban Organics. And these are the things that excite us,” he said.

This winning formula of bringing food and jobs to these areas can help build underserved communities. “Once that’s done, we get to go out to identify the next markets and then do it all over again,” Haider said.

Empowering individuals to get into urban farming can build community, too. Henry Gordon-Smith, the co-founder and managing director of Agritecture, has a side project called, a do-it-yourself resource website for individuals and small groups looking to start urban farms of their own. It’s his passion project, his “labor of love,” he told Futurism. “This is my way of not-so-subtly democratizing some of the best practices. It’s a great way for people to create their own approaches, which is what I really want to see.” The site allows farmers to come up with their own hacks — better lights, better sensors, better growing techniques — and share them on the site’s forum. That’s how an ancient practice like farming continues to improve with modern tools.

Farms of the Future

As people continue to study and tweak urban farming practices, we will continue to learn more about how they can benefit the areas surrounding them and the greater global community. Data on how urban farms directly affect their local communities may compel lawmakers to support and invest more in urban farms.

Gordon-Smith has planned another side project to this effect: an entire building or neighborhood to test urban farming technologies while gathering data. Though the location has not yet been decided, Gordon-Smith has already received a $ 2 million commitment from Brooklyn borough president Eric L. Adams; he has also taken his proposal to the New York City Council. The proposal is waiting for consideration from the Committee on Land Use, and there is no indication of when it will be decided.

Vertical farming, and urban agriculture in general, could be a significant boon for areas with the resources to invest, feeding residents and bolstering the local economy. Still, it’s important to know that urban agriculture is not a singular solution to solve a massive problem like helping people access enough nutritious food. Gauthier, the Princeton urban farming expert, points out that there are a lot of important crops that simply cannot be grown indoors, at least not yet. “We’ll probably never grow soybeans, wheat, or maize indoors,” he said. “Vertical farming is not the solution for solving hunger across the world. It’s not the solution, but it is certainly part of the solution.”

Other efforts to combat world hunger grant people in poor nations more economic freedom by giving them lines of credit, or instituting basic income policies, like those being tested in Kenya. Education, social change, and female empowerment are all social initiatives that can help more people access the food they need to sustain themselves and their families.

Urban farms have the potential to change the world’s agricultural landscape. Granted, we’re probably not going to see a planet of supercities in which all farming is done in high-rise buildings. But urban farms can bring greater yields in smaller areas, increase access to healthy options in urban food deserts, and mitigate the environmental impact of feeding the world. That seems like enough of a reason to continue to develop and expand these transformative farming practices.

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Farming IoT connections to hit 27m by 2021

Agricultural IoT devices to hit 27 million by 2021, says Berg Insight

Whether it’s cattle, crops or agricultural machinery that need to be monitored, farming is proving fertile ground for IoT technologies. 

The number of wireless connections used in global agricultural production is predicted to reach 27.4 million by 2021, according to new figures released by Berg Insight. That’s up from an installed base of around 17 million connections in 2016 and represents an annual compound growth rate of 10 percent over the intervening 5 years.

According to the Berg Insight report, M2M/IoT in the Agriculture Industry, A broad range of wireless technologies are used in agricultural production today, with different characteristics and use cases, said analysts at the research company. For example, the 802.15.4-based standard for low-rate wireless personal networks (LR-WPNs) is the most widely deployed, due to its use in monitoring applications for dairy cattle.

Cellular communications (those supported by mobile networks) are most commonly used for machine telematics and remote monitoring for in-field sensor systems. Cellular comms amounted to some 0.8 million connections at the end of 2016; they are expected to reach 3.1 million in 2021.

Low-power, wide area networks (LPWAN) technologies, meanwhile, are expected to see the highest growth over the next five years and achieve a significant market position in the remote monitoring and control segment, according to Berg Insight.

Read more: Inmarsat inks deal with Pessl Instruments on agricultural IoT

Positive market outlook

Agricultural production remains greatly under-penetrated by wireless IoT solutions, said Berg Insight, which maintains a positive outlook for the sector as a result. But a change in the vendor landscape may be on the horizon: manufacturers of farm and dairy equipment have traditionally chosen to partner with smaller, specialized players but are increasingly focusing on developing their own, proprietary technologies.

“Leading providers are now investing in technical platforms capable of supporting integration with third-party hardware and software solutions as agricultural equipment are becoming part of broader systems,” said Fredrik Stalbrand, IoT analyst at Berg Insight.

He added that the increasingly complex technological environment that farmers operate in requires dealers to offer a greater extent of services to integrate and support the range of technologies that are utilized in advanced production systems. Such services are needed, for example, for precision farming solutions, in-field sensor systems and animal monitoring technologies.

In the crop production sector, a group of companies have emerged as leaders on the market for precision agriculture solutions. Leaders include Deere & Company, Trimble, Topcon Positioning Systems and Raven Industries. Other significant vendors include AGCO, Ag Leader Technology, Dickey-john and Hexagon.

Read more: Real-time disease monitoring unearths power of IoT in agriculture

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How IoT will fuel the next revolution in farming technology

New research from global mobile satellite company Inmarsat has found that the agriculture sector is interested in embracing the power of IoT and will spend significantly on the technology over the next five years.

The study, titled ‘The Future of IoT in Enterprise – 2017’, contains responses from the world’s 100 largest agritech companies and found that the sector is rapidly taking to IoT technologies. It shows 62% of the surveyed firms had already fully or partially deployed IoT-based solutions, far outweighing the adoption levels seen in the mining, transport and energy sectors, and a further 27% had plans to do so within the next six months.

It also revealed that expenditure on IoT-based solutions is set to increase dramatically over the next few years.

Ayan Jobse-Alkemade, director of agriculture sector development at Inmarsat Enterprise, said: “With the planet estimated to reach a population of 10 billion people by 2050, humanity will face challenges with sustainable water sources, food production, and the best use of land to get the maximum yield from crops. Additionally, using the most efficient method to deliver the resources will increasingly feature on the global agenda.

“In short, farmers, with the help of the agritech sector, need to get smarter, leaner and faster from field to fork.”

Another piece of research shows how IoT will play an increasingly important role in helping mining companies meet their obligations to their staff, governments, the environment and shareholders. Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat Enterprise said: “The mining sector has worked over many years towards an industry-wide commitment of zero harm. Mines are a uniquely specialised, hazardous environment and as such miners are highly focused on employee safety. IoT solutions can play a significant role by remotely monitoring conditions and gathering data to anticipate and react to potential safety threats.” Latest from the homepage

Deere & Company harvests Blue River Technology in smart farming drive

Deere & Company harvests Blue River in smart farming drive

Agricultural machinery manufacturer Deere & Company, better known as John Deere, has announced it will acquire Blue River Technology, a Silicon Valley-based specialist in machine learning and robotics for precision agriculture, for $ 305 million.

Blue River’s ‘see-and-spray’ robots are fixed to tractors and use computer vision to identify plants in a field, to ‘see’ if they are in need of fertilizer, pesticide or other crop management procedures. The robots are primarily used on lettuce, cotton and other specialty vegetable crops.

Read more: John Deere ploughs furrow as Industrial Internet pioneer

Heavily backed

Blue River had previously raised some $ 31 million in venture capital funding and claims that its ‘precision farming’ technology can save farmers up to 90 percent of the volume of chemicals they might use with more traditional approaches. And if farmers are being more efficient in their use of fertilizer or pesticide, presumably, then they may free up money to invest in more machinery.

According to Blue River’s website, the company is also developing a ‘LettuceBot’ for “precision lettuce thinning” and a drone imaging system that collects data from fields.

“Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant level,” said Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology. “We are using computer vision, robotics, and machine learning to help smart machines detect, identify, and make management decisions about every single plant in the field.”

Read more: Agtech start-up Arable to measure crops and weather with IoT

Smart farming

In addition to new technologies, the acquisition gives Deere a 60-person team specializing in precision agriculture in Sunnyvale, California to work on new developments.

Other companies targeting smart farming are thinking along similar high-tech lines: Monsanto (which recently scrapped plans to sell its Precision Planting unit to Deere) struck a deal with biotech company ToolGen to develop farm products in mid-August, while DuPont bought agriculture analytics firm Granular around the same time.

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Are Vertical Farms the Future of Farming?

This is the sort of conversation explored in Peter Diamandis’s online community called Abundance 360 Digital (A360D). If you want access to the A360D knowledge base and community lead by Peter Diamandis, click here to learn more.

Futurism only supports products that we trust and use. This video post is in partnership with A360D, and Futurism may get a small percentage of sales.

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Setting the stage for the future of farming: Drones, autonomous vehicles, and more

Agricultural practices will need to continue to develop and become more efficient, if the findings of recent research pieces are anything to go by. For instance, PwC has reported on expert views that agricultural consumption will need to increase by close to 70 per cent by 2050 to account for the world’s growing population — projected to hit 9 billion people in the same year. While not as high, the World Bank has predicted that those across the globe will need to produce 50 per cent more food by 2050 should global population continue to rise at its current pace.

Fortunately, technology is constantly advancing, with various developments being made to aid the agricultural industry. Two main areas of interest are that of drones and autonomous vehicles — this guide sets out how each could assist farmers in the future.

Farming drones

Drones have become a very lucrative market, with global market revenue from the sales of such gadgets expected to increase by 34 per cent to reach over £4.8 million in 2017. US technology research experts Gartner has also predicted that drone production figures will jump by 39 per cent this year compared to the numbers recorded in 2016.

They offer numerous benefits for those in agriculture. Here are a few reasons why:

They can be used for planting

Drones can take the stress out of planting and looking after produce, thanks to systems which have been created by start-up companies that can achieve an uptake rate of 75 per cent and reduce the costs of planting by as much as 85 per cent. The idea is that the technology sees drones shooting pods with seeds as well as plant nutrients into the soil, enabling plants to receive the nutrients they need to sustain life.

They can make the most of irrigation

To avoid wasting water around a farm, drones can be fitted with remote sensing equipment — think multispectral, hyperspectral or thermal sensing systems. The idea is that the technology will quickly and easily identify the driest sections of a field and then allow farmers to allocate their water resources more economically.

They can be used to spray and monitor crops

Crop spraying and crop monitoring are two practices that many in agriculture will already be very familiar with. However, drones can improve both of these common practices.

In regards to crop spraying, drones can effectively scan the ground of a farm and then spray the correct amount of liquid once the distance from the ground has been modulated — even coverage will be achieved while the amount of chemicals penetrated into groundwater will be reduced.

When it comes to crop monitoring, time-series animations through the drones will be able to display the exact development of a crop and detail any inefficiencies with production. These kinds of insights would have previously only been gained by satellite imagery — while very advanced, this technique could only be used once a day. Monitoring through drones can be used whenever a farmer wishes.

Autonomous farm vehicles

Just like drones, the market for autonomous vehicles is looking very bright. In fact, a comprehensive report by Business Insider Intelligence has forecasted that there will be close to 10 million cars available which will have either semi-autonomous or fully autonomous capabilities. From a more general perspective, management consulting firm Bain has estimated that the global opportunity for assistive and autonomous technologies for the business-to-business market will be somewhere in the range of $ 22 to $ 26 billion per year by 2025.

Steps have already been made to showcase how autonomous vehicles can assist those in agriculture. For instance, a team of agricultural engineers from the Harper Adams University in Shropshire have set about creating an autonomous tractor which can perform tasks like the drilling, seeding and spraying of land while being steered by a farmer who is positioned not behind the vehicle’s wheel but in a control room. The same team — made up of Johnathan Gill, Kit Franklin and Martin Abell — are also looking into how an automated combine harvester can be used to then harvest the same field.

Explaining the potential benefits of the developments, Mr Franklin told the Daily Mail: “These small autonomous machines will in turn facilitate high resolution precision farming, where different areas of the field, and possibly even individual plants can be treated separately, optimising and potentially reducing inputs being used in field agriculture.

“The tractor driver won’t be physically in the tractor driving up and down a field. Instead, they will be a fleet manager and agricultural analysts, looking after a number of farming robots and meticulously monitoring the development of their crops.”

Meanwhile in the Burgundy region of France, inventor Christophe Millot has been successful in creating a vine-pruning robot. Developed as a counter to a shortage in farm labour, the latest-generation model of the four-wheeled gadget is made up of six cameras, two arms and a tablet computer found inside the robot. These features combine in a way that the machine can learn as it goes about its task so to trim grass around each vine with a cut every five seconds. Latest from the homepage

Out Now: ‘Monument Valley 2’, ‘Farming Simulator 18’, ‘Super Nano Jumpers’, ‘Astro Crash’, ‘The Quest – Thor’s Hammer’, ‘Pocket Claw’, ‘Art of Conquest’ and More

It’s once again time to round up all the big new releases of the week, and with the craziness that is WWDC going on and the surprise release of Monument Valley 2 pretty much clogging up all the featured spots (deservedly so, I should add) it’s actually a pretty light week compared to most. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a bunch of interesting things to play, so check out the full list of new releases below and let us know what you’ve got your eye on. And should anything else noteworthy slip out later than usual, you can bet we’ll let you know.


Armored Warriors – WWII RTS

iTunes Description

In commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, Triniti Interactive presents the most immersive real-time strategy game on mobile devices: Armored Warriors uses proper real-time strategy to take you through the classic campaigns of World War II. You take the role of a fictional commander of a volunteer army, joining in famous battles and aiding nations in their resistance to the Nazi invasions.

Given the special nature of the units, you have complete control over the production of troops and equipment research. As the battles unfold, you will unlock equipment unique to specific countries, including advanced German weaponry, a wide array of prototypes and test equipment. We look forward to meeting your most powerful armored corps!

Forum Thread: Armored Warriors – WWII RTS (by Triniti Interactive Limited)

Art of Conquest

iTunes Description

Explore a huge magical world!

Besiege enemy strongholds to expand your kingdom, slay nefarious dragons with a band of legendary heroes, and challenge players around the world to epic real-time battles!

Forum Thread: Art of Conquest (by Lilith Games)

Astro Crash

iTunes Description

It’s time to get really big and really silly.

Soar through a 60s retro galaxy. Create hilarious spaceships by crashing into smaller ships and fusing with their junk to grow in your own special way. Can you swallow the galaxy? Collect a bunch of cool spaceships like the Lightning Cat, Space Love, Super Charged Hot-Rod, and more! Win them all and fly in style.

Forum Thread: Astro Crash (by Affable Games)

B – The Game

iTunes Description

B is a game about a man on a bench with a bee on a string.

How to play:
Tap left and right to swing.

Forum Thread: B – The Game (by Deadly Serious Media)

Catch The Kitty – Story of Bella

iTunes Description

“Catch The Kitty – Story of Bella” is about choosing the right jump by swiping to the right direction of your next platform & taping on your screen to eliminate the monsters and booby traps on your way. Sounds easy? I guess not, when the speed increases on time to time.
So catch “Bella” on her journey to save the kitty cat from the alien monster around the world.

Forum Thread: Catch The Kitty – Story of Bella (by FAITH Studio)

Dead Plague: Zombie Outbreak

iTunes Description

A few months ago, the secret Research Center leaked a lethal virus “DEAD PLAGUE”. The warm tropical environment spread the virus rapidly, turning people into enraged zombie mutants.

An organization named “BIOCORP” stood out to prevent the virus from spreading. You have been assigned into their strike team to work in the dangerous infected areas to collect DNA samples and reveal the mystery behind the outbreak. There is hope that a cure can be made. Act quickly and decisively to defend mankind from a killer virus spreading across in this survival and action packed top down 3D shooter!

Forum Thread: DEAD PLAGUE: Zombie Outbreak (by GameSpire Ltd.)

Dr. Darkness

iTunes Description

The black magician hits the ashes and has whispered his magical words. With a frightening sound, the sun began to be covered with dust clouds. The darkness and shadow have begun to take over the whole world.

Dr Darkness a superhero.

The dark and shadow sorceress condemned the world to darkness and cursed the light. To protect the darkness, he began to produce creatures with special powers of his own and landed in the dark. The landlord’s soldiers had to be destroyed and the landlord to die so that the world could regain the light and see the sun.

Forum Thread: Dr. Darkness (By Babil Studios)

Fancy Cats Solitaire

iTunes Description

Train your brain with this challenging Fancy Cats Solitaire game. Solitaire is a top notch classical card game that uses a deck of 52 playing cards. You have to place the cards in the right order to complete each challenge. Never feel alone again as adorable cats join you in this single player game.

Forum Thread: Fancy Cats Solitaire (by Genix Lab)

Farming Simulator 18

iTunes Description

Become a modern farmer in Farming Simulator 18! Immerse yourself in a huge open world and harvest many types of crops, take care of your livestock – cows, sheep, and pigs – take part in forestry, and sell your products on a dynamic market to expand your farm!

You have access to a huge selection of over 50 farming vehicles and machines, faithfully recreated from over 30 of the biggest names in the industry, including AGCO™’s most respected brands: Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson and Valtra. Drive and use brand new equipment and harvest sugar beet, potatoes, wheat, canola, corn, and for the first time sunflowers.

Forum Thread: Farming Simulator 18 (By GIANTS Software GmbH)

Flick Heroes

iTunes Description

Climb the tower and battle the hordes in this exciting new RPG. Flick Heroes features fun and fast combat. Simply flick and unleash mayhem!
Collect and level new characters.
Can you get them to the top?

Forum Thread: Flick Heroes (By Storm Giant Studios)

GX Monsters

iTunes Description

GX Monsters is a new and exciting racing game. It’s time for action!

Unlock cutting edge monster trucks and cars. Apply countless customization features! Defeat your opponents in various events and super fun tracks from New York City to Tokyo.

Become the greatest racer of all time!

Forum Thread: GX Monsters (by FunGenerationLab)

Kitty Match Two

iTunes Description

Play with this cute little kitties and match always two of the same kind and fill your personal kitty album! Collect 30 different cute little cats and kitties through your adventure across 30 levels of the best matching game on the App Store! Play matching puzzles and match always two identically cats to earn coins each level and spend them for your favorite little cats! 30 levels of the best matching experience awaits you in kitty match! Start with the easy two by two tile board and progress up to a 8 by 8 board! It its the best and cutest matching game on the App Store and its free to play! Totally awesome!

Forum Thread: Kitty Match Two (By Benjamin Kistler)

Make It Less

iTunes Description

Tap on tiles to make it less: 16 -> 8 -> 4 -> 2. When four tiles have the same number they merge in one.
Don’t let tiles to split more than ⅛ of the set.
Be aware! Time is running out! Make wise and quick choices!

How long will You stay?

Forum Thread: Make It Less (by Empty Stage)

Monument Valley 2

iTunes Description

Guide a mother and her child as they embark on a journey through magical architecture, discovering illusionary pathways and delightful puzzles as you learn the secrets of the Sacred Geometry.

Sequel to the Apple Game of the Year 2014, Monument Valley 2 presents a brand new adventure set in a beautiful and impossible world.

Help Ro as she teaches her child about the mysteries of the valley, exploring stunning environments and manipulating architecture to guide them on their way.

Forum Thread: Monument Valley 2 (by ustwo Games Ltd)

Mushroom Heroes

iTunes Description

Mushroom Heroes is a puzzle-platform video game developed. Retro platformer where the player can switch between three different characters.
You have a 3 mushroom hero and each mushroom has special abilities, some of which the player needs in order to pass certain obstacles.

Forum Thread: Mushroom Heroes (by Serkan Bakar)

o7 Capsuleer!

iTunes Description

o7 Capsuleer!

This is a minimalistic pixel game of space, mining, scanning and researching.

Here you can click space sectors, scanning them. You should earn isks and skill points to buy ships and make your first fleet.

You can collect solar energy, find mineable asteroids or non-mineable asteroids, planets, ice fields, comets, nebulas, solar batteries, stations.

Forum Thread: o7 Capsuleer! (by Andrew Chuprina)

Platforms – Endless Arcade Hopper

iTunes Description

Hop on the moving platforms and reach as many towers as you can!

Just tap the screen to aim and swipe sideways to change direction of the hopper and try not to fall down!

What is your best score?

Forum Thread: PLATFORMS – Endless Arcade Hopper (by Shori Games)

Pocket Claw

iTunes Description

A cute claw machine in your pocket!

Introducing the free claw machine, Pocket Claw from Magic Cube!
The characters of the popular games of Magic Cube are appeared as a toy in the Claw Machines.
Meet and Collect them using various claws on various types of claw machines!

Forum Thread: Pocket Claw (By Magic Cube)

The Quest – Thor’s Hammer

iTunes Description

Through the winter, Thor’s Hammer reverberated in the heavens, bringing thunder, lightning, even dragons. Omens of evil were clear. By summer, fierce marauders from the North came in their longboats. Theft and destruction became the norm. They looted Holy Island’s abbey. No one has dared resist them. They and everyone seem under a curse.

Heroism is needed, so you were summoned. Is your sword arm still strong? You’ll face Viking steel, giants, trolls and new diseases. Grab your weapon. Are you ready to board ship for Hell?

Forum Thread: The Quest – Thor’s Hammer (by Redshift)

Simple Knights

iTunes Description

The warrior who is named ‘Nehmo’ gets a loan to make his mercenaries to earn much money in the war.
But, due to the invasion of Devil and his soldiers, all countries stop fighting and work together.
It gets harder to get a loan due to the lack of jobs to do.
However, it could be another chance.
Let’s head to the base of our enemies and take treasures!

Forum Thread: Simple Knights (By MadCatGames)

SkyWolf – Fully Armed Fighter

iTunes Description

2017 Best arcade shoot’em up “SkyWolf” is released !

150+ Mission

5+ Style Mission
(Origin, Cooperation, Deja Vu, Sudden Death, Fever, …)

Forum Thread: SkyWolf – Fully Armed Fighter (by Min Hyung Lee)


iTunes Description

Move your little ball through a minimalist and colored world. Do everything you can to avoid touching the black tiles or you will face an inevitable death…

Forum Thread: Snoot (by Stgm1)

Soul Warrior – Fight Adventure

iTunes Description

The Soul Warriors are on the quest to destroy the evil boss which conquered all 6 huge areas in their kingdom. In a platform, side-scrolling fight adventure, you need to show great fighting skills, use the right weapons and upgrade your warriors. The soul warriors need your strength and guidance to get back what’s theirs!

Forum Thread: Soul Warrior – Fight Adventure (By Giang Tran)

Space Colonizers Idle Clicker

iTunes Description

With the rapid development of the earth’s civilization, the planet has become worse and worse.
We need another habitat, brave people, take risks for all mankind!

In the process of exploring the beautiful universe, you will go through a variety of strange planet,
You will encounter a variety of lovely aliens.

If you find a suitable planet to live, do not forget your great mission,
Remember to return to Earth, bring human hope, immigration of some human beings.

Forum Thread: Space Colonizers Idle Clicker (by

Super Nano Jumpers

iTunes Description

Super Nano Jumpers is a retro hard as nails platformer with tight control mechanics, This semi autorunner’s controls are simple enough – tap the left side of the screen to halt, tap the right side to jump. With over 75 levels to play across 4 different worlds and 2 different Game modes(Arcade & Time trial) you need to survive these dark dungeons,unlock new characters and make it to the end.

Forum Thread: Super Nano Jumpers (By Xigma Games)

Who Am I: The Tale of Dorothy

iTunes Description

How do you feel if there are other personalities in your head?
Dorothy Watson, the main character of this story is a 14 years old girl who just entered middle school. She looks common to others, but in fact Dorothy has a lot of pain and wounds that peers do not have. Various events that have taken place since childhood have left a terrible trauma to Dorothy. And as the wounds continued to accumulate in the mind, Dorothy’s personality was split into several.

Forum Thread: Who Am I: The Tale of Dorothy(by Onaemo Studio)

X-Tanks Battles- 3D Tank Shooter Game World War 3

iTunes Description

Are you ready for the War III ? Download now one of the best tank games, it’s totally FREE now!

Choose your best X-Tank with unique skills and take part in fast paced real-time combats.

Forum Thread: X-Tanks Battles- 3D Tank Shooter Game World War 3 by (G2 STUDIO COMPANY LIMITED)


iTunes Description

Zombat is an Arcade style score chaser with easy single-tap play. You are the unlucky janitor trapped in school during a zombie invasion. Armed only with yourself and your ingenuity, you have to protect the kids, so you construct “Beef” – the zombie slaying robot with bats as arms. Time “Beef’s” swings to bat items strategically to smash through the zombie horde. Together you will save the day!

Forum Thread: Zombat (by Brackish Games)

4 Fingers

iTunes Description

4 Fingers – the game requires a good reaction and nerves of steel. You have to beat the knife between his fingers, and the knife will gradually accelerate, which further complicates the problem.
Beware of the knife behaves unpredictably!

Under no circumstances should you attempt to repeat what he saw in real life!

Forum Thread: 4 Fingers (by 17Studio)