Digital Farming – the Future of Agriculture

In 2011, Danish brothers Jens and Kristian Warming developed the FD20 robot for autonomous seeding and weeding. Together with Siemens, they have established a sustainable, profitable and eco-friendly alternative to conventional agricultural methods and a way to help farmers fully utilize their fields.

A heavy tractor rumbles through the fields damaging the sensitive soil while pesticides fill the air. Thankfully, worst-case scenarios like this are increasingly a thing of the past and have been replaced by smarter ideas for the agriculture industry. As awareness of organic, responsible and sustainable food grows in our society, conventional farming with synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is becoming progressively more sidelined. The new promising keyword is e-agriculture. The term describes information and communication technologies in agriculture and focuses on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. The consumer wants transparency and organic vegetables. As one of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens can provide solutions with smart innovations and advanced applications.

The best of both worlds

Growing up in a Danish family of farmers, brothers Jens and Kristian Warming have had a comprehensive understanding of processes and production in farming since their childhood. “We were growing sugar beets and there were a lot of weeds in the crops. At the same time, we have always been enthusiastic about new technologies. We knew that we need to do better with our sugar beets, and then I saw a Siemens video with a GPS solution. This was the starting point for the FD20,” Jens Warming explains, reflecting on the first steps. 

New technologies for a long-established industry

Jens and Kristian developed a field robot that helps farmers and plant growers reduce the costs for the sowing and weeding of crops while keeping farming carbon neutral and organic. Th FD20 is powered by solar panels, which ensures flexibility of movement and makes it an eco-friendly solution. The integrated GPRS system and the implementation of 3G and 4G oversees the remote connection in order to update the firmware. It remembers exactly where plants were seeded. With its DataLog function, the Siemens SIMATIC S7-1200 controller can easily find the plants and subsequently weed precisely around them. Since the frame is made of lightweight steel, the FD20 is able to gently roll through the fields without damaging the microstructure of the soil. Farmers and plant growers benefit extensively from the FD20 because it does not just weed between the rows but also within the rows – which conventional machines are not able to do. The robot can tend to many different vegetables.

Our customers use the FD20 for onions, beets, spinach and many other crops. It can handle at least 20 hectares in one season.

Boosting the idea with professional support

Two ambitious and shrewd inventors need smart technologies. Siemens can provide this in many facets. From the very beginning, the FD20 was equipped with innovative Siemens technology. The brothers and Siemens worked in close collaboration to get the most out of the robot. “The centralizing controller is the PLC SIMATIC S7-1500. It collects and stores the data and checks it. Moreover, the PLC SIMATIC S7-1500 makes sure that the firmware is always the up-to-date version, otherwise it provides an update. In the robot, the SIMATIC S7-1200 is integrated. The remote connection is a VPN tunnel based on Ethernet. It’s our central communication hub. It handles all of the navigation. Furthermore, we use a CM 1241 communication module for all the communication and protocols. Data is very important to our customers”, Kristian and Jens explain. Every robot is connected to the internet, which makes remote updates easy, since the robot does not need to move from its work area to be diagnosed, updated or reconfigured.

Digitalization is a fact of life

Siemens continues to take social and corporate responsibility seriously and will further support smart and sustainable companies like Farmdroid. The world continues to change rapidly and, particularly during the strained times of corona, digital solutions can make a huge impact. Farmdroid has the potential to make a beneficial contribution and help farmers during lockdown and with restrictions in place. “It was not possible to get manual labor on the field, so the FD20 took care of the weeds. Without this, the farmers wouldn’t have got any yields”, Kristian Warming summarizes.

There is more to come

Though the FD20 is already well comprehensive and provides very good results, the brothers will continue to explore suitable opportunities to collaborate with Siemens using the best technologies to perform a smart connection and benefit from the innovative features of S7-1200 like cloud connection. This offers transparency and high data availability to FD20 end-users. A smart connection is the most robust and secure remote connection and always provides an updated version of the program with continuous customer service. 

 

The future is exciting, as technology never stands still and passionate pioneers are always coming up with smart innovations. As usual, Siemens will continue to lead the way.