How the Baywa wants to fight weeds

Baywa chopping robot “Dino”

The machine can be used for mechanical weed control on vegetables and herbs.

Munich Agriculture is seen as a rather conservative industry. In terms of digitization, however, this is only partially true: the use of tractors with GPS-controlled tracking systems, milking robots and weather apps is already part of everyday life for many farms.

Now the shortage of staff and the trend towards sustainability with ever stricter regulations could lead to the next push of automation.

The new hacking robot “Dino” will play an important role in this. This can be used for mechanical weed control on vegetables and herbs. With the help of satellite data, he chops the weeds between the rows and, thanks to camera sensors, also within the rows.

“The use of pesticides such as glyphosate can thus be avoided or reduced,” says Jörg Migende, who is responsible for digital farming at the agricultural trading group Baywa. Workers for such simple mechanical tasks can hardly be found, and such a robot pays for itself with just a few hectares of field vegetables – and the farmer has time for more demanding tasks.

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Digital systems are already widespread in agriculture. According to a study by Bitkom and the German Farmers’ Association (DBV), almost half of the farms use intelligent feeding systems and GPS-controlled agricultural machines. “Digitization of individual processes or production methods is part of everyday life in agriculture,” says DBV General Secretary Bernhard Krüsken.

Save resources and reduce harmful substances

There is great interest in further digitization of the industry, not only because of the shortage of personnel. “By using the latest scientifically sound – including digital – technologies, modern crop production enables crops to be effectively protected, fertilized with little loss and negative effects on the environment to be significantly minimized,” says the final report of the Federal Government’s Agriculture Commission for the Future.

Jörg Migende

The Chief Business Development Officer for Agriculture and Digital Farming at Baywa regards milking robots as a prime example of useful automation.

Because many sides are calling for agriculture to be more environmentally and climate-friendly. However, consumers are often not prepared to dig deeper into their pockets for this. Therefore, digitization should help to save resources and reduce the use of harmful resources.

Migende gives an example: If the fertilizer is applied by a tractor with GPS control, there is less overlap when spreading. This is all the more true if the amount of fertilizer or pesticides is optimized for the respective section with the help of data such as weather, soil conditions and growth.

The steps are linked with one another through intelligent process control – smart farming. For this purpose, Baywa and its subsidiary Farmfacts have developed an intelligent farm management information system. “A quarter of the agricultural area in Germany is managed with this software,” says Migende.

“We need 5G behind every milk can”

With programs such as Next Farming, farmers can plan the cultivation and determine the fertilizer requirement for example with the help of algorithms based on satellite data. In order to combat the harmful European corn borer, drones use a Baywa solution to drop capsules over the corn containing the parasitic wasp eggs. These are then supposed to attack the European corn borer’s egg clutches.

But there is still reluctance in many places. Around 68 percent of farmers still see low cost efficiency, for example because their farm is comparatively small. “The initially high investment costs are a major reason why mostly well-capitalized large companies still benefit from the autonomy,” said Jens Henningsen from the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering.

Around 40 percent forego the use of digital aids because they have outdated technology and no high-performance broadband or cellular network. “The supply is still unsatisfactory,” says Baywa manager Migende. “We need 5G behind every milk can.”

More: Agrarian reform: how the EU wants to change agriculture

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