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Future farming combines sustainability with productivity and efficiency

Scientists from Aarhus University are involved in a project with a total budget of nearly 100m DKK that will prepare farming for a future where sustainability and intensive, efficient and productive crop production go hand in hand.

2015.06.30 | Janne Hansen

A new research project will provide agriculture with the possibility of treating fields on the basis of their individual traits and conditions. Photo: Janne Hansen

Danish environmental regulations for the supply of nutrients to plants mean that the emission of nutrients from agriculture to the aquatic environment has fallen. This has, however, come at a cost. The suboptimal fertilisation in relation to crop need has led to stagnating yields and quality in the past 20 years.

 

Future Cropping is a new innovative project that intends to remedy this problem by getting the best of both worlds: protecting the environment while maintaining a high-yielding and efficient crop production. This is to be achieved by integrating a range of data, decision support systems and various technological solutions that enable the farmer to tailor his management according to the local and actual conditions in the field.

 

The project partners expect that project results may lead to an increased annual turnover in crop production and the agricultural technology sector of around 0.6 billion DKK, and that it will create new jobs in the agricultural sector by 2030 while also reducing the environmental impact.

 

The five-year project has a total budget of 100m DKK, of which 23.6m is earmarked for Aarhus University. Innovation Fund Denmark contributes 50m DKK, of which 15.9m goes to Aarhus University.

 

Differentiated treatment of fields

Not all fields are created equal and it would do the environment, agriculture and the economy a favour if they were not treated equally. The comprehensive innovation project will provide research-based knowledge developed and tested in practice in cooperation with the industry and give agriculture the opportunity to treat the fields on the basis of their individual characteristics and conditions.

 

The government's Commission on Nature and Agriculture has recommended that the current regulations for general fertilizer standards and constraints on production are changed to a more differentiated and targeted regulation. The project therefore aims to develop and commercialise more efficient and sustainable solutions for crop production which will increase the yield per hectare by about two percent per year. The increased efficiency coupled with the sustainability principle will benefit Denmark's environment, agriculture, employment and export market.

 

Integration of data as a basis for further development

What is new and special about the project is that it will develop a platform for information and communication technology (ICT) to enable the collation and integration of large amounts of data from diverse information sources. These data will form the basis for the development of intelligent, efficient and sustainable technologies, solutions and cultivation techniques for site-specific and high-yielding crop production with a low environmental impact.

 

The project consists of nine work packages. Scientists from Aarhus University participate in eight of these and are leaders of five of them. The work packages are wide-ranging in their scope and aim to significantly increase the efficiency of all the major operations in crop production. Besides developing an advanced ICT platform, the project will develop, test and demonstrate techniques and technologies for, among others, intelligent tillage and crop establishment, intelligent and sustainable fertilization, intelligent harvesting, and differentiated nitrogen regulation and drainage.

 

The nine work packages and their leaders are:

  • Data platform (Thomas S. Toftegaard, Department of Engineering, Aarhus University)
  • Impact assessment (University of Copenhagen)
  • Certification and testing (AgroTech)
  • Intelligent tillage and crop establishment (Lars Munkholm, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University)
  • Intelligent and sustainable fertilisation (René Gislum, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University)
  • Microbial inoculations (University of Copenhagen)
  • Crop monitoring and protection (University of Copenhagen)
  • Intelligent harvesting (Claus Aage Grøn Sørensen, Department of Engineering, Aarhus University)
  • Differentiated nitrogen regulation and drainage (Charlotte Kjærgaard, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University)

 

FACTS ABOUT THE PROJECT

  • Project name: Future Cropping
  • Budget: 100m DKK
  • Grant from Innovation Fund Denmark: 50m DKK
  • Project duration: Five years
  • Project partners: Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen, Kongskilde Industries A/S, SEGES (formerly the Knowledge Centre for Agriculture), Orbicon A/S, Ejlskov A/S, Yara Danmark Gødning A/S, Novozymes A/S, Agro Business Park and AgroTech A/S. Other participants are GEUS, FOSS, and Rambøll. The project coordinator is SEGES.
  • Scientists from Aarhus University are involved in eight of the nine work packages in the project and are word package leaders on five of them.

 

For further information please contact:

Head of Department Erik Steen Kristensen, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: erik@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7775, mobile: +45 2091 0371

 

Head of Department Thomas Skjødeberg Toftegaard, Department of Engineering, e-mail: tst@eng.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 6168

DCA, Technology, Agro