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Nov 28, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Smart agriculture: USA working on smart farms project

The Farmbeats programme is currently being trialled at a US Department of Agriculture research centre in Maryland. Making use of new technologies to collect real-time data on farm conditions more quickly and more reliably, the programme aims to provide viable energy management and saving solutions. 


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a major initiative designed to develop the use of new technologies in the industry. Going by the name of Data Innovations, the project aims to make artificial intelligence, big data and connected objects available to farmers and growers, as reported by the website Objet Connecté.  


The end of “green books” 


These tools can be used to give industry professionals access to accurate information on their farms in real time. This new method of collecting data will replace a system whereby the farmers themselves jot down key figures and data in so-called “green books”.  

The data from these books is entered in a central database and can be used by USDA researchers to carry out their work. The drawback with this method, however, is that data is passed on slowly and can sometimes be inaccurate. There is also the fact that archived data is not easy to research and that some figures are lost when a farmer or grower stops trading. 


Testing under way 


The use of digital innovations will transform the current system. The USDA is currently trialling their implementation in the farming world as part of Farmbeats, a pilot programme that has just got under way at its Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Maryland. 

A number of drones, sensors and agricultural machines are being tested at the 3,000-hectare site to determine their effectiveness in collecting data. 


Data turned into solutions 


The data they collect is transferred to a cloud where it is analysed by an AI algorithm, with a data visualisation then being provided. The USDA is hoping to one day have a global view of all agricultural activities, allowing it to put forward suggestions on energy saving and, in more general terms, farm management. 

In attempting to make that happen, the USDA has teamed up with Microsoft with a view to using its Azure platform. It is also working with Esri, which develops mapping software. If these initial tests are a success, the USDA will equip some 200 farms across the country and 90 research centres with the technology. 


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