Optimising production systems through Smart Farming


Mechanisation leads to a continuous streamlining of agricultural production, with the factor of ‘work’ in the form of machines and mechanical equipment being replaced by capital. Over the last 25 years, traditional mechanisation has increasingly been supplemented with information and communication technologies (ICTs). Through their use, people are freed from routine tasks and can make more efficient use of labour, better exploit available resources, and improve the quality of production processes and products. The psychological stress components of this process are increasingly obvious, however. Mental barriers are also often in play, since the farmers feel unable to cope with the new technologies, or are overtaxed by their use.

Sensor-steered, automated processes are increasingly available for optimising production systems and for quality assurance. In addition to decision-making bases for the use of humans and machines, Smart Farming (SF) systems and their networking offer new potentials for a more economical, lower-emission and resource-saving production. Here, there is a fundamental need for research to determine the conditions in which these new technologies can provide added value in the Swiss agriculture and food sector. Potential solutions can be indicated with regard to the high labour costs, high quality requirements and the increasing need for obligatory documentation.

Scientific Objectives and Research Questions

Scientific objectives

  1. To render agricultural production more competitive, more ergonomic, and more animal- and environmentally friendly with the use of Smart Farming systems.
  2. To develop, optimise and evaluate innovative sensor technologies, data-processing models, decision-support systems and production processes in order to improve agricultural production systems.

The main concrete research questions for Agroscope are as follows:

  1. What indicators can be used to evaluate modern technologies, thereby allowing farmers to rank new applications from a work economics, economic and ergonomic perspective?
  2. How can new technical solutions (e.g. apps, use of UHF-RFID technology) help reduce administrative load and improve product traceability?
  3. What economic, environmental and work-economics (impacts and) effects can be expected from the use of new technologies?
  4. What demands do farm managers place on new, modern technologies, and what are the determining factors for their acceptance?
  5. What might autonomous cybernetic systems for optimising production processes and systems in plant production and animal husbandry look like?
  6. How can production processes and production systems, e.g. for irrigating tree and vegetable crops and for milk production, be optimised via digital technologies?