January 6, 2022

FlexiGroBots: Smart Farming with AI and Big Data

In the future, robots will help farmers to cultivate their fields more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way. What makes them so special? Not only do they work, but they also collect data in the process. This data provides precise information on the condition of the soil and plants, on yields and pest infestation. As part of the European research project FlexiGroBots, IDSA ensures that this data can be exchanged and processed in a secure way.
Markos Matsas

The Horizon Europe project FlexiGroBots brings together a multidisciplinary consortium made up of 16 organizations and companies from eight countries with different areas of expertise. The common goal is to build an open platform where roboticists, engineers and service providers can develop flexible multi-robot systems for the agricultural and food sector.

IDS reference architecture as the basis for an open platform

On the one hand, the platform is a Mission Control Center. It offers services for the semi-autonomous operation of multi-robot missions and for human involvement during operation and mission planning. On the other hand, it is an Agricultural Data Space (ADS) that enables the exchange, processing and trading of agricultural data. It brings together various actors to mutually benefit from each others’ data. The platform is based on the IDS reference architecture to realize a data value chain that maximizes synergies, collaboration and trade with data while at the same time ensuring data sovereignty, governance and security for data-driven digital ecosystems.

As part of the research project, the platform and its various components will be demonstrated and validated in three scenarios. One of these pilot areas is the O Rosal vineyard of the Terras Gauda winery in Spain. The winery owns over 160 hectares of vineyards in which three native varieties are grown. However, like all plants, vines can be attacked by diseases. The mold Botrytis cinerea, also known as “gray rot”, penetrates the grain and forms a gray layer around the grape. This has fatal consequences for the plants: Their fruits become inedible, they threaten to die. It is therefore all the more important to detect the fungal infestation early – also with the help of robots.

A fleet of robots for more sustainability

At the O Rosal vineyard, an entire fleet of robots is used for various activities to detect gray rot at an early stage. First, drones took aerial images of the vines in real-time. They help assess the health of the plot and the grapes. This information is passed on to soil robots. Equipped with sensors and artificial vision, they approach areas where the disease may be present and send images. This allows experts to determine whether treatment is needed. If vines are infested, soil robots carry out local plant protection treatments. This reduces the use of pesticides and helps avoid treating non-infested plants.

The project FlexiGroBots has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 101017111.

Author: Markos Matsas
Markos Matsas is Senior Project Manager at International Data Spaces Association.

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