Project AGRARSENSE: Solutions for automated and sustainable agriculture

A reliable food supply is one of the elementary basic needs of our society. What has long been taken for granted is gaining new urgency in the face of current challenges such as climate change, supply chain problems, labor shortages and political and military aggression. Researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT are working on innovative solutions for more productive and at the same time more sustainable agriculture and forestry as part of the EU project AGRARSENSE.   

© MEV-Verlag

The 52 partners from 15 European countries are addressing seven target applications in the project: Greenhouse, Vertical Farming, Wine and Forestry, Agricultural Robotics, Nutrient Content and Fertilizer Use in Soils, and Water Analytics. For the aforementioned application areas, the project partners want to develop technological solutions that support farmers in their crop management. The focus is equally on increased productivity and environmentally friendly methods. The combination of sensor solutions and modern communications technology as well as data analyses will enable partially automated farming and provide farmers with concrete recommendations for action.

The Fraunhofer EMFT research team is working on the development of an agricultural robot as part of the project. This is to drive automatically over the fields and determine the condition of crops in order to be able to precisely apply the necessary care measures. Using an electronic nose, the robot will detect volatile gases that plants emit when under stress. In order to effectively guide the emissions from the plants to the sensors in the robot nose, the researchers develop a continuous gas sampling comprised of a piezoelectrically driven micro diaphragm pump. It will be integrated to a sensing device to form a miniaturized VOC sensing platform. Furthermore, the team intends to explore smart micropump control strategies to perform pressure and volume-controlled sampling.

© Fraunhofer EMFT/ Bernd Müller
Stainless steel micropump developed at Fraunhofer EMFT

Water and fertilize on demand

In the long term, this VOC sensing platform should make it possible to detect not only whether a plant is under stress, but also exactly what kind of stress it is under: lack of water, too few nutrients or pests. The advantage of this method: Water, fertilizer and pesticides no longer have to be distributed over a large area, but can be applied to the plants in a targeted manner and as needed - in addition to financial savings for the farmer, this contributes to more sustainable farming.

The project is funded by the EU research program KDT Joint Undertaking (JU) under Grant Agreement No. 101095835.

You might also be interested in:

Strategic Research Topic: Sensors and Actuators for Smart Farming

Project: Fraunhofer Center for Biogenic Value Creation and Smart Farming