Eight digital trial fields launched

On Wednesday at the International Green Week in Berlin, Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner confirmed the funding of two more digital trial fields on agricultural holdings and in rural areas. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has earmarked funds of more than EUR 50 million over the next three years.

With these trial fields, the BMEL is promoting digitalisation in agriculture. The digital test fields are intended to help research digital technologies in horticulture and animal breeding and test their practicability.

With the digital trial fields, the BMEL has established a new funding tool to harness the potential of digitalisation in agriculture. Trial fields are digital test fields on agricultural holdings which perform tests to analyse - among other things - how digital technologies can best be used to protect the environment, improve animal welfare, promote biodiversity and reduce workloads. Start-ups can also take part in the project. For interested practitioners, the trial fields serve as points of contact that provide information on digitalisation opportunities in agriculture.

The first two trial fields were launched in September 2019, four more in October 2019 and the last two were launched in January 2020. The aim is to have 14 trial fields up and running by spring 2020 - eight in the area of horticulture, three on animal husbandry and three interdisciplinary trial fields. All in all, 25 proposals were submitted. The trial fields are located all over Germany and focus on different areas. The trial fields that were launched most recently focus on a range of topics, such as the use of the new 5G mobile broadband standard in agriculture, optimising the combined use of land machinery based on digital data exchange in plant production to reduce the application of fertiliser and plant protection products, animal-friendly husbandry of milk cows by using digital technologies and the use of digital technologies in small holdings.

Trial fields already launched

  • Landnetz - Technical University of Dresden (Coordinator) - Topic: Nationwide communication and cloud networks for agriculture 4.0 and the rural areas
  • Express - Leipzig University (Coordinator) - Topic: Trial field on data-driven networks and digitalisation in agriculture
  • Agro-Nordwest - Agrotech Valley Forum (Coordinator) - Topic: Project on cross-company practice-oriented further development of digital farming solutions in horticulture
  • BeSt-SH - R&D center Kiel University of Applied Sciences (Coordinator) - Topic: Farm management and material flow management - interlinked agriculture in Schleswig-Holstein
  • Diabek - Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (Coordinator) - Topic: Apply, evaluate and communicate digitilisation - Cooperation between family-led arable farms and practice-oriented educational institutions
  • Digimilch - Bavarian State Institute of Agriculture (Coordinator) - Topic: Digitalisation in milk production – Demonstration, testing and evaluation of new digital products and services along the agricultural milk production chain
  • DigiVine - Julius Kühn Institute (Coordinator) - Topic: Digitilisation in the value adding network of viticulture: From planting to grape delivery
  • Cattle-Hub - Bonn University (Coordinator) - Topic: Support systems for smart cattle husbandry - “CattleHub”

Digital test fields as drivers of innovation

Digitalisation provides an array of new opportunities to make agricultural professions more attractive, fit for the future and successful.

Federal Minister Julia Klöckner believes that digitalisation is a tool to overcome black-and-white thinking and to resolve the ideology trap in agriculture: “If we want to reduce the amount of plant protection products, we should not ban the products altogether but rather facilitate a more precise and tailor-made application. We want to fill the term “precision farming” with life and link it to specific developments and applications. With digitalisation we can protect and support plants according to their needs and we can evaluate and improve animal welfare. Instead of using our gut feeling, we will use facts, figures and science”, says Julia Klöckner.

Digital trial fields can thus drive innovation and acceptance since they contribute to sustainability as a whole by protecting the environment and conserving nature.

Competence network established on digital technologies in the agriculture sector

Around 30 experts from science and associations and spokespersons of the trial fields met for the inaugural meeting of the competence network on “Digital technologies in the agricultural sector”. The network is chaired by Prof. Dr. Hessel, the Commissioner for Digitalisation at the BMEL. Members of the competence network will provide comprehensive knowledge of digitalisation and agriculture to support and guide the trial fields. They will contribute to the creation of networks, offer scientific support and enhance synergy effects. Current developments and challenges from all areas of digitalisation in agriculture will be analysed within the network and solutions developed. The competence network is scheduled to meet twice a year and will be supported by an office in the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

Background note

Digitalisation in agriculture means that two highly complex systems meet. In order to seize the opportunities for society, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) developed the Programme on the Future of Digital Policy for Agriculture. This programme identifies the BMEL's related measures and initiatives and aims to provide targeted support to further develop digitalisation. For the period up until 2022, EUR 60 million have been earmarked for digitalisation and modernisation of the agricultural sector - which is key for making the sector future-proof and the green professions more attractive.

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