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Simplifying data management for farmers

Hiring temporary workers and machines for the harvest, sending soil samples to the laboratory for analysis, ordering seed: Farming today involves a great deal of administrative work. A new Internet-based platform will soon make this task easier.

Plowing, sowing, spreading fertilizer, harvesting – The days are gone when farmers labored from dawn to dusk in the fields. Today’s modern farmer spends a considerable part of each day sitting in front of a computer. Everything has to be documented: The crops being cultivated, the parcels of land on which they are grown, the types of fertilizer and pesticide employed. He has to hire the services of specialized firms for the harvest, order next year’s seed, sell the farm’s products. All of these activities require smooth communication between the farm owner or manager, agricultural retailers, and official authorities. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE in Kaiserslautern have developed an information and communication infrastructure called agroConnectrlp in collaboration with the Competence Center for Innovative Information Systems at the University of Applied Sciences in Bingen and the region’s Rural Service Center. “Our solution simplifies the farmer’s administrative workload and supports data communication processes in the agricultural sector,” says IESE project manager Björn Snoek, citing the advantages of agroConnectrlp. The infrastructure is based on standardized business processes that make administrative tasks more efficient. A farmer using the platform has all of the relevant farm management data at his fingertips – including land husbandry data, soil analyses, and official land registry data concerning land use, derived for instance from the FLOrlp geo-information system. All information entered by the user is protected – full data sovereignty is assured. A practical example: A farmer can call up previously stored data to fill in an online order form for a service company he wishes to employ for harvesting. He no longer has to meet with a company representative to show him which fields are concerned: He simply sends the coordinates in an electronic message. The researchers are now adapting agroConnectrlp for use in other applications, such as consumer protection. For instance, if pesticide residues are detected in potatoes, it will be possible to identify the farm where they were grown, in which particular field, and what pest control measures were carried out there. The agroConnectrlp project will be presented to professional visitors during the Rhineland-Palatinate “Grüne Woche” exhibition from October 20 to 24, 2008, in the presence of Prof. Dr. Siegfried Englert, state secretary in the region’s Ministry for Economic Affairs, Transportation, Agriculture and Viniculture.

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