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Demonstration of a cloud-based precision farming management system for a sustainable and intensive agriculture to secure long-term food supply in Europe - Phase II

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AgriCloud P2 (Demonstration of a cloud-based precision farming management system for a sustainable and intensive agriculture to secure long-term food supply in Europe - Phase II)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2018-08-31

This proposal targets the pilot application and market introduction of AgriCloud, an innovative cloud-based Precision Farming (PF) management system to facilitate a more efficient and sustainable production of crops in Europe. PF systems generate vast amounts of data during field work. However, due to shortcomings of existing PF technologies (time consuming manual integration of read-out from different incompatible data sources, high price), European farmers have been very slow to adopt PF technologies. AgriCloud will be the first cost-effective machinery provider independent plug-and-play PF solution that comprehensively combines plant nutrition and protection expert knowledge with automatically collected real-time-data from the field. AgriCloud collects (via GSM/GPRS) and analyses data from different sources (e.g. sensors, service providers, machinery, weather satellites) and provides to farmer suggestions for optimal plant growth as read-out on mobile end devices or terminals. It also allows farmers to easily control access of third parties to their PF systems for maintenance work (service providers, consultants) or monitoring purposes (governmental authorities).

The project-specific objectives are:
(1) The final development of AgriCloud within the next two years, featuring (i) the AgriBOX operating smoothly on agricultural machinery, (ii) the web client agriPORT with comprehensive management and analysis features and (iii) seven software modules for variable fertilizer application, crop cultivation and protection measures, documentation, telematics and seeding.
(2) Demonstrate AgriCloud at industrial scale within the next two years on six pilot farms to gain at least four success stories, aiming at yield increases by 20%, fertilizer savings by 15% as well as product and soil quality increases, thereby laying the foundations for market introduction according to the commercialization plan.
(3) Market replication and market introduction of AgriCloud within the next three years in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic States each localized according to mapping data, national legislation and national language.
(4) Develop the foreign distribution network and customer base acquiring at least one new Romanian franchise partner and increase the customer base by 300% on average within the next five years.
(5) Gain a turnover of €28m and a market share of 25% for PF management solutions and 4,5% for PF technologies in general within the next five years in the targeted countries.
Development status and technical results after the project are as follows:
- Agricon realised all 26 deliverables of the project.
- The three milestones have been achieved as well.
- All components of the AgriCloud system, incl. AgriBOX, agriPORT, and connected infrastructure have been tested on six pilot farms in Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. The final, ready-to-market version 3 of agriBOX and agriPORT was developed during the second project year. The AgriCloud system is now ready for commercialization.
- All seven software modules were initially or further developed reaching prototype stage. They have been tested and evaluated under different conditions on different farms during the demonstration phases in Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. The results were used to further improve the software to optimally align the functionalities with customer needs.
- The demonstration of the AgriCloud system on the first pilot farm at Agrarproduktion “Elsteraue” GmbH & Co. KG took place successfully in the second half of 2016. The feedback of the local pre-test was important for the preparation of the other demonstration farms, located in Germany as well as abroad. The test results were evaluated, which has led to improvement suggestions of the entire system, that has been handed over to the development team of AgriCloud. The testing and demonstrations of all functionalities were realised at 6 pilot farms in spring time 2017 and at 5 pilot farms in spring 2018.
- Agricon is well on track to achieve market replication and market introduction of AgriCloud within the next three years in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic States. Additionally, activities in Moldova started and they are in the early stages in Ukraine. A comprehensive set of communication, training and dissemination material has been developed for presentations in the target countries, including explanatory videos to i.e. agronomic topics and proper usage of the system. National legislation has been respected in each country.
- The cooperation with the first Romanian franchise partner started and our customer base increased substantially in this region. In all other foreign target countries the contacts and works have been intensified throughout this project. At the moment, Moldova as well as the Ukraine are on track to become good sales regions for AgriCloud products.

Exploitation and dissemination actions:
After the start of the project, agricon set up a project website. Explanatory videos about the functioning and benefits of AgriCloud were also produced in different languages. Agricon and their partners attended 2 conferences, visited 25 fairs in Germany, Poland, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Serbia and Estonia and organised 64 events. The company presented the AgriCloud system to 129 clients. New customers were also addressed within 38 roadshows. Moreover, Agricon installed the Agricon Academy for their customer base. The market resonance is high so that we are highly confident about future market acceptance and company growth perspectives.
- The market introduction in the target countries has been achieved as planned and already new countries are in an early market development stage.
- The estimated savings of 20% yield increase and 15% fertilizer usage have been reported as valid from the pilot farm tests. In general, the use of AgriCloud applications will always generate positive effects, the exact amount is depending on various factors on the farm.
- The supplier for the hardware in terms of sensors or AgriBoxes are selected and qualified.
- All franchise partners are well trained and a procedure to regularly refresh the knowledge was put in practice. An ERP system was set up, which is also available for the franchise partners. Thus, we have a well-organized “backbone” of the business to accelerate the AgriCloud sales.
- The growth figures on short term have been adjusted due to climate change aspects (specifically the drought period in 2018). Sales expectations have cooled down, as in 2018 farmers have harvested relatively poorly caused by the long drought period. Moreover, this drought also has had a negative impact on the sowing conditions for the coming crop.