Technology

Ready for the Agriculture of the Future

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Tags: ZeroEmissions, Connectivity, Emobility, Efficiency

A growing world population needs more productive and sustainable agriculture. Smart farming provides the key to the challenges facing the agricultural industry.
Kathrin Wildemann, November 14, 2019
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Kathrin Wildemann has been a part of the permanent Copy Team at ZF since 2016. In her online and offline articles, she likes to cover electromobility and other topics that involve sustainability.
The world population is growing by two people every second. Around 9.6 billion people will live on our planet in 2050 – almost twice as many as in 1987. Agricultural production must increase by almost 50 percent compared to 2013 in order to meet their demand for food, biofuels, and other agricultural products. These are the numbers provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However, one important factor is not growing with the world population: for several years now, the available agricultural land has remained constant at around 37 percent of the global land area. In fact, this percentage has decreased somewhat since the late 1990s.

Drought, heat, extreme weather: how climate change affects agriculture

Drought, heat, extreme weather: how climate change affects agriculture
A further global trend is hampering the enormous task facing the agricultural sector. For agriculture is the economic sector that is being hit particularly hard by the consequences of climate change. Even if higher temperatures and more precipitation in more temperate climates can have a positive effect for the time being, heat, drought, and flooding will ultimately lead to a decline in crop yields worldwide. Low-income countries in warmer regions in particular, where farmers often do not have the resources to adapt their operations to the changed conditions, are already severely affected today.
Farmers, therefore, need methods to massively increase their productivity in order to be able to feed all 9.6 billion people in 2050 – and at the same time have to work in a resource-efficient and sustainable way. Technological trends that have already fundamentally changed many other areas of our everyday lives provide a key to this: the digitalization and networking of various devices, information, and independently operating systems on the Internet of Things.

Agricultural production must increase by almost
50 Percent
by 2050 in order to keep pace with the needs of a growing world population.

That’s how eTRAC facilitates work on slopes or soaked soils. The additional thrust of eTRAC also allows the farmer to pull a heavier trailer with a weaker motorized tractor.

Smart farming takes digitalization and networking to farms

Smart farming takes digitalization and networking to farms
On future farms, sensors in the farmland will monitor moisture and other soil properties, while drones will track the condition of plants from the air. Based on such data, the required amount of irrigation, fertilizer, or pesticides can be determined precisely and applied selectively. The seed is distributed by a tractor equipped with smart assistance systems which, thanks to high-resolution maps, makes optimal use of the available arable land and precisely follows the calculated route. Meanwhile, farmers can concentrate on their actual tasks and monitor the sowing process.
All in all, such a networked system not only cuts down on costs for expensive raw materials, but also protects the environment. The Bavarian State Research Institute for Agriculture estimates that a digital farm consumes ten percent fewer herbicides and 20 percent less fuel.
The close-to-wheel eTRAC electric drive: integrated into a plow, for example, it provides purely electric traction support.

ZF is also pursuing this smart farming approach with its agricultural portfolio. “Efficient, safe, and networked – this is our vision for the agriculture of the future,” says Dr. Karl Grad, who is responsible for the Agricultural Machinery Systems product line at ZF. “With our systems, we want to help farmers equip their farms for tomorrow’s challenges.” With its connectivity solution ZFlink, the Group allows for the condition of agricultural equipment to be monitored at any time using an app or the maintenance of vehicles to be scheduled in advance on the basis of data derived from the driveline. This reduces downtimes, consequential damage, and costs. Radar-based assistance systems for tractors that detect pedestrians and cyclists ensure greater safety on the farm and on the way to the fields.
The connectivity solution ZFlink allows for the condition of agricultural equipment to be monitored at any time using an app or the maintenance of vehicles to be scheduled in advance on the basis of data derived from the driveline.

More efficiency, fewer emissions

More efficiency, fewer emissions
ZF’s Vision Zero, aimed at creating a world without accidents and emissions, is also addressing another issue: agriculture is not only hit especially hard by climate change – it is also one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. It accounts for around 21 percent of global emissions. A large part of this is methane and nitrogen oxides from livestock farming. But the exhausts from agricultural vehicles also have an impact. Electric auxiliary drives for tractors, equipment, or trailers offer considerable fuel and carbon dioxide savings potentials. In line with the motto “ZF electrifies everything”, the Group has developed solutions for a wide variety of applications.
In ZF’s AgriApp all information is clearly prepared.

One example of this is the close-to-wheel eTRAC electric drive: integrated into a plow, for example, it provides purely electric traction support, and thus facilitates work on slopes or soaked soils. The additional thrust of eTRAC also allows the farmer to pull a heavier trailer with a weaker motorized tractor. This is not only good for the climate, but also for the subsoil. After all, the compaction of arable land is one of the most common problems in agriculture.