VTT explores Big Data to develop sustainable solutions for agriculture

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15 Jan 2018 --- VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing new solutions for the responsible and sustainable use of the resources of agriculture, forestry and fishery, as part of an international consortium. The main goal is to use Big Data particularly in the raw material production for the bioeconomy industry to produce food, energy and biomaterials. In forestry, MHG Systems is leading pilots that develop services enabled by forest data.

The Data-Driven Bioeconomy project (DataBio), co-funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, deals with massive flows of information collected through sensors placed in the soil and air, as well as from aerial and satellite imagery. The aim is to improve the decision-making of farmers, foresters and fishermen.
 
The 26 agriculture, forestry and fishery pilots of the project are developing common software tools for analyzing and refining information flows. The pilot results and new solutions are also expected to create new business opportunities and increase the use of Big Data technologies in the primary production for the bioeconomy industry.

Pilots to develop new solutions for sustainable development
In agriculture and forestry, remote monitoring can be used to improve productivity in a responsible and sustainable manner. In the pilots lead by Finnish partners, the focus is particularly on using remote sensing for improving forest management that already is on a high level in Finland through the Mesään.fi e-service of The Forest Centre and other forestry e-services. VTT is responsible for the technical coordination of the project.

“The Finnish pilots are developing new tools and operating models based on remote sensing and data sharing that will help forest owners and other parties to improve forest growth and economic yield in a sustainable manner. This is a step forward in countries where traditional methods for forest management are based on 'static' management plans, created at the planting stage, and which lack tools for monitoring the implementation of such plans,” says Caj Södergård, Research Professor at VTT.

Satellite images are used to identify forest damages and prepare felling plans. Growing trees can be mapped even more precisely using airborne laser scanning. These methods can be used to automatically identify tree species, amounts and health, which means that forest owners can better plan their operations. 
 
The forestry pilots focus on solutions related to forest data management, data sharing and data crowdsourcing as well as on the development of forest resource inventory and forest health monitoring services for forest owners, other operators and authorities,” says Seppo Huurinainen from MHG Systems, who coordinates the forestry pilots implemented in four different countries.

In precision agriculture, measurement data on fields is mainly collected from local weather stations and sensors placed in the soil to ensure the optimal growth and development of the crop. Even remote control of the sowing, fertilizing and other operations of agricultural machinery are possible based on measurement data. In addition to sensor data, satellite images and other data sources are widely used, including surveying and map data.

The aim of DataBio’s fishery pilots is not to increase the level of fish catch, but to reduce fishing costs. They focus on the tropical tuna fisheries outside Spain and the small pelagic fisheries in the North Atlantic Ocean. The pilots are developing technologies to improve the energy efficiency and preventive maintenance of fishing vessels.

The DataBio consortium includes 48 partners from 17 countries. The total budget of the three-year project is €16.2 million. In addition to Finland, the other countries taking part in the project are Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Norway, Poland, Italy, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Estonia, France and Romania. Intrasoft is responsible for the administrative coordination of the project. The project will end in 2019.

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