Globally, the agricultural industry is less digitalised compared to other industries. In response to new technical advancements, the agricultural industry is starting to embrace Industry 4.0 technologies, and the next phase of agricultural advancement, coined Agriculture 4.0, is underway.
The agriculture industry can benefit greatly from integration of Industry 4.0 technologies including artificial intelligence, big data analytics, connected sensors, and autonomous machinery. Properly integrating advanced technologies into the agricultural industry will allow farmers to make better informed decisions regarding crop and animal health based on real-time data to facilitate increased yield, improve environmental sustainability practices, and better respond and adapt to climate change.
More efficient and sustainable agricultural practices are extremely important moving forward. The world population is expected grow from 7.6 billion to 10 billion by 2050. The increase in population is expected to increase the global demand for food by 50% compared to the 2013 global agricultural output. In addition, available farmland is rapidly degrading, and water resources are under extreme stress. Simply put, maintaining the status quo on the agricultural practices that have been commonplace over the past few decades is not an option when faced with growing food demand and environmental concerns.
Agriculture 4.0 is working to address the concerns regarding sustainability and increasing global demand while reducing negative environmental impacts. Integration of technologies like temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology, will enable the agricultural industry to make huge strides towards being more efficient, and environmentally friendly while meeting the global needs of an expanding population.
Food Agility CRC
Food Agility CRC is a cooperative research centre supported by the Australian government that is focused on changing the way food is produced, supplied, and consumed by developing data-driven technology for the agrifood industry. Food Agility CRC’s development efforts include:
- Predicting Harvest Time and Yield in Intensive Cropping
Environmental factors like rainfall, wind, frost, and temperature directly impact the quality and quantity of fruit produced. The complex interactions of environmental factors make it difficult for producers and processors to plan and manage resources pre- and post-harvest. To address this challenge, Food Agility CRC is using artificial intelligence (AI), historical and current season growing data, and real-time micro-climate data to develop models that accurately predict yield and harvest dates for Treasury Wine Estate wine grapes and Costa Group berries. The prediction models will enable producers to better plan their labour, equipment, and logistics to maximum efficiency and reduce waste. 
- On-Farm Water Demand
Climate change is putting pressure on regional areas’ access to water for irrigation. To help establish the value of water to industry and local communities, Food Agility CRC is working to provide reliable, independent data on water demand in the Warren-Donnelly catchment in south-west Western Australia. Thirty participating farms growing a variety of crops will have sensors installed to measure irrigation events, soil moisture, and forecasted weather to enable farmers to see how their seasonal water productivity compares to other farms in the region. The gathered data will be aggregated with additional information to calculate water demand across the total catchment. A model will be developed based on this information to calculate the value of water across the region. This will allow farmers to monitor their water usage in real-time water-use to facilitate making informed decisions while increasing the digital tools and technologies used by regional farmers.
SmartAgriHubs is a consortium of over 164 partners in the European agri-food sector that focuses on the digitisation of European agriculture through an agricultural innovation ecosystem dedicated to excellence, sustainability, and success. SmartAgriHug is performing cutting edge research that embraces Industry 4.0 technology, including:
- Bee Monitoring and Behaviour Prediction
Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors have been placed in and around beehives to monitor and gather information including temperature, humidity, sensor measurements, and other observational data. The information collected will be used to train an AI notification system for beekeepers. When irregularities are identified, beekeepers will be notified and can take immediate action based on changes to bees’ behaviour and/or environment. This will improve the ability of beekeepers to maintain and better care for healthy hives.
- Digitising Open-Field Vegetables
Combining IoT, drones, and AI technologies, will improve the efficiency of agricultural operations while reducing environmental impact by mitigating resource inputs like water, fertilisers or biopesticides. IoT devices will monitor soil and atmospheric conditions. Images captured from drones and satellites can identify areas of heavy weed growth that require targeted treatment. Using both data sets to train an AI model will result in agronomical models for optimal irrigation, fertilisation and organic pest management. 
- Mower Robot for Vineyards
To address the unique needs of vineyards, an autonomous mowing robot is being developed capable of handling difficult terrain and varying soil conditions. The mower will use GPS positioning and a visual odometry system to autonomously navigate and mow vineyards without damaging the grape vines. 
How R&D Tax Incentive helps in Industry 4.0?
While Industry 4.0 technologies will provide financial benefits in the long run, the initial investment outlay can be quite costly. The Research & Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) can potentially alleviate some of the cost burdens in the short term. Companies whose investments in Industry 4.0 technologies align with the eligibility criteria outlined by the RDTI can use the tax incentive to help with short term cash flow.
If your company is investing in Industry 4.0, it is important to determine if your investment in new technologies will qualify for the RDTI. Azure Group’s Grant specialists are available to evaluate RDTI potential and guide your company through the application process while minimising business interruptions so you and your team can focus on what you do best. Get in touch.
Related: Industry 4.0 | Why it matters & How you apply R&D
Have you noticed our #FridayExpertTips... here's one that relates to #R&D
"Failures during development are a great indication that your activities could qualify for the R&D Tax Incentive. It can help offset the costs of your development efforts – up to 43.5 cents on the dollar! Talk to our team!"
 Predicting harvest timing & yield in intensive cropping | Project | Food Agility CRC