Reduced workforce

Reduced available workforce due to travel restrictions and illness

Olives don’t pause their growing. Neither do grapes. Nor do cows stop giving milk. A reduced workforce is a serious problem for farmers. Without hands on the land, harvesting becomes difficult. Some of our Use Cases added a feature in their application to tackle this problem. By matching farmers to potential workers, for example. Or by adding a feature to track health. Other Use Cases provide digital assistance for the farmer, to make up for the reduced available hands.

COVID-19 pushes developments in the olive supply chain

During the harvesting season and the preparation for the next growing season many workers are needed in the olive orchards. Because of COVID-19, farmers now have difficulty to find enough workers. And on top of that, they need to check for symptoms, protect their workers and prove that they do so.

To help the olive farmers, Use Case 3.3 challenged itself to extend their existing decision support system with some extra useful features. And they succeeded.

''It turns out that the farmers who test our application are quite happy with both features. They’re useful.''

Use Case 3.3 (automated olive chain) has built a decision support system for olive farmers. Based on diverse data from the fields (radiation, humidity, soil conductivity), the application calculates timing and amount of irrigation. Subsequent real-time monitoring during the growth of the olives, the harvesting and milling process makes it possible to control (and thus improve) the quality of the olive oil.

So what is new? Rafael Angel Ferrer Martinez, Use Case coordinator: ‘We added two features since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. First of all, a simple temperature check. Every morning, the manager checks each field worker’s temperature and gives them their individual protection items (gloves, face mask, etc.). Combined with other data, this makes it possible to trace back who’s had contact with whom in case a worker develops COVID-19 symptoms.’

The second feature helps farmers to find workers when they need them. ‘We cooperate with ASAJA (the Spanish Young Farmers Association). A farmer who needs more personnel can say so inside the application and contact people looking for work.’

‘It turns out that the farmers who test our application are quite happy with both features. They’re useful. So we decided to keep them in the final version that will be finished this summer.’

- The IoF2020 COVID-19 Task Force about Use Case 3.3

Sharing the field with smart sprayers

In normal times, agriculture focused on high value crops faces the challenge of improving the profitability whilst also reducing negative environmental impacts. Our Use Case 3.5 (Smart orchard spray application) demonstrates that the use of plant protection products can be significantly reduced through IoT enabled air-blast atomising sprayers, adapting automatically to specific field zones as well as individual plant conditions. This Smart Orchard Spray application realises an optimization in the operating efficiency and treatment quality on orchards.

In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, different challenges arise. The impact of COVID-19 on the project consists of a postponement of planned visits to the demo cases in Hungary, Poland and Portugal. These visits are necessary to make measures for the KPI’s, the sprayers and the current efficiency. ‘Since we are all limited in our daily movements, the planned visits for May and June by the Smart Orchard Spray Application team will be postponed to at least September.’, explains team member Ekaterina Ukhandeeva. Agendas needs to be aligned again, but they expect to at least do one trip to each user side. Eventually, it will affect the time schedule, since they had planned to demonstrate the KPIs on the product savings in August and this is not expected to be done by November. 

On the other hand, COVID-19 also affects the project in the research and development department. There are less people at work, and the work processes have slowed down. As they have calculated in some buffer time, the final deadline is expected to be met. However, the side tasks will be postponed.

''There is less presence in the field and therewith fewer daily movements.''

The implementation of the sprayers creates a smart and connected tool in the fields. In this way, it helps farmers to make decisions that are cost saving on the products production (especially in difficult times). As the sprayers are connected, farmers can stay at home and still have the possibility to check what is happening on their fields. A traceability of that status of the fields in the form of data is send to the laptop. This ensures less presence in the field and therewith fewer daily movements. Ekaterina describes that on their Spanish use case they observed that at least 1 person less is needed per spraying operation. Ultimately, a shift in tasks occurs. There will be more work in monitoring the fields and decision-making from a distance, instead of in the field. An additional benefit: there is time created for other tasks since this is also timesaving for the farmers.

- The IoF2020 COVID-19 Task Force about Use Case 3.5

IoF Taskforce

About Use Case 3.3 and Use Case 3.5