Irish tech experts are helping to harness the power of super powered computers to help vineyards across the globe improve grape quality and yields and ultimately give us better tasting and potentially cheaper wine.
The ground-breaking Climate Smart Predictive Models project is just one of nine real life case studies being monitored across the crop, fishing and livestock industries in 14 countries. Sensors are being placed in vineyards in Spain and data they produce is being fed to a super computer which tracks the impact of climate change and sets off early warning alerts for frost and other potentially devastating weather events for vines.
Director of Research at TSSG, Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, said: “This is a great example of the use of ICT for Smart Agriculture, and in particular the use of Super Computer to crunch large quantities of data that can help improve future farming practices.”
Other strands of the project look at optimum protein rich soya production, reducing potential pollution from surplus fish food as well as boosting animal welfare in pig farming. It’s all part of a €14 million EU-funded CYBELE project which sees farmers, consultants and technology experts working hand in hand over three years to slash food waste, improve animal welfare and the quality and yield in food production across the EU.
“A third of food produced across the world is lost or wasted every single day. This has a massive economic and environmental impact.” project co-ordinator, Dr Steven Davy of the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) at Waterford Institute of Technology said. TSSG is home to over 80 research scientists and engineers who are experts in ICT in agriculture.
“Agriculture is a high volume business often plagued by low operational efficiency. One of the main roadblocks is that many farmers aren’t very tech focused. We’re now giving farming consultants the tools to bridge the gap between technology and farmers.
“We routinely rely on multi-billion euro super computers for DNA sequencing, weather predicting and more. They crunch in seconds the data we will collect across the crop and livestock projects using satellites, drones, sensors and more. Analysing the findings could traditionally take weeks.
“Our ultimate aim under the Horizon 2020-funded CYBELE project is to produce technology that will revolutionise farming, reduce scarcity and increase food supply, significantly boost animal welfare and bring social economic and environmental benefits,” Dr Davy added.
Other sample projects now underway within CYBELE include optimum protein-rich soya bean growth. Data gathered using satellites is examining where best on farms soya beans should be grown, when they should be harvested and what grade produces optimum yield etc.
“Another group within the 31 partner consortium across 14 countries is examining fish farming and when best to feed fish to boost their welfare and growth, reduce morbidity and potential pollution from rotting, uneaten feed. Data gathered using overhead and under water drones is again fed to the super computers which process the information in seconds.
CYBELE is a three year programme which is examining five crop-based case studies as well as four in livestock – two of which involve fish, the final two in pig rearing.
Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) research and innovation wing Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) is a major driver in the emergence of a telecommunications industry in the South East of Ireland. In the last five years alone, TSSG has secured funding in excess of €10 million under EU Programmes, making it one of the most successful ICT research centres in Ireland.
TSSG has a proven track record in translating world class research into market ready products and services and has established an eco-system of mobile service companies in the South East of Ireland and beyond, creating several hundred jobs directly and indirectly in the last ten years.
TSSG, the ICT centre of excellence established 20 years ago, currently consists of over 80 research scientists and engineers, 25 postgraduate students to PhD level and manages an active international network in excess of 700 partners from industry, academic and research institutes spread across 35 countries worldwide. Together, they’re working on over 600 projects.
Through collaboration with industry, TSSG leverages funding to create real job opportunities in strategically important industries such as ICT, pharmaceutical and healthcare and energy. The aim of TSSG is to work closely with industry to create new jobs through the development of our core research, strong connectivity with indigenous industry as well as large multinationals, supporting high potential start-ups and partnerships with other institutes. TSSG has created a critical mass of ICT industries in the South East of Ireland and will continue to be a hub for telecommunications excellence both in Ireland and abroad.
TSSG has expertise in the area of communications technologies, Artificial Intelligence and IoT systems, and so can bring expertise in terms of ontology development for example for inter-Agri-platform data models. TSSG has strong links with, and support from, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), and can draw on expertise from that organisation to support any standards activities related to data interoperability.
At a higher level, TSSG has over 20 years’ experience in large scale platform specification (architecturally) and development (e.g. www.ict-societies.eu) of enabling technologies to ensure inter-system communication. It has years of experience in development of solutions from scenario to use case to implementation. Additionally, through its security research work in TSSG it has completed projects which require implementation of regulatory-compliant, secure, technologies. Note technology solutions developed by TSSG cover all aspects of the research lifecycle, from Basic Research through to Commercial Development.
In addition, TSSG has a dedicated software verification and validation group which can manage large scale integration and test from initial requirements through to final deployment.
About Agri/ICT @ TSSG:
TSSG is growing its reputation as the experts in applying ICT in the vital agricultural industry. It has multiple ICT/Agri initiatives underway, including large scale R&D grants in the areas of Internet of things technologies for Dairy Farming (PrecisionDairy) and milk production forecasting with some of Ireland’s largest dairy processors (Glanbia and Dairygold).
A recently won project was the SFI Research Centre called VistaMilk, a €40m National Research Centre for Agri-Tech funded by both SFI and The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This project sees TSSG partner with TEAGASC (national agricultural research and advisory service), Tyndall (Research in sensor manufacturing) and Insight (data analytics research centre).
The goal of the SFI Research Centre, VistaMilk is to investigate and build technologies to advance precision agriculture in the dairy sector. In particular, they focus on improving the condition and efficiencies in the areas of pasture management, animal health and wellbeing, and food production.
PhD research underway include work on sensor networks for FOG computing/agri – compressed learning of smart datasets in smart agri – lameness detection with on-cow sensor networks. TSSG is also a partner in the SFI Research Centre, CONNECT and hosts their IoT Testbed, Pervasive Nation (https://connectcentre.ie/pervasive-nation/), with an internal infrastructure team available to build testbeds for any possible Agri project. TSSG is located on a site of 175 acres, with pasture land, access to water ways, forestry and other natural habitats adding to the richness of work that can be done by both applied and basic researchers.
TSSG is also the Irish/UK Lead for a 20 million Pan-European Agri-Food Project, which hopes to connect the dots to unleash the innovation potential for digital transformation of the European Agri-Food Sector. This project will see a further 6 million euros secured in research funding over the next 4 years, as well as an economic impact across Europe of over 30 million.
CYBELE features nine working case study projects. They include:
- Organic Soya yield and protein-content prediction. It examines ways of increasing the efficiency of production and, at the same time, decreasing the environmental impact of higher protein organic soya bean production with a view to reducing the quantity of soya beans currently imported into the EU. Sensors collect the field and environmental data along with satellite imagery and the numbers are crunched by the super computer.
- Climate Smart Predictive Models for the production and harvesting of grapes examines the impact of climate change on very weather sensitive crops such as grapes. The data produced will have wider impact for a huge variety of crops and help predict the effects of changing climate, planting and other agricultural variables and help optimise agricultural land use. It is also hoped that data collected will help bring abandoned farmland in places back into production, something of significant importance when it comes to food security.
- Climate Services for Organic Fruit Production again looks at climate change and its impact on crop losses. This use case aims at using data processed by super computers to provide early warning systems on a local scale for frost and hail with a view to helping farmers to reduce any possible injuries to their crops.
- Robotic Systems within arable frameworks sees the team work with farmers to manage fleets of smaller, autonomous vehicles or robots and carry out tasks such as soil chemical analysis, hyperspectral imaging (HSI) of soil/crop condition, real time object level (plant/weed) identification, individual plant harvest readiness assessment (particularly for soft fruits) and plant level automated harvesting.
- Optimising computations for crop yield forecasting used sensors and data management systems to pinpoint where best to choose to grow crops to maximise yield and take greatest advantage of weather and soil conditions etc.
- Pig weighing optimisation looks at using video and data crunching systems to improve the welfare of pigs, reduce the amount of medicines and antibiotics they need and pinpoint the optimum time to send them to the factory.
- Sustainable pig production is similar and examines animal welfare, sustainable pig production and global food challenges. Ultimately it will improve the health and welfare of the pigs, and work on fulfilling the potential of each pig through its life and increase the quality of the end-product for the market and the consumers. This will be done through data fusion of various data sources coming from multiple on-farm sensors and software systems, image analysis, management data and factory records.
- Open Sea Fishing examines the state of the marine ecosystem using sensors and IT equipment on board of commercial fishing vessels.
- Aquaculture monitoring and feeding optimisation is a related use case. It aims to ensure that fish food, which accounts for up to 70 per cent of costs on fish farms, is given to stocks at the optimum time to promote growth and reduce pollution from rotting food debris. The project will make use of drones, image processing and data mining to optimise feeding, evaluate impact on the environment and evaluate the status of the infrastructure in open sea aquaculture.