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IT systems in agriculture to speak the same language

An ISO standard seeks to standardise the wealth of diverse information that the farmer has to deal with in the computer systems in the tractor and at the desk.

[Translate to English:] Forskere fra Aarhus Universitet har i samarbejde med en række andre aktører implementeret dele af ISO 19100-serien i et EU-projekt. Arbejdet med en ISO-standard skal i fremtiden gøre det nemmere for landmændene at få data fra forskellige systemer til at fungere sammen.

Modern farmers extract and report geographic and spatial information and other data relevant to farming in a sea of different databases. They use the information to guide their decisions on field work and to document the operations undertaken to the authorities.


The work can be made easier and more streamlined using an ISO standard, which means that the processing of data is standardised across web sources and servers. It is combined with a standardised use of GIS data online (GIS stands for Geographic Information System). Various servers and systems will in a manner of speaking use the same language. For the farmers, this means that they will have more efficient and handy access to the data needed, and the data can be updated in real time – that is, streamed directly from the field or other data sources while the operation is under way.


Scientists from Aarhus University have worked closely with the IT centre of the Knowledge Centre for Agriculture and with international partners to implement parts of the ISO 19100 series in an international EU project. ISO 19100 deals with the standardisation of digital geographic data. The scientists and agricultural advisers in the project have been developing the standard specifically for field work. One of the standards used is called GML ISO 19136, where GML stands for Geography Markup Language.


The project has also involved the standardisation of GIS data, so it is easier to access online regardless of which system it is accessed from.


In cyberspace and down to earth

What goes on in cyberspace is one thing, but let’s first get down to earth at the farmer in a thought experiment. Imagine the following:


The weeds are starting to appear between farmer Giles’s tender oilseed rape plants in fields number 14, 15 and 18. The sun is shining from a cloudless sky and there is just a light breeze from the east. Farmer Giles decides that it is a good day to treat the fields with weed killer. He is online on his smart-phone and gets important information from the decision support system of the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service where simple messages help him make the right decisions here and now. Farmer Giles does not need to ponder the weather forecast, growth stages, crop protection agents, dosage, nozzle selection, restrictions, environmentally sensitive areas, etc., etc. The decision support system has continuously calculated this for him from online services and records. A dosing map for spraying in the field is also ready on the computer when the farmer switches it on and is ready to start the job. The computer controlling the variable rate application is online and gets regular updates from the decision support system which determines the most optimal setting of the sprayer. When the spraying is completed, the data is automatically transferred from the computer to the server at the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service, and the data is now available through other online services, for example for transfer to the obligatory chemical treatment log book.


All this data can be retrieved from different servers and other services and they do not directly communicate with each other, since they do not "speak the same language." In an implementation of the ISO 19100 series of standards for exchange of geographically related data intended for agriculture, all this information will be interexchangeable and can readily be incorporated in the other systems. In other words, the maps, tables, records of pesticide application, etc. can be maintained automatically and continuously – regardless of manual input and source.


For farmer Giles this will, for example, mean that the computer in his tractor will, of its own accord, avoid §3 areas in the field, and that the statutory spray log is continuously updated while the tractor is moving across the field, instead of the farmer needing to enter the action and the information manually.


- We have already noticed great international interest in the standardisation and the future practical prospects it may have. The interest has mainly been from people dealing with management systems and geoinformatics. With the dissemination of the results of the project, we look forward to companies that develop agricultural machinery also beginning to take an interest in the ISO 19100 series rather than the current ISO 11783-10. We have shown that the 19100 series offers great opportunities for a more efficient and optimised utilisation of equipment and manpower in agriculture and horticulture, but that there is a need for adaptation of the standard, says the leader of the project Michael Nørremark from Aarhus University.


The project is a collaboration between Aarhus University, Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, Aalto University and MTT Agrifood Research Finland as well as University of Hohenheim and the University of Rostock in Germany. The international project is funded by the EU FP7 Programme ICT-AGRI ERA-NET.


Further information: Assistant professor Michael Nørremark, Department of Engineering, email: michael.norremark@djf.au.dk, telephone: +45 2184 6047, Mobile: +45 2184 6047



Illustration of the connections between different standards, services and hardware, from decision support system (box on the right) to the server (box in the middle) to the implementing computer (box on the left). The computer equipment used for testing was a standard laptop connected to GPS and dose rate actuator and software developed by the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University. The IT centre at the Knowledge Centre for Agriculture has developed WFS and Transactional-WFS services to their field database server.