Smart technology for greater efficiency and climate protection: the canton of Thurgau has started the launch of an agricultural test station
Canton Thurgau wants smart technologies to be used and tested on farms. Ultimately, the results should serve the whole of Switzerland. It starts with a more efficient nitrogen enrichment project.
Federal agricultural initiatives on June 13 did not stand a chance in Torgau. However, local agriculture is still concerned with producing the most environmentally friendly food with efficiency. The canton proves this with the start of the “Smart Technologies Applications Area” test station. Digital aids must be tested and improved in practice – with the goal of more efficient and climate-friendly production. The results from this will eventually be made available to the entire Swiss agricultural sector.
Specifically, the test station has now started a project to enrich nitrogen more efficiently. The foundation for this was laid during a three-year testing phase at Swiss Future Farm at the Agroscope site in Tänikon, says Ueli Bleiker, head of the agricultural office in canton Thurgau.
Specific use of nitrogen fertilizers
Using drones and satellite images, the so-called green mass of plants was determined and nitrogen fertilizers were used more specifically on this basis. “In places where the green mass is darker, less nitrogen fertilizer is needed, and in lighter places more,” Blecker explains, adding:
“The results showed that it was possible to reduce nitrogen by about 20 percent with the same crop.”
This leaves less nitrogen in the ecosystem.
At the pilot station, the aim now is to implement this project on farms in the participating cantons of Thurgau and Schaffhausen in order to gain practical experience. “Now we want to motivate farmers to get involved,” Bleecker says. For the start-up phase, it is ideal that five to ten companies are involved.
At the initial stage, site-specific nitrogen fertilization is focused on sowing grain. Companies participating in the pilot station receive advisory support from BBZ Arenenberg. The first project of the pilot plant will start in August/September. “The consultation phase is limited to four years,” says Bleecker. Then, it is expected that the potential of this technology will be more evident in practice.
There is no separate budget for advice
Ueli Bleiker explains that there is no separate budget for the “smart technologies application area”. “This is funded by the canton as part of the advisory work for the BBZ Arenenberg district.” In this regard, there is also financial support from the Federal Office of Agriculture.
In addition to Agroscope and the cantons of Thurgau and Schaffhausen, the Agricultural Advisory Center Agridea is also participating in the “Smart Technologies Application Area” test station. They brought the cantonal farmers’ associations on board. “We welcome this project and are motivated to work closely with research to find solutions for more resource-efficient agriculture,” says Daniel Veterli, co-chair of the Agricultural Society of Thurgau.
Next year, for example, the use of slicing robots could be included as a theme for the application area, Bleecker looks to the future. In its announcement, the Thurgau Cantonal Office of Agriculture offers an advance glimpse into the possibilities of data-driven models in agriculture. This allows one to see at an early stage whether plant diseases are spreading or what the health of the cows is doing.
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