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Lowering thresholds to digital agriculture

Digital technologies could serve as a catalyst for increased productivity and sustainability in agriculture. But it is important that the solutions developed are able to help and not hinder.  

Digital tools can help farmers increase productivity and strengthen competitiveness, which in the long run will lead to a stronger Swedish food system. Digitalisation can also improve traceability and enable money paid by consumers for increased sustainability to be reinvested into agriculture, which shoulders the costs of sustainability initiatives.  

Great potential, but support for farmers crucial 

In short, the potential is huge. But development does happen on its own.  

As a farmer, you are usually a small business owner and do not have an IT department that can support the implementation of technology. It is therefore important that the digital tools are user-friendly and work flawlessly. A farmer doesn’t have time to stand in the field and wait for a technical solution to start working again.

“Farmers can take courses on a specific technology, but then when they want to get started on their own farm, the right help is not available," says Anna Rydberg, Senior Researcher at RISE who works with projects related to data and information management in agriculture.  

“Problems often arise that fall between the cracks between different suppliers, because agriculture has many different systems from different suppliers that need to work together. There is a need for support on how the technology can be used in one’s own environment and with the tools that one has.”  

‘Today's digital solutions for agriculture 

A good example of a digital solution making its way into agriculture is robotic weeding machines. The solution allows farmers to greatly reduce chemical weed control or avoid it altogether. For organic cultivation, such as for sugar beets, farmers are otherwise dependent on manual weeding, which is a costly and resource-intensive job.  

“Another solution on the way in, and which will fundamentally change grazing, is virtual fencing, where the animals are fenced in digitally through GPS collars and sound signals,” explains Rydberg. “Paddocks can be moved at the push of a button, while the farmer receives data on the condition of each cow.”  

Robotic weeders also generate valuable data. Rydberg explains that this type of information is often isolated today, and it requires a lot of manual work to coordinate data and transfer information from one system to another. 

“Work is currently underway to build an agricultural data platform,” says Rydberg. The company Agronod is developing the platform that will give farmers better control and an overview of their data. The idea is to facilitate data sharing and for farmers to benefit from sharing data with other companies and organisations. It’s also important to be able to compare yourself with other farms to see how you are doing.”  

As a farmer, you are usually a small business owner and do not have an IT department that can support the implementation of technology

Data platform reduces administrative burden 

The data platform can also free farmers from the administrative burden as the laws and regulations they must comply with become more numerous.  

“It is often it is the same data – information about the farm for example – that must be reported to several places,” says Rydberg. “This means that this data must be fed into different systems for different operators. It’s very repetitive, and it’s easy to make mistakes. The hope is that a data platform for agriculture will avoid this.”  

Another important piece of the puzzle for successful digitalised agriculture is standards for data management. This involves, for example, establishing a standard for naming different things, so that the farms’ data are comparable. RISE can assist in the development of these standards.  

Testbed lowers thresholds 

Several projects are underway that may make it easier for commercial companies to launch user-friendly and robust products.  

It largely involves demonstrating possibilities and building prototypes. In this way, we lower the threshold for operators who can implement different solutions. We have a testbed for digitalised agriculture in Uppsala, where we build and test digital systems as well as autonomous and electrically powered agricultural machinery.  

“During major technological shifts, new innovations are developed that go beyond what is regulated or evaluated technically and economically. This poses major risks to companies that want to develop new solutions. Our testbed can speed up development and reduce the risk by working with prototypes and demonstrations.” 


In 2021, the Swedish Board of Agriculture allotted SEK 50 million for a collaboration and development project to develop a platform for sharing agricultural data. The mandate went to the start-up company Agronod, which is owned by Lantmännen, LRF, the Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies, Växa, HKScan, and Arla. In the summer of 2023, the first version of the agricultural data platform was launched. 


In Ultuna, just outside Uppsala, next door to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, you will find RISE’s testbed for digitalised agriculture. Here, RISE also has a prototype workshop and arable land where new technology can be tested. The start of the testbed was funded by Vinnova and developed in collaboration with 18 companies, authorities, and organisations linked to agriculture. As of 2023, Testbed Digitalised Agriculture is part of the AgriFoodTEF project, which is a major EU initiative to build testing and experimentation facilities around Europe. In AgriFoodTEF, companies can get help in testing and verifying AI and robotics solutions for agriculture. For the first few years, SMEs will receive a 100 percent discount on the cost.