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Test bed and expertise for the digitalisation of agriculture

Digitalisation and autonomous, electric machines are providing important tools for more sustainable and profitable agriculture.  For companies and other businesses, RISE offers a testbed where ideas and technological solutions linked to agriculture can be realised.
–“We are unique in that we have both applied agricultural knowledge and technical expertise under one roof,” says Jonas Engström, Project Manager at RISE. 

Historically, agriculture has undergone a number of developmental revolutions. We are now on the cusp of a new revolution: digitalisation. With the help of new innovations and technological solutions, agriculture can be improved in several ways while also reducing its negative impact on the environment. 

– “There are many dimensions to work with. Agriculture can become both more profitable and more sustainable from an environmental and climate perspective through better governance and less dependence on fossil fuels and fossil fuel-derived fertilisers, as well as through other efforts,” says Jonas Engström at RISE. 

Working towards sustainability and profitability is also important in order to maintain Swedish agricultural competitiveness in relation to other countries.

– “If agriculture is constantly evolving around the world and we do not keep up with this development here in Sweden, Swedish-produced food risks becoming outcompeted,” says Engström. “Imports will then increase and Swedish agriculture will disappear.” 

Unique facility for testing and development

RISE’s testbed for digitised agriculture is located in Ultuna just outside Uppsala and it is a one-of-a-kind facility. Next door to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), RISE has both a prototype workshop and an arable field, which affords opportunities for testing and developing new technology. 

 – “We can control what is grown there, how the technology works and what data is collected,” says Engström. “On a normal farm, the focus is not on data collection and technology development, which is the case here. But if you want to work with real farms in a project or similar, we can arrange it.”

The facility serves as a bridge between technology companies and traditional agriculture. 

– “It’s in that borderland that we can help,” says Engström. “We can support technology companies to determine how their technology can be adapted and developed for use in agriculture, and we can also work together with agricultural operators who may perhaps have an idea for a solution to a problem.” 

We can control what is grown there, how the technology works and what data is collected

Market access support

The testbed is funded by Vinnova and has been developed together with 18 partners consisting of companies, government agencies and organisations with a connection to agriculture. Among other things, the testbed has been used in a project to develop an image bank for different crops. The image bank will be used to teach artificial intelligence how to distinguish crops from weeds. 

– “By cultivating small fields with different crops and weeds, we were able to quickly customise a base for the image bank,” explains Engström. “It serves as a good example of how we can help with various technical solutions for automation and improved technology.” 

The testbed and the peripheral operations also provide opportunities for those needing to test a prototype or seeking to enter the Swedish agricultural market with a product. 

– “We are geared towards small and medium-sized enterprises,” says Engström. “For instance, companies that need help scaling up or are in the start-up phase. Or perhaps a company that wants to test its products in agriculture. We can also help foreign operators enter the Swedish market.” 

The testbed is part of RISE’s Agriculture and Gardening department, which is deeply rooted in agriculture and its special conditions, combined with expertise in a wide variety of technology areas. 

– “We have well-applied agricultural expertise and understand how real agriculture functions,” says Engström. “Plus, we also have access to special technical expertise and in this we are unique.”

Research areas provide strength

Furthermore, there is additional strength stemming from all the different research areas that make up RISE’s organisation. 

– “This means that through RISE’s organisation we have access to an array of specialist skills that can be linked to agriculture,” says Engström. 

Connected to the testbed is an arena for different companies and other operators in the field of agriculture. It enables collaboration and allows participants to work together on common issues or develop new ideas and projects.

– “It means you can achieve more together – that’s the basic ambition we have and what we believe in,” concludes Jonas Engström.