Dr. George Beers is a Horticultural Engineer with a PhD in Management Science. He has a broad experience in managing large-scale research and innovation programmes. Since January 2017 he is coordinator of the H2020 Large Scale Pilot on Internet of Food & Farm 2020 (IoF2020) on behalf of the WUR.
The benefits of IOT can be summed up by the slogan ‘more with less'
How do you explain internet-of-things and IoF2020 to a lay person?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about connecting ordinary and sometimes not-so-ordinary things such as buildings, vehicles or windmills to a computer network. The connection allows to combine different sources of information about the ‘thing’. For example, for a parcel of land that is ‘known’ in the network we can use the data on ownership from the land register, the soil quality from lab tests, the history from the farm management information system, the weather information from meteorological databases or weather stations etc.
For making decisions on this parcel of land (e.g. buying/selling, fertilization, irrigation, crop planning etc.), IoT technologies make those different types of information available to the decision maker. This works for a lot of ‘things’ in the AgriFood business, e.g. individual animals (e.g. cows, sheep, chicken), individual plants (cauliflower, wheat plant, apple tree), products (pack of milk, meat, lettuce, bunch of flowers), machines (cultivator, tractor, climate control, milking robot, spraying device etc.), logistic facilities (trucks, pallets, silos etc.). When all parameters are known, IoT can guide the decision-making process. Eventually enabling machines to make certain decisions themselves. When it comes to IoF2020, we aim to accelerate the uptake of IoT technologies in the European farming and food sector by demonstrating their benefits in 19 different use-cases, clustered around 5 sectors (arable, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat) all over Europe.
What are the potential benefits of IoT technologies for farmers and consumers?
The Internet of Things is about connecting ordinary and sometimes not-so-ordinary things such as buildings, vehicles or windmills to a computer network. The connection allows each thing in the network to collect and exchange information. For example, many postal services offer customers the option to track and trace their packages in real time. When it comes to IoF2020, we aim to accelerate the uptake of IoT technologies in the European farming and food sector by demonstrating their benefits in 19 different use-cases, clustered around 5 sectors (arable, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat) all over Europe.
Can you give an overview of who is involved in the project?
Our 70+ project partners come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Onboard you can find several renowned academic and research institutions such as Wageningen University & Research and Aarhus University, software companies on the cutting edge of IoT such as 365FarmNet, market leaders in logistics such as Euro Pool System and agricultural producers such as Apofruit Italia.
How do you ensure the project results will find an application in the field and on the farm?
The main factor in ensuring that the results of IoF2020 will be implemented in practice is by generating impact. We will achieve this via our 19 use-cases spread throughout Europe, which will demonstrate the on-field application of IoT technologies. On a broader perspective, we aim to showcase and replicate the impacts beyond the case studies in other European regions. If we manage to make the benefits of IoT technologies known to the right people, it will grow from there.
When can we expect to see the first results?
The use-cases will work in cycles where they will deliver so-called Minimal Viable Products (MVPs) that will be tested and assessed on several performance indicators (technical, business and ethical). The feedback and the MVP will be used to improve and work on the next MVP. Roughly speaking, this will be done in annual cycles, so we expect already end 2017/early 2018 the MVP1 for each-use case with the first demonstrations of how IoT works, what benefits can be expected and what hurdles still have to be taken.
How will IoF2020 contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN’s SDGs call for a worldwide system evolution towards a more equal, sustainable and prosperous world. Of the 17 SDGs, IoF2020 will have a direct impact on:
- Goal 2: Ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture;
- Goal 3: Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages;
- Goal 12: Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns;
- Goal 13: Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
The implementation of IoT technologies in the farming and food sector can help to increase agricultural output, address environmental issues, improve the availability of information, enable consumers to make better-informed choices, prevent fraud and use resources in a more responsible manner.
Okay, I like your ideas. How can I participate? What do you need?
Talk to your friends, family, clients, suppliers and co-workers about these exciting new technological developments to be realized in IoF2020 and help us engage them. If you would like to get involved in the project or require further information, feel free to reach out to me.