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Project summary

The transition to a high tech-driven, circular agriculture is the key target of this research project. The project will deliver new sensor applications and AI tools that will realize a productivity boost via a data-driven potato production system within the framework of circular agriculture.

In a promising international partnership, we will bring together plant science and novel sensor technology with AI and robotics to optimize the potato chain. The results of applied use cases will be disseminated with a wide/global audience to convince breeders, farmers and processing companies how they can benefit from these high-tech developments, boosting sustainability and food safety.

The need to deal with labour shortages, sustainability requirements and climate change is a problem for farmers in the Netherlands and elsewhere, but certainly in Japan. To boost productivity and lower costs, farmers can increase yield, introduce precise crop management, and lower labour costs. In this project, we will offer technology based solutions for these issues.

Yield is expected to increase by selecting more suitable and robust/resilient crops. These crops will be analysed with ultra-new sensors on precision agricultural labour-free, autonomous devices. Using AI on the collected data will result in improved crop management and thereby reduce the use of chemicals.

Partners’ involvement

For a breeder it’s crucial to know the potato variety properties in relation to growth conditions and market plus the quality of the planting material are the basis for a good yield. This requires a choice in varieties and a system that guarantees good quality of potato seeds. The first requires close cooperation with breeding companies, the latter with production methods, inspection and certification.

Hoping to close the yield gap between Japan and the Netherlands, the Dutch potato breeding company Solynta is eager to carry out trials growing Dutch seed potato cultivars in Japan. Recent technical breakthroughs have made it possible to produce potatoes from seed. This new production technique finally makes it possible to start growing seed potatoes from a clean batch of seeds, which are 100% free of plagues.

The Dutch company Solynta has been producing potatoes from seed in the Netherlands for a few years now, perfecting their techniques every year. Solynta is now looking to expand their markets. Carrying out these trials while gathering data with novel sensors tailored for agrifood like a Terahertz spectroscopic imager and Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) from IMEC/ OnePlant on growth and growing conditions can help to increase the yield productivity.

Additionally, the data can be used to optimize growth models which are at the basis of successful decision support models for precision agriculture, services that NTT Group would like to offer to the agrifood sector. During the growing season, decisions for every crop care operation are supported by the data gathered so far, increasing the accuracy of advice from the decision models.

WUR and NARO have extensive knowledge on gathering data using drones, whereas NTT Group can supply high-quality satellite images containing valuable data on the status and development of the crop. WUR would like to improve its decision models to translate this data to valuable prescription maps optimizing the input usage for spraying and fertilization.

Kverneland/Kubota wants to launch new versions of machines capable of carrying out the prescription maps, applying the advice to practice. Sensors that register the growing conditions, as well as shocks experienced by the tubers during harvest exits. This data can be used to predict storage behaviour of the tubers, which is a valuable input in optimizing the storage of potatoes.

WUR will execute the upgrading of their models for predicting tuber behaviour under different storage regimes, data on the growing conditions of the potatoes to further tailor the storage regime for a specific batch of potatoes. Because storability and end quality of potatoes is highly dependent on the physiological maturity at harvest, the wound-healing protocol and on the storage conditions. These factors interactively determine e.g. weight loss, occurrence of pressure spots, rot development, accumulation of sugars and the moment of dormancy release (sprouting). The physiological maturity of the tubers at harvest is the resultant of many things. Important are the climatic conditions during the growth period and their effect on the development of the crop. NARO expects to make an efficiency gain by accumulating these insights from the value chain to select the most suitable variety.

To make sure all new insights and results are shared the BUZA (The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in Tokyo and GMV/ FME have outstanding networks for dissemination to a broad audience.