A Roadmap for the Future of Agrotechnology

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The VDI roadmap - ’Agriculture Technology 2030’ © Illustration: VDI
The VDI roadmap - ’Agriculture Technology 2030’ © Illustration: VDI all images in original size .
How can reducing greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient energy use and animal welfare be balanced even more successfully in livestock farming in the future? This was the question tackled by a team of authors led by Professor Wolfgang Büscher and Inga Tiemann from the Animal Husbandry Technology Department, which is part of the Institute of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Bonn. Their contributions have now been published alongside those of many other researchers in the VDI Roadmap entitled "Agriculture Technology 2030." 

Some parts of the animal husbandry industry already make use of automation and robotics-automatic milking systems, for instance, have been a state-of-the-art technology in dairy farming for some time now. Yet there is a significant need for more digitalization, with the individualized handling of livestock still a long way off as a means of improving animal welfare, reducing environmental pollution and using resources more efficiently.

"Two aspects were particularly important to us," says Professor Wolfgang Büscher from the Institute of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Bonn. "How can digitalization help improve animal welfare through tailored monitoring and care? And how can we slow climate change by cutting emissions from livestock farming and help shrink its carbon footprint through smart energy use?"

Professor Büscher believes that science can tackle these challenges by conducting targeted research, training students well and aligning research structures with these key tasks for the future. The University of Bonn’s off-site laboratories such as Frankenforst, Wiesengut and Klein-Altendorf are serving as "innovation farms" for these efforts. On the Frankenforst campus, for instance, researcher Inga Tiemann is scoping out the future of poultry farming. In the VDI Roadmap, she describes the current state of the industry in this regard and what still needs to be done.

With its roadmap, however, the VDI is not only looking to highlight the actions required in the agriculture and agricultural engineering sectors but also to stimulate dialogue with the worlds of politics and society. Reliable strategic statements from policymakers on the future of livestock farming in Germany and Europe are vital, not only for the industry but also for research in general and for technology transfer in the future. Research and teaching at universities and other higher-education institutions likewise need viable long-term strategies to be in place.

Markus Demmel, Chairman of the Max Eyth Society for Agricultural Engineering, a division of the VDI, is optimistic: "The first part of our research agenda on technology for sustainable crop production was well received, so we’re now pleased to be able to present some of the research requirements for the entire agriculture industry in this latest publication on technology in livestock farming."

The VDI Roadmap is aimed at research and development stakeholders, those responsible for the strategic focus of the agriculture industry and agriculture policy, and decision-makers involved in issuing calls for proposals for research projects.

The roadmap presents the agricultural engineering trends that will drive the farming and management of agricultural land this decade. The experts see improving process management, introducing digital technologies and using renewable energy across the entire agriculture industry as offering the greatest potential. Their analysis of how technology in the agriculture sector is developing has identified and fleshed out the following specific fields of research for the technologization of crop production: the digital transformation, automation, robotics, autonomy, new machinery and systems, and alternative and sustainable energy concepts.

About the VDI

The VDI (officially Verein Deutscher Ingenieure e. V., or the Association of German Engineers) has been stimulating the development of new technologies and technical solutions for over 165 years. With some 135,000 members, the VDI presents itself as the largest technical and scientific association in Germany.