The Cloud is the Limit

On the way back from a recent visit to Berlin, my flight to Amsterdam was delayed. (My kids had to wait a bit longer before they got to unwrap the Lego figures I bought for them.) I got a notification on my phone that my plane would depart at 21:10hrs. instead of 19:00hrs. The app showed me a link to the airplane, in this case to the website Flight24. I was fascinated to see all the information of this specific airplane: speed, E.T.A., height, history of all the flights (including all other delays). Having access to all this real-time information made me realize how insightful it is that we’re developing an information-platform for Food & Agriculture that will provide the Food & Agri supply chain – as well as any other interested party – with similarly useful information about crops.

Revolutionizing farming

The idea for this platform arose during a hackathon last year, where we worked on a Digital Twin for the FarmBot, a smart device designed to successfully grow crops in a (small) vegetable garden. The device plants seeds using a so-called Farmplan, keeps track of all the plants during growth, uses moisture sensors, waters when necessary, removes weeds, and even takes pictures of the plants for you.

In fact, FarmBot is designed to be a fully autonomic gardener that makes it possible to grow your own vegetables or fruits within a confined space. All you need to do is plant the seeds and harvest the vegetables when the time is right. All information about the soil (wet, dry, nutritious, etc.) and the crop (height, health, needs) can be tracked via our platform. A perfect example of a Digital Twin device.

For me, our platform is a truly inspiring look into a future where farming and IT are interconnected. This is necessary because the amount of available farmland is decreasing and at the same time the demand for growing food in urbanized areas is increasing. Enter the FarmBot!

Show, don’t tell

We have a saying at NTT DATA Business Solutions: don’t tell that something works, show it. So, within the NTT DATA Business Solutions family we already have two Farmbots up and running. The pioneer within the family was the one in Nieuwerkerk a/d Ijssel, in The Netherlands. The second one, installed by our good friends and colleagues of NTT DATA Business Solutions Germany, on the rooftop at the office building in Berlin. A third one is almost ready as well: the NTT Data company is currently installing one on one of the rooftops in Tokyo of the NTT Data Headquarters.

The connected food supply chain

How can the Food & Agriculture industry and supply chain benefit from a platform initially designed for the FarmBot? The short answer: sharing is caring. By combining various datasets from different farmers, regions, or even countries, we can make analyses that eventually may lead to better practices.

Say, you’re a potato producer. With the platform you will be able to get the farmers within your network to register their fields, so you can see what kind of sensors or machines they are using on their fields. The combination of all the information will provide a digital twin that shows everything that happens on the field. It’s like a virtual (digital) representation.

Having a complete overview of what is happening at all the fields within your farmer network gives you the opportunity to offer innovative services. How about a Field-registration Service that farmers can use to register the type and amount of fertilization added to their field, the irrigation used, etc.? Or think of a maintenance or planning application for harvesting machines.

Combining all this information will provide you with myriad insights. These can be used for future planning, production, and prediction for the entire supply chain. Suppliers who are doing business with distributers can use the platform as well and subscribe to future services which are specifically aimed at their business needs. The cloud is the limit.

Up next!

Why would we develop such a platform? We believe we can help our customers making a difference by providing services that help them improve their own customer service. Not assuming one solution fits all, we keep questioning ourselves and look for the best combinations. How do we do this? With the best colleagues who understand people, the business, and the technology. Passionate people! We use the technology that is currently out there and anticipate what is coming next. And if we need something that is not yet available, we build it ourselves. See, for instance, our Digital Twin platform.

This blog is the start of a series of blogs and vlogs to show you all about our platform for the Food & Agriculture industry. I want to show the way we are developing it and the philosophy behind it, the demonstrations we do, the feedback we put into it, and the interviews with customers and users who join us. Relationships are important to us, so, do you have a FarmBot at home and do you want to be involved? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

You can join our network, participate in the program, and benefit from the insights we gather from all the data that is produced by the community. Just send us an email and we’ll be in touch ([email protected]). New customers can join as well. Feel free to contact us to join our it.agriculture collaboration program!

At the gate

So, the digital twin flight-app showed that the plane had arrived at the gate. Time to board, so that my kids get their Lego figures as soon as possible.

I hope you’ll follow my blogs and perhaps I’ll inspire you to join our community. Bye for now!

Laurens Steffers
Laurens Steffers
Consultant Food & Agriculture

"Personally I think I have the best job in the world! Working as a developer with the newest technologies SAP and Mendix have to offer and working as a Design Thinking consultant to help users to get the best possible solution they haven’t even thought about when they started the session! How cool is that?!" Laurens has studied Computer Science at the University of Utrecht. After graduation in 2002 he started as a SAP programmer. During the years he managed to fill in different roles on many projects from programmer to project manager, to workshop facilitator within Design Thinking. His enthusiasm for the Food & Agriculture industry gave him even more reason to get into all the processes and technologies SAP and Mendix have to offer, for the simple reason that the current state of the agriculture worldwide has many challenges which need to be faced. He believes technology and the “we can do this together” mindset from NTT DATA Business Solutions can help customers overcome these challenges.

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