24 Feb Cultivation techniques, technology, trends: word to the expert
Agriculture is one of the sectors that have evolved most in recent years, taking advantage of the booster of technological progress and the data driven approach. This has clearly had a direct impact on the cultivation techniques and, at the same time, on the technicalities that the production sector must possess. To better understand how digital and data have profoundly changed the sector and obtain a snapshot of the present and future scenario, our editorial staff asked a few questions to Dr. Pietro Di Benedetto, Head of the Agricultural Department of Altamura OP.
Good morning Doctor Di Benedetto. How have cultivation techniques changed from 2005 to today? And what factors influenced these changes?
In the last fifteen years, the most significant changes have concerned an increasing attention to consumer health, the health and safety of agricultural operators and the impact on the environment, although it should be noted that the Baby Leaves sector in particular has always been avant-garde on these issues. In fact, it has the absolute role of forerunner, acquiring (on a voluntary basis) a whole series of system certifications (see GLOBALGAP), internal quality control procedures, compliance with production regulations and good agricultural practices which were then progressively adopted. to all horticulture and fruit growing.
An example of how this type of agriculture is projected into the future was noted in 2015, the year in which the obligation for companies to adopt the principles of integrated pest management (or organic pest management) was introduced on a national basis.
An almost epochal change for many companies, while the IV range world had already been in order for 10 years.
In addition to this, we are also observing, at European level, an ever decreasing availability of synthetic agropharmaceuticals, which forces us to find alternative solutions, in the context of good agricultural practices and integrated pest management, such as: replenishment of the organic substance of the land ; use of microorganisms useful for plants; use of varieties resistant or tolerant to biotic and abiotic adversities; careful management of processing; climate control in greenhouses; increasing use of zero-residue crop protection products; use of physical barriers (eg insect nets).
Today the world of Baby Leaves is at the forefront with production protocols and is in step with market requirements.
We are now talking about agriculture 4.0. What impact does technology have on field work and how much does data collection affect?
Even in the case of agriculture 4.0, the IV range sector was a pioneer. Altamura OP has always been sensitive to innovation, since 2008 all cultivation operations, starting from processing and sowing, are uploaded to a digital register, the same one that colleagues in the agronomic office can consult every morning on their smartphone, during the daily newspaper. crop monitoring. In addition, it has been using for over 5 years the control units for the detection of climatic data in the greenhouse, which allow us to have instant feedback on the climate in the greenhouse (even on smartphones), feed a database, set alarm thresholds (e.g. humidity alert high) and feed a DSS that indicates the risk of having certain fungal diseases.
Other more recent innovations concern tractors and equipment equipped with 4.0 kits, which support us in checking the engine parameters of tractors, keeping a timely track of maintenance and obtaining statistics on the operational performance of equipment and tools.
The impact of these technologies on data collection has been decisive, machines collect data during work and send them to the cloud autonomously, relieving the human being from a task that would be tedious, and that he would not be able to perform. in real time.
The downside is that this large amount of data needs to be read quickly and lead to immediate responses. This is made possible only with the use of certain user friendly solutions. For these needs, we tend to prefer the service provider more predisposed to fine-tune customizations, rather than buying predefined and rigid solutions, however refined they may be.
To complete this, it must be said that all the key figures of the company, starting from the staff of the Agronomic Office, must be familiar with the data collection and analysis systems, this precisely in order to submit changes and improvements to software suppliers, those challenges. continuous that make both those who buy the service and the suppliers themselves grow.
What are the trends already established and which will continue to play a key role and what are the new trends for the future of agriculture?
The established trend is to aim for increasingly sustainable productions – and related techniques – in particular and for the environment. From a regulatory point of view, the European Community and large-scale retail chains have been pushing for years in the direction of minimizing the use of technical means of chemical synthesis, with particular reference to agropharmaceuticals. Issues such as water consumption, CO2 production, conservation of soil organic matter are increasingly being addressed. As for future trends, in particular for the IV range, the orientation is to satisfy more and more elite markets and haute cuisine, in addition to catering at all levels (think of edible flowers that embellish the mix of Baby Leaves, already colorful in themselves). With this in mind, there is a need for an increasingly varied range, the development of product lines with specific nutraceutical activities and increasingly direct communication to the consumer, including through innovative and sustainable packaging.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
Yes, mainly one: we must all, consumers and producers, develop greater awareness and knowledge of what we buy at the supermarket and ask ourselves more questions. In a world where everything runs fast and the consumer buys one or another product without having real knowledge to evaluate quality and origin, this is essential. I hope for the opening of channels of direct dialogue between producer and consumer, between the land and the table, which will allow us to tell the values and history that make an agricultural product a good product. It is undoubtedly a long awareness-raising process that requires great attention to training from elementary school, introducing food education and inviting producers to tell how food is born.
Thanks for your availability, Dr. Di Benedetto.
Thanks to you.