SAME SCUOLE: business meets young people. Agriculture 4.0 is the hot topic in SAME’s educational initiative.

The 2022-2023 school year concluded with a total of 134 lessons of the SAME Scuole, both in-person at the SAME Museum and online. Over 5,700 students from 48 Italian farming and engineering schools took part. Given the project’s success and positive feedback from teachers and students, SDF is offering the 7th edition of SAME Scuole for the 2023-2024 school year. This will be available both in-person at the Treviglio factory and online. For any details, please reach out to the SDF Historical Archives directly.

An intriguing detail surfaced about the chosen lessons in 2022-2023. Following the lesson on “Farm Tractors and their Parts”, the most popular was the one titled ’Precision Farming: Satellite-guided agriculture’, which addresses the current topic of IT solutions in farming and provides young people with exciting ideas for shaping their future in the farming sector. This is without doubt a broad and highly current topic that can’t be fully covered in this piece. So, our aim is to spark interest and provide areas for further exploration.

Since its start in 1942, SAME has been dedicated to creating new solutions to enhance field work and boost productivity. If we consider that the first SAME four-wheel drive emerged in the 1950s, that tractors started using electronics in the 1990s, and that today we constantly hear about digital solutions in farming, we quickly realise how there’s been a true revolution in farming and industrial processes in a relatively short time.

Precision farming technologies started being used in Italy from the 1990s. Essentially, it involves using digital tools for specific tasks, considering the needs of the soil and crops in particular. The goal of these actions is to boost the fields’ output as much as we can, keep costs low and reducing environmental impact. This group, for instance, covers all actions to improve irrigation efficiency without wasting water or harming plants, using pesticides based on each area and plant’s specific needs, and applying fertilisers only as needed and at the best times.

In the farming industry, often seen as “old-fashioned” and resistant to change, the use of digital tools has been tested in recent years, with clear results. These tools can be applied at various levels: from basic tools like GPS-equipped satellite receivers and screens for full work data recording and location tracking, to more advanced tech for managing tractor-linked equipment and sharing data within an integrated and shared farm management system.

In the latter case, we’re talking about Agriculture 4.0, viewed as an improved version of precision farming.These technologies aim to provide farmers with top-notch, precise support for their business decisions and interactions within the supply chain. The main goal is to boost the profitability and sustainability of farming processes, in terms of economy, environment and society.

This year’s Coldiretti analysis, shared at Fieragricola Tech in Verona – an event focused on agricultural innovation – reveals that “six in 10 Italian farms have adopted at least one Agriculture 4.0 solution. These range from parallel guidance to drones and robots, from sensors to GPS […] At the Verona fair, Coldiretti showcased its Orto 4.0, a collection of cutting-edge technologies that, for instance, can save up to 20% of water in the fields.” (source: Il Sole 24 Ore, 1 February 2023). Moreover, the Smart Agrifood 2021 Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano’s School of Management and the University of Brescia’s RISE Laboratory have published data showing over 500 Agriculture 4.0 solutions for Italy’s farming sector. These mainly use data analysis systems, processing platforms or software, and the internet of things. They’re mainly used for growing, sowing and harvesting crops, particularly fruits, vegetables, wine and grains. The research snapshot also reveals that the Italian Agriculture 4.0 market is led by makers of farming and support machinery, accounting for 73% of the sector’s revenue. They are followed by IT solution and advanced technology providers, who make up 17%. The solutions attracting the most investment are those for monitoring and control of agricultural vehicles and equipment and related machinery […] 

SDF, with its SDF Smart Farming Solutions, helps farmers through a variety of customisable digital tools. These allow them to work quicker, more precisely, and therefore boost their profits. 

In short, SDF Smart Farming Solutions can be described as: 

  • Connection: By connecting all digital devices, you can access them from your machine, office, or anywhere else. The benefit is always being able to access data, wherever and whenever.
  • Efficiency: Saving customers time, effort and, naturally, money. Various products and services boost the speed, accuracy and efficiency of machine operation. 
  • Precision: With smart tools and guidance systems, users can trust in utmost accuracy. The result is accurate control of all production equipment and avoiding gaps or overlaps in various operations like sowing, fertilisation, spreading and many others. This aids farmers and contractors in boosting their productivity and saving on the products they use.
  • Ease: All electronically assisted operations can be controlled from the convenient iMonitor interface. In one single terminal operators can control all important tasks such as the tractor settings, guidance, implement control, and data management.

There are many benefits, but remember that Agriculture 4.0 is not yet widespread. The reasons lie in farmers’ lack of knowledge about new on-board tools like monitors and sensors, the need for professionals like agronomists to analyse the collected data and information, the small size of our farms that cannot afford massive digital technology investments, the cultural barrier due to the average age of our farmers, the lack of specific skills, and the lack of infrastructure to support the shift to Agriculture 4.0, such as internet connections in some areas. If Agriculture 4.0 is the future, we anticipate it will coexist with traditional farming for a while.

We know that technology alone does not fix issues. You need specific skills to fully harness the advantages of precision farming. Professional courses are being created to guide and support agricultural professionals, providing regular training in technology use and offering various levels of certification.