Farmers and producers have never been more aware of their need to adapt to a rapidly changing agricultural landscape. From the negative impacts of climate change on growing conditions to the labor shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, players throughout the ag supply chain are working together to make sustainable changes that lead to increased production, maximum yields, and safer, more nutritious food.
“Agriculture is facing a massive disruption that will change the farming as we know it today,” says Alexander Abele, Strategic Product Manager for VARTA. “There is a high rate of change toward automatization. The strongest driver for future innovation in the field of agricultural robotics and other industries is data. Data is the gold of the current time.”
Information has become more powerful than ever before. Those who can collect it, analyze it, understand it, and use it are the ones who will succeed long-term. VARTA, a leader in battery technologies, believes that one of the most valuable benefits data can provide is the ability to optimize the future of farming. Through the use of its batteries and universal CAN gateway, VARTA is already generating, gathering, and transporting data from the battery to the cloud or another application.
“We are able to generate a wide range of data right now, which will put us in a position where we can make reactions of our customers future needs,” Abele says. “The collected data is also the first step in creating more transparency around the current state and use of the battery.”
In the future, this data will help to power new business models in the agricultural market. Farmers, for example, will have the opportunity to avoid buying autonomous machines or investing in a fleet of vehicles by paying for the services they need, when they need them. These “smart services” result in a considerable value-add for end users who want the technology but cannot bear the cost of full ownership. Instead, customers pay for what they use.
In the case of batteries and energy, VARTA foresees a future where its solutions empower users to make effective, real-time decisions. This process requires a significant amount of data.
“Eventually, we will be able to recognize patterns by the use of the battery and application,” Abele says. “This will help us identify anomalies, predict down times and recognize potential for optimization. In the long-term, the data will be used to know the equipment’s behavior and agriculture robots can be tested based on this knowledge. We will then be able to create new solutions that are best suited for broad group of target customers and are, therefore, extremely cost efficient.”
VARTA also understands the importance of collaboration. It cannot get to where it’s going alone. Using the universal CAN gateway, data from other applications can be integrated into the company’s cloud solutions. This is something the application’s manufacturer can use, too. Those without their own smart service solutions can access the data, thus lowering the entry barrier for startups that don’t have enough use cases or data to guide their innovations. Other VARTA partners assist with the goal of managing other charging options, such as solar energy.
“We realize that solar energy is a highly efficient use of renewable energy for the operation of agriculture robots,” Abele says. “By using artificial intelligence to predict energy demand and identify unused battery capacity, the technology can be used for energy storage on a sunny summer day.”
While many of these solutions are not yet realized, they clearly demonstrate the ways in which agriculture has changed. An industry that has traditionally relied heavily on machinery, equipment, and generational knowledge is shifting to a future where clean data and verifiable information are increasingly powerful tools.
“It is important to have the end in mind so that we know where we want to go and what we want to achieve now,” Abele says “This means not just developing batteries as hardware but supplementing the hardware with software and services to allow the batteries to be smart enough to configure themselves. This allows us to learn from these use cases and guide the direction we have to develop the hardware. With this high standard of flexibility and high level of transparency, we are able to create better solutions tomorrow.”