Three young European agricultural students were chosen from among 114 entrants from 25 countries as prize-winners in the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) Farming by Satellite Prize, awarded at a ceremony at the Sima-Simagena Agri-Business Show in Paris on 25 February 2013.
The first prize of €10 000 went to Robert Fillingham, a PhD student at Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom, for his proposed European Farm Management Information System, which uses satellite technology to create a centralized database that can be accessed by farmers across the continent. This idea appealed to the judges because of its simplicity and the fact that it combines information received using satellite technologies with centralized analysis, and then makes that analysis available at a local level. The second prize of €5 000 went to Jonathan Bradbeer, also a student at Harper Adams, for his paper on the use of satellite based positioning to optimize bale collection in fields, thereby reducing operating time and cutting fuel consumption.
Third prize of €1 000 went to Rubio, from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, for a biomass monitoring system that uses camera-based sensors in addition to satellite positioning to monitor biomass in vineyards. Maps generated with the system provide a comparative analysis of the health of plants, and when this is combined with a visual assessment of plant health, the combined data can be used to make useful predictions regarding harvest yield.
Benefit for all farms
The aim of the Farming by Satellite competition is to promote the use of satellite navigation in agriculture and its benefits to end users. Entry is open to individuals or teams (under the age of 32) to contribute new ideas and innovations, particularly those relying upon the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) and the forthcoming Galileo system. The entrants in the Farming by Satellite competition were asked to present their ideas for using satellite technologies in agriculture to improve production, efficiency and profit, and reduce environmental impact.
While satellite technology in agriculture has traditionally benefited larger farms, where automated turning and precision harvesting can be used to the greatest benefit, all three prize-winning submissions in this year’s competition featured satellite based solutions that can be used in farms of all sizes and so have the potential for broad practical application.
Opening the award ceremony, Dr Theo Freye, Spokesman of the Executive Board of CLAAS, noted that in order to meet growing demand for agricultural products it will be necessary to significantly increase the world’s production of biomass. As farming machinery has reached its limit in terms of size, precision farming will be critical in achieving this goal, and systems like EGNOS will play a key role in contributing to this process.
Farmers love EGNOS!
Introducing the prize-winners, European Commission representative Michel Bosco noted that the Farming by Satellite Prize was a perfect example of a synergetic project, financed by the European taxpayer and involving young Europeans in developing projects that will benefit the people of Europe as a whole. He also noted that the agricultural sector was quick to realise the potential of satellite technology and that farmers had started to use the EGNOS satellite system even before it became fully operational: when the system was shut down for routine maintenance, this elicited phone calls from anxious farmers who had become reliant on the service that the system provided.
Representing the sponsors, Dr Hubert Schmeer, Head of Development at BayerCropSciences, and Dr Jens Moeller, Managing Director at CLAAS Agrosystems, both reiterated their companies’ enthusiasm for the project and stressed the importance of this type of competition in engaging young talent in responding to the challenges facing the agricultural sector.
Following the success of the first competition, the prize is set to become a regular feature. When information on the next deadline for submission becomes available, it will be published on the competition’s website. Entries can feature any type of satellite enhanced agriculture in any part of Europe. Entry is free and the organisers are particularly keen to see entries that increase the focus on farm types and places where the use of satellite navigation has not yet taken off.
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