13 January 2021, 15:38
Digitization and artificial intelligence (AI) play a key role in addressing the many challenges facing agriculture. In order to make use of the enormous potential of intelligent technologies, a trustworthy and powerful IT infrastructure is needed. Following the initiative of the Agrotech Valley Forum, a renowned consortium from industry and research is working in the Agri-Gaia project on the realization of an open AI standard for the agricultural and food industry based on the European GAIA-X cloud initiative. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) with around 12 million euros.
Agriculture is facing enormous challenges: On the one hand, it has to feed more and more people and, as a result, make increasingly efficient use of the available arable land. On the other hand, in times of climate change, it is called upon to act as ecologically as possible and to adapt quickly to ever-changing conditions. Artificial intelligence will serve farmers as well as medium-sized companies – the innovative and efficient backbone of the German agricultural industry – as a tool for using resources more efficiently and protecting ecosystems sustainably. However, the development of AI-supported solutions for agricultural applications requires research competences that go beyond the capabilities of medium-sized companies. In addition, there is a lack of efficient ways to make current and industry-specific AI methods accessible for diverse application developments.
Open AI ecosystem for the agri-food industry shaped by medium-sized companies
This is where the Agri-Gaia project comes in. Together with a growing number of supporters from associations, research, politics and industry, the project partners are working under the leadership of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) to develop an open, decentralized infrastructure for the development and exchange of AI algorithms in agriculture. In this way, an AI ecosystem is to be created for the agri-food industry, which is shaped by medium-sized businesses, based on the European cloud initiative GAIA-X. The consortium includes AgBrain GmbH, Agrotech Valley Forum e.V., Amazonen-Werke H. Dreyer GmbH & Co. KG, Robert Bosch GmbH, CLAAS E-Systems GmbH, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, Josef Kotte Landtechnik GmbH, Maschinenfabrik Bernard Krone GmbH & Co. KG, LMIS AG, the University of Osnabrück and Wernsing Feinkost GmbH.
Robert Everwand, cluster manager of the Agrotech Valley Forum: "Digitization is a prerequisite for future-oriented agriculture. At the same time, it presents agricultural players with major challenges. With Agri-Gaia, we also want to give medium-sized companies the opportunity to push the development of intelligent technologies for the agricultural industry. This benefits not only the companies and the farms, but ultimately all of us."
Agri-Gaia is the first use case of the application domain “Agrar” in the European large-scale project GAIA-X. In it, representatives from politics, business and science are developing the basis of a modern, cross-domain data infrastructure that is intended to ensure Europe's digital sovereignty and enable data exchange within the framework of the European General Data Protection Regulation. The Agri-Gaia consortium has established the “Agrar” domain in GAIA-X, which is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Engel Hessel from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and Dr. Stefan Stiene from the DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen. In this domain, use cases such as Agri-Gaia will be developed to demonstrate the potential of GAIA-X for agriculture.
Prof. Dr. Joachim Hertzberg, head of the DFKI Laboratory Niedersachsen: "We have hit a nerve with Agri-Gaia. The need for a secure networked data infrastructure, as envisaged in GAIA-X, is huge – especially for AI developments. Numerous companies from across the agribusiness value system have already approached us and plan to support the standard and become part of the Agri-Gaia ecosystem."
Industry-specific AI building blocks for innovative applications and business models
To create this ecosystem, the partners are implementing an innovative B2B platform that provides industry-specific adapted AI building blocks as easy-to-use modules and brings users together with developers of AI algorithms. The goal of the project is to close the loop from sensor data acquisition on agricultural machines to the training of algorithms on corresponding servers to the continuous updating and optimization of these algorithms. To this end, Agri-Gaia is developing appropriate interfaces and standards that will create a cross-manufacturer infrastructure. In this way, the project benefits the entire agricultural sector and enables innovative business models. Start-ups and small companies in particular can reach a broad market with their data- and algorithm-based services. In this way, Agri-Gaia is intended to act as an AI catalyst that ensures that AI technologies are used in a wide variety of places throughout the entire agribusiness – for an efficient and simultaneously sustainable agriculture.
The Agri-Gaia project has started on January 1, 2021 and is funded by the BMWi with around 12 million euros over three years.