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Boosting EGNOS for better precision farming

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Horizon 2020 AUDITOR project, funded by the European GNSS Agency (GSA), enables cost-effective precision agriculture services to small and mid-sized farmers in areas where EGNOS availability is limited.

From automatic steering to farm machinery guidance, variable rate application, yield and soil monitoring and livestock tracking, precision agriculture depends on the precise positioning provided by GNSS.

However, in order to get the level of precision these types of farming applications demand, GNSS signals must be augmented. In Europe, this augmentation is provided by EGNOS.

Although EGNOS is widely available, there are remote and rural areas in Europe where coverage is lacking. Other augmentation providers may provide coverage in the areas, however typically they are expensive, sometimes due to high subscription fees, and are not easy to tailor to the agricultural needs. To help fill the needs of such small farms, the Horizon 2020 AUDITOR project is developing a ground-based GNSS augmentation system that will deliver high-performance and cost-efficient services and applications for the agriculture industry.

The purpose of this project is to develop an improved GNSS ground-based augmentation system using modern and proven algorithms in highly configurable, cost-effect receivers” says Project Coordinator Esther Lopez. “As a result, AUDITOR will enable cost-effective precision agriculture services for farmers, especially those with small and mid-sized farms in areas where EGNOS availability is limited.

The future of farming

The AUDITOR system is based on a radio frequency (RF) dual-band multi-constellation GNSS front-end and an embedded digital processing platform. The front-end receiver acquires the GNSS signals and embeds all analogue and digital hardware required to convert the RF signal to digital samples. The digital processing platform then converts and customises the signals for the AUDITOR systems. The system serves as the basis for providing higher-level services for the end user via cloud-based web and/or mobile applications.

Once finalised, AUDITOR is set to be used in a range of precision agriculture applications. For example, with AUDITOR applications, farmers will be able to accurately measure spatial variability in soils and crops. This information, expressed in the form of yield maps, allows a farmer to precisely apply fertiliser, water and pesticides – thus reducing production costs and the farm’s environmental impact. AUDITOR’s high-accuracy positioning will also enable the use of autonomous mobile robotic units for identifying weeds, pests and diseases.

Producing precise maps of the soil and crops, as well as the spatially varying application of fertiliser that these maps enable, is completely dependent on the availability of an augmented GNSS signal,” says Lopez. “Thanks to AUDITOR, even areas in Eastern and Southern Europe that once were unable to get the required precise GNSS signal can reap the benefits of precision agriculture.

With the ever-increasing requirement for augmented yield and profitability and energy and cost savings, the future of farming is precision agriculture. By focusing on providing the augmentation needed to enable existing precision agriculture applications in Europe alone, Lopez is confident that AUDITOR will be well-positioned to compete on the market.

A version of this article originally appeared on the EU’s CORDIS website.