Smart farming

Agriculture has undergone continous developments in recent years due to the increasing demand for more environmentally friendly and efficient farming methods. One of these developments is smart farming, i.e. the use of digital technologies in agriculture. It includes the automation of work processes (e.g. by robots, drones), machine learning, sensor technology and the networking of devices and vehicles. As a result, smart farming will fundamentaly change agriculture and it is already increasing the need to adapt regulatory processes for the authorisation of agrochemicals.

Smart farming in the regulatory process

With its Farm to Fork Strategy as part of the Green Deal, the European Commission aims a 50% reduction of pesticide use by 2030. Presicion farming can be a breakthrough to achieving this challenging goal. Current technologies allow to apply pesticides exclusively to a given target organism and not necessarily being applied to the total field area, preventive or due to usual handling without compromising the efficacy or risk crop yield and quality. At RIFCON, we consider smart farming options in the risk assessment as reduced exposure towards organisms in the agricultural landscape or amount applied to the environment, and we develop strategies to address smart farming in the registration process in correspondence with the involved stakeholders.

Smart farming technology in field studies

Smart farming means to go new ways and to rethink the known. RIFCON is working on integrating smart technology into existing study concepts and developing new study designs. We are commonly using drone-based remote sensing in field studies for  exposure measures from a bird’s eye view, behavioral studies, data collection (e.g. ground coverage of crops to get suitable deposition data for any crop and growth stage), monitor animal movements or, in combination with thermal image cameras, to detect e.g. animals or nest sites in farmland.

The smart farming earthworm study

In this research project we are investigating how application patterns affect a natural earthworm community. Specifically, we are studying these patterns, each with 50% treated and 50% untreated area, in terms of chronic effects as well as recovery capacity (see video). Our hypothesis is that the more small-scale the pesticide is applied to the field, the lower the direct effect on the corresponding earthworm community and the higher its recovery capacity. The results of the study will help provide a baseline data set for future risk assessments of precision-applied pesticides.


For more info please contact Michael Faupel.

RIFCON is continuously working on the integration of smart farming concepts. Our current projects are

  • Drone-based data recording from bird’s eye perspective
  • Improved monitoring and observation studies of farmland species
  • Compiling of topic related publications – currently in progress: Precision farming and current EU pesticide regulation – how does it fit together?
  • Conducing a field study on effects of precision farming on the regulatory process of pesticides regarding soil ecotoxicology