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Farmers and suppliers in The Netherlands involved in pilot project

For an industry that started 12,000 years ago, there is a lot of unpredictability and imprecision in agriculture. To be predictable and precise, we need to align our actions with insights gathered from data. Earlier this year, Microsoft launched the preview of Azure FarmBeats, a purpose-built, industry-specific solution accelerator built on top of Azure to enable actionable insights from data and reduce the carbon footprint and water usage accordingly. FarmBeats enables aggregation of agriculture datasets across providers and generation of actionable insights by building artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) models based on fused datasets. So, agribusinesses can focus on their core value-add rather than the undifferentiated heavy lifting of data engineering.

Putting the platform into action

For a real-world example of how it works, Microsoft and Fellowmind found a partnership with Dutch farm ‘De Kandelaar’ in Biddinghuizen, agriculture drone experts, ‘DroneWerkers’ and SmartFarm, a field sensor producer. In our pilot, ‘De Kandelaar’ is using Azure FarmBeats to collect data from multiple sources, such as SmartFarm sensors, robotics, drone imagery and satellites, and feeding it into cloud-based AI models to get a detailed picture of conditions on the farm. With the insights obtained, watering and fertilizing their fields are more accurate and precise, resulting in a lower impact on the environment.

“As a digital transformation expert in the field of agriculture, we followed the Azure FarmBeats project with close attention” says Gerdien Burghouts, Agri Lead at Fellowmind. “After the release of the FarmBeats platform, we reached out to Microsoft to get a European initiative going. With the ‘De Kandelaar’ farm, our goal is to gain expertise and to find business value for both the farmer as the rest of the agriculture chain. It’s great to see that this initiative unites our organization. Our data experts from Finland, Sweden and The Netherlands are now involved in making this initiative a success.”

After a successful pilot project in the USA, we were keen to introduce FarmBeats in the European region too. After the United States, The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural and food products, thanks to its innovative agrifood technology. We are excited to bring a team of partners, meteorologists and agronomists together. We are approaching this as an ecosystem to work together on this initiative. We need partners to build solutions and bring sector specific expertise on top of what FarmBeats is today. Only when we are working together, we will empower the agriculture business with the solutions they need. Kim van der Veer, Enterprise Account Executive at Microsoft

Marc van Diepenbeek, dairy and arable farmer Farmer and co-owner of ‘De Kandelaar: Our farm was founded in the 60’s as a research farm of the Wageningen University. After taking over the farm and running it as a commercial business, exploration and innovation remained a strong asset in our DNA. Over the years, we have implemented many innovations and ‘IoT’ data entry points such as our milking robot. When the team of Fellowmind contacted us to participate in the FarmBeats initiative, we immediately saw the potential of bringing our data together to improve production and reduce our carbon footprint.”