Agriculture accounts for roughly 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The d4agrotech research and innovation initiative launched by the province of Lower Austria and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology aims to make food production more climate-friendly and efficient through digitalisation. In this Falling Walls Round Table, experts from science and politics talk about the chances and challenges of sustainable agriculture.

“The digitalisation of agriculture is unstoppable”, says Otto Doblhoff-Dier. It presents countless opportunities to improve the situation of livestock, of plant breeding and food production. Yet one of the biggest challenges remains: In order to digitalise a traditional non-digital industry, different stakeholders need to work together. For Dier, solutions for sustainable agriculture have to be developed “at the base”, with scientists, farmers and the industry exchanging ideas and demands.

An “electronic nose” for sustainable agriculture

On the technological side, members of the d4agrotech initiative are already developing new sensors to collect data on soil fertility, water availability or threats to plant health. Algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) may then take this data to develop concrete solutions for farmers and food manufacturers to increase their efficiency and decrease their carbon footprint.

“We want to focus on the biological component”, says Angela Sessitsch of AIT. New sensors may help to monitor the functions of microorganisms in a plant, which may lead to less use of fertilizer and better storage, thus paving the way to a more sustainable agriculture. Similarly, Patrik Aspermaier and his team are working on an “electronic nose” that can analyse the smell of soil and livestock stables, giving farmers an easy monitoring option that integrates frictionless into their daily routine.