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Agricultural digital, the role of Made in Italy

In the field of digital technologies applied to agriculture, Italian industry can boast true excellences, but the political system needs to help manufacturers promote the spread of these innovations, which are often pioneering

by the editorial staff
October - November 2022 | Back

The FederUnacoma family is expanding. On 28 June, at the Federation's annual general meeting, the FederUnacoma General Council gave the go-ahead for the accession of two new association bodies, Assoidrotech, representing manufacturers of irrigation and water management systems, and Agridigital, representing industries that produce information technology and digital systems for agriculture.

The industries of the digital branch have been seeing their importance grow for years - also in the primary sector - thanks to the digitalisation of processes and the increasing spread of precision farming. With the president of Agridigital, Carlo Linetti, Mondo Macchina profiles this highly innovative sector and the companies that develop high-tech solutions for agriculture.


The first electronic devices appeared on agricultural machinery in the early 1990s. But it was the beginning of the new millennium, particularly the second half of the 2000s, that marked what can be described as the real digital revolution in agricultural machinery. Sophisticated machine language technologies that allow tractors and equipment to interface with each other, autonomous driving systems, sensor networks, satellite mapping, in recent years the way of doing agriculture has changed profoundly...

Agriculture has changed profoundly for various reasons, but all interlinked: the focus on green and sustainability, the need to comply with increasingly stringent regulations, to optimise work, increase production and reduce costs at the same time. Let's say that technology has evolved to keep up with these new requirements, starting with the introduction of the ISOBUS protocol more than 30 years ago, but which has undergone a substantial acceleration in recent years with the introduction of agriculture 4.0, which has made it possible to implement projects that would have been very difficult due to the high investments required.

Digital 'agriculture' has spread in Italy with a delay compared to other countries, but the initial gap is gradually closing. The national industry is also increasingly competitive in the creation of advanced electronic systems...

Italian industry can boast a real excellence in this field, where the proverbial flexibility and inventiveness of our companies can be a very substantial added value. It is clear that the rules of the game must be the same for everyone, and from this point of view it is desirable that the political system, both Italian and European, makes a substantial contribution to the development of digital technology, in general, applied to agriculture. However, substantial attention must be paid to the 'how', i.e. how the operation and benefits of these machines are transferred to end users, so that they fully understand their usefulness and advantages.


Italian agricultural machinery is particularly strong in creating specific technologies for the different needs of agriculture. Can it be said that the applied electronics industry also maintains this peculiarity and manages to develop solutions tailored to the specific needs of different crops and territories?

The answer is positive. Applied electronics is today able to allow the implementation of specific solutions suited to various needs both in terms of crops and territory. And Italian agricultural machinery is particularly 'creative' from this point of view, in the sense that it has the ability to look beyond and propose innovative solutions.


The new frontier of digital technologies applied to agriculture is the creation of automated robotic systems; intelligent machines capable of working, learning and correcting themselves completely independently of human intervention. To what kind of users are these technologies aimed and what benefits are they able to bring to agricultural practice?

The type of users that robotics technology is typically aimed at are end users, i.e. farmers, with the aim of simplifying and speeding up certain types of work, or to carry out work where it is increasingly difficult to find labour. For example, in cattle breeding, several systems are already in place that can largely replace the work of herdsmen. It goes without saying that all of this also depends on the specific interest of machinery manufacturers in applying robot systems. The ultimate goal, and the resulting benefit, is however in economic terms, i.e. to increase the productivity and quality of processing by lowering costs.


How is the national agromechanical industry positioned in the particular segment of robotics?

In absolute terms, the market for robotic systems is still very niche and one of the reasons for this is certainly the cost, which is still very high. However, we are in line with other countries in this respect. It must be said that these technologies fit perfectly into the broader concept of Agriculture 4.0, and their further development will certainly also depend on 'how much' these investments will be facilitated by government interventions, national and European.


EIMA Digital is the thematic exhibition dedicated to the sector that Agridigital represents. How is this exhibition positioned on the international scene and what development prospects can you foresee for the coming years?

EIMA Digital will be an extraordinary opportunity to make it clear to many farmers who still do not perceive it that "the future is there...", and to confirm how the interest of manufacturers is increasing more and more (a bit like what is happening in the automotive industry with electric vehicles). EIMA is a showcase with great international scope, so it will be a significant step in this process.

The prospects are those of a potentially exponential growth as there are some macro-economic, political and social factors (the increase and the need for food of populations, the increasing number of processes where it is difficult to find labour, the increasing attention for the respect of the environment and for the limitation of harmful substances on the ground, etc..) that will make agricultural digitisation increasingly necessary. However, there are a number of obstacles that need to be resolved in parallel.

One of them is 'technical culture'. In manufacturing companies, the machine tools are now all numerically controlled, and in order to operate them properly, specific training is required, sometimes even good schooling.

In agriculture it is the same: in order to make a digital system work at its best and exploit its advantages, it is necessary to have a good level of skills, and technological evolution must be accompanied by a technical knowledge evolution of the operators as well as a cultural one, given that radical innovations are generally always initially viewed with some suspicion.


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