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Club of Bologna: evolution and perspective of global agricultural mechanization

The international assembly of agricultural mechanization experts performed their work last November in the setting of EIMA International. The numerous scientific contributions provided a look back to the mechanization evolution in the sector and brought out an updated picture of the salient issues for various regions around the world

by Luigi Bodria e Marco Fiala
March - April 2017 | Back


The 26th Meeting of the Club of Bologna, held on 12-13 November in Bologna on occasion of EIMA International 2016, was dedicated to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Club. To celebrate this important milestone the volume “The 25 years of the Club of Bologna Evolution and Prospects of Agricultural Mechanization in the World” has been published by FederUnacoma and Accademia dei Georgofili; the book provides a complete and comprehensive overview of the situation of mechanization in the different world regions.

The introductory Keynote “The 25 Years of Club of Bologna”, by Luigi Bodria, Marco Fiala (University of Milan) and Karl T. Renius (Technischen University of München), recall the origin and development of the Club from the first preparatory meeting of the founding committee until the Open Meeting at Expo 2015 in Milan.

After this presentation, the meeting continued with the presentation of the mechanization in industrialized areas of the world.

The report titled “Agricultural mechanization and the role of tractors” by Karl T. Renius, emphasized the key role of the tractor for the development of agricultural mechanization in its different functions: classic for food production, environmental for landscape maintenance and strategic in order to free labour power other economic areas indicating strategies and methods for worldwide tractor development. Then the author described the major strategies for worldwide tractor development introducing as well the innovative ideas for future tractors.

Peter Schulze Lammers (University of Bonn), Milan Martinov (University of Novi Sad, Serbia), Emmanuel Hugo (Irstea, France), David Tinker (EurAgEng, United Kindom), Stefan Böttinger (University of Stuttgard) – with their the Report “Agricultural Mechanization in Europe” – gave a comprehensive overview of European agriculture that resulted in an important economic turnover of 211.9 billion Euro in 2015. Standardization has an important role in agricultural machinery sector in Europe. 

Current research and future development mainly concern precision crop and livestock farming in order to better adapt machine action to crop/animal needs and local condition. Next step will be towards the autonomous machines but still questions arise on the future of robotics in agriculture with different opinions among the authors.

The keynote “Agricultural Mechanization in the United States of America” by John K. Schueller (University of Florida, USA) presented the mechanization in the world’s largest country, with an area of almost 10 million of square kilometres.

Although the use of utility tractors in the 40-100 Hp power range in USA is the most common, there is an increasing development of articulated tractors of about 300-600 Hp for the largest farms. The use of electronics has largely developed and the original "islands of automation" have evolved and the various electronic systems are now being networked together. Timeliness in field operations is very crucial in many USA situations and therefore it is also common to perform multiple field operations in a single field pass behind a single tractor, for example tillage, fertilization, pesticide application, and planting in order to increase productivity and reduce labour costs.

In the second part of the session the mechanization of less industrialized areas has been analysed.

Ettore Gasparetto (University of Milan, Italy) and Luis Marquez (Universitad Politecnica de Madrid) presented the report “Mechanization in Latin America”, providing a very deep overview of the Latin America countries, with particular attention to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. After a general introduction concerning the different socio-economic data, as well as, the available resources and input for local agriculture (water, land, use of fertilizers), the report describes the various agricultural environments in La­tin America, the fertility level of the soils and defines the land surface suitable for different food crops. 

Finally, after a brief overview on the past contributions about the topic of the Latin America mechanization, the two Authors emphasized the development of the current research and the future prospects.

The keynote “Agricultural mechanization in India” by Gajendra Singh (Doon University, India) and Surendra Singh (Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association, India), star­ted with a general introduction on the basic indicators of the local agriculture.

Tractor population in India has grown from 0,037 million in 1960-61 to 5,946 million units in the year 2014-15; in the same period, consequently, farm power availability from tractor increased from 0,007 to 1,09 kW/ha at an overall growth rate of 10% during the last 55 years. The average farm power availability needs to be increased to a minimum of 2.5 kW/ha by 2020 to assure timeliness and quality in field operations, to undertake heavy field operations like sub-soiling, chiseling, deep ploughing and summer ploughing. Finally, the report analyses the status of the market considering both tractors sales and farm tools and implements sales.

The last report “Agricultural mechanization in Africa: development and prospects”, jointly written by Bassam Snobar (University of Amman, Jordan), Brian Sims (Engineering for Development, UK), Josef Kienzle and Joseph Mpagalile (FAO), shows the situation in African continent, generally characterized by a very poor socio-economic situation and by a low-level of input factors in agricultural production.

Although the continent is potentially rich in agricultural land, severe soil degradation is seen as one of the root causes of stagnating and declining agricultural productivity.

The use of farm machinery is at a low level compared to other regions of the world, although North Africa (NA) agriculture is more mechanized than that in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): the number of tractors per 1000 hectares in SSA is 28 and the growth between 1961 and 2000 in SSA is 28% compared to 500% in Asia, 469% in Latin America and Caribbean and 1350% in the Near East and NA.

The need for an improved agricultural mechanization supply is discussed in detail; the main benefits of mechanization include: increased land and labour productivity, improved timeliness and reduced drudgery.

Considering the increasingly rapid development of science in recent years, during the third part of the meeting the “Convergences of science and technologies in agricultural engineering” were discussed.

The subject was introduced by a vision report “Technology convergence and innovation” by Fedro Zazueta (University of Florida) based upon two basic principles: that we gave much higher value through innovation than by marginal increases and efficiency and that innovation opportunities occurs when new science and new technology converge each other, and so we can have the best return on value from.

The most significant example is the development of Information Technologies (IT) that comes from the convergence of three technologies: electricity, telephone system and telecommunications; which led to the birth of the computer network. So the convergence of these technologies revolutionized our access to information that evolved into knowledge and when this happens, things change deeply.

Therefore great emphasis must be given to education which constitutes the single most important factor to successfully face the rapid evolution of new technologies.

The new challenge will be the way in which all this new technologies can converge in the agro-food chain and the role of machines in the agro-food value chain of the XXI century.

Afterward four position papers focused on specific aspects. The first one “The Economic Perspective” by Gerhard Schiefer (University of Bonn ) underlined how economics can be a barrier or a driver to innovation. Technology and economics must converge in the different stages of the innovation process: discovery; marketable product; adoption by business. Without economic consideration the technology will not became innovation.

The second position paper - “Social and ethical considerations” by Cesare Zanasi (University of Bologna) - explained how agricultural mechanization in itself is neither good nor bad. It depends on two keywords: context and sustainability, which are strictly related to the social and ethical aspects. Mechanization should enhance labour access and labour conditions, improve food nutrition and security, support small family farmers and integrated rural development, as well as should be related to sustainable supply systems.

The paper “Machine-Human Relationship” by Yoshisuke Kishida (Shin-Norinsha Co. Ltd, Japan) analyzed the evolution of agricultural mechanization considering as the new age will be the mechanization of human brain. This will require the development of new machines in which more and more important will be the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). According to the “Law of Accelerating Returns” by Ray Kurzweil the rate of change in evolutionary systems tends to increase exponentially and the implications include the merger of biological non-biological intelligence. If Kurzweil’s forecast is right we have to rethink the relationship between robots and the human beings.

The last position paper "Production Development" by Karl T. Renius stressed that the best investment to improve the economic and social level of any community is to get up the level of education. A second key issue is the ethical aspects, especially in African countries where corruption is a serious barrier to development. The creation of an African Institute of Technology, proposal already launched several years ago that has never been realized, might find new interest today under the pressure of refugee movements that involve heavily the economies of European countries (it’s possible read the volume and the reports on:

During the meeting was presented, the new president of the Club of Bologna: Paolo Balzari from the Univerty of Turin.

Agreement FederUnacoma -Accademia dei Georgofili

On occasion of the Club of Bologna Meeting 2016, was signed a cooperation agreement between FerderUnacoma and Accademia dei Georgofili.

The agreement was introduced by the president of FederUnacoma, Massimo Goldoni, and the Vice President of the Accademia dei Georgofili, Pietro Piccarolo. The two speakers recalled the long tradition of scientific cooperation between the two organizations and their common commitment to the development of agriculture and pertinent technological innovation.

On behalf of their respective organizations, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the promotion of joint activities addressed to the progress of mechanization, environmental protection and food quality and safety.

Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize and UNASA-Club of Bologna Prize

During the 26th Club of Bologna meeting the award ceremonies of two prizes were held.

The “Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize 2016”– now in its 2nd edition - is an international prize dedicated to the best PhD theses on farm machinery and mechanization; the three winners, who received the award from President FederUnacoma Massimo Goldoni, were:

• ‑1st classified: Alireza Pourreza (USA), PhD Thesis: “Citrus Huanglongbing disease identification using computer vision and machine learning”;

• ‑2nd classified: Marco Ramm (Germany), PhD Thesis: “Systematic development and analysis of continuously variable transmissions with inner power split for mobile machinery”;

• ‑3rd classified: Suray Amatya (USA), PhD Thesis: “Detection of cherry tree branches and localization of shaking positions for automated sweet cherry harvesting”.

The “UNASA-Club of Bologna” rewards the best scientific work published by a less than 38 years old Italian researcher in a referee international journal. The  winner of this first edition, who was awarded and congratulated by the President UNASCA, Michele Stanca, was:

• ‑Valentina Giovenzana (Italy), scientific article: “Testing of a simplified LED based vis/NIR system for a rapid ripeness evaluation of white grape for Franciacorta wine” published in the Elsevier journal Talanta-The International Journal of Pure and Applied Analytical Chemistry .




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