Digital IPM: Embracing a Chemical-Free Future in Agriculture

Throughout history, agriculture has battled crop threats, from ancient locust plagues to modern-day greenhouse viruses. As we continue cultivating crops, these challenges persist. For decades, industrialised agriculture relied heavily on chemical "crop care" solutions – insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides. However, this approach is unsustainable.

Why Chemical-Free Agriculture is the Future:

  • Environmental Reasons: Help to reduce environmental pollution by minimising the use of synthetic chemicals that can harm waterways, wildlife, and human health.
  • Regulations: The European Union is already restricting chemical use, impacting growers across Europe. By 2027, a significant portion of crop care chemicals will be banned. Research by INRAE suggests a chemical-free agriculture in Europe by 2050!
  • Consumer Demand: Consumers increasingly seek chemical-free produce, driving growers towards alternative solutions.

The Rise of Integrated Pest Management (IPM):

IPM offers a sustainable approach to growers to help with crop care. Two main aspects of IPM are:

  • Biological Pest Control: Predatory mites can combat whiteflies, thrips, mites, and aphids.
  • Enhanced Monitoring: Early detection is crucial for effective biological control. Technologies like cameras and computer vision software can identify pests and diseases in their early stages.

Digital Tools Empowering IPM:

  • Advice Platforms: Companies like Royal Brinkman are delivering digital solutions to help growers with IPM. Solutions like the MyScout App provide a platform for gathering data and visualising diseases and pests in horticulture.
  • Moving Cameras: Smart-Eyes developed by AgriData Innovations (ADI) enable growers to have eyes on their crop. By using existing platforms like spraying robots, this collaborative development allows growers to monitor crops while spraying, promoting targeted application and reducing waste. Using AI software, ADI automates the detection of pests & diseases.
  • Monitoring Drones: Drones are used by companies like Corvus to monitor crop health. The drone flies autonomously through the greenhouse making images that are then analysed by computer vision parties like ADI.

Collaboration for a Chemical-Free Future:

  • Chrysanthemum Consortium: ADI, Royal Brinkman, LMC Made (Zentoo), Van Iperen, and Delphy join forces to develop chemical-free chrysanthemum production. Together as a consortium this group is developing a fully integrated data-driven crop management system. The camera system technology from ADI detects problems early and is foundational to digital IPM.
  • Orchid Consortium: Together, Corvus Drones and ADI are collaborating with OK Plant, Ter Laak Orchids and Optiflor. This consortium utilises drones and data analysis to detect pests and diseases early, minimising chemical use and ensuring sustainable orchid production.

Digital IPM, with its focus on biological controls and data-driven monitoring, offers a roadmap towards a chemical-free agricultural future. By embracing these advancements, growers can ensure sustainable production practices that meet consumer demands, complying with evolving regulations and helping reduce environmental pollution that can harm waterways, wildlife, and human health.

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