The Farm Technology Group aims at enhancing, exploiting and disseminating technology in primary agricultural production processes with the aim to fulfill the needs of mankind and nature in a sustainable way.
About the Farm Technology Group
Our vision of Agricultural production
When it comes to needs of mankind and nature, the perspective has rapidly changed during the past decades. With a growing global population, the demand for food is increasing continuously and food production is and will be the key issue of agricultural production in years to come. However, the past decades have also shown a gradual diversification of the product portfolio in Western Europe. Feed, fuel and fibres are gaining importance besides food and flowers and production fo functional foods, pharmaceuticals, renewable resources from plants etc. will appear on the agenda. Also the character of farm enterprises is changing. Being a part of society at large, nowadays farms in The Netherlands also contribute to recreation, nature conservation and health care. Meeting the growing and diverse demands of the global society puts strong pressure on nature with its limited available resources and calls for more sustainable agricultural production.
In the coming years key issues in this field will be: 1) effective use of natural resources like energy, water and chemicals, 2) welfare of animals and healthe of animals, plants and human beings (food safety), 3) reduction of the environmental impact of agricultural production, and 4) supporting, alleviating or replacing human labour. Enhancing and exploiting the potential of technology is the way to meet this complex and challenging set of objectives. We refer to our work as Biosystems Engineering.
Our focus: Biosystems Engineering
We define "Biosystems Engineering" as a scientific approach that combines methods and tools from technical sciences with biological, environmental, agricultural and social sciences in order to study, understand, manage and design biosystems that encompass technical components and biological organisms (plants, animals) as well as human interactions with both these groups of entities.
The Farm Technology Group focusses on two main research areas within the broader field of Biosystems Engineering, being:
1 Design of sustainable systems and technology, and development of improved methods,
2 Sensing, data processing and interpretation, followed by intelligent operations e.g. process management, manipulation, robotics and precision agriculture/precision livestock farming.
Being an intermediate between plant sciences, animal sciences, environmental sciences and sometimes social sciences on one hand and technology on the other hand, the group holds a unique position both within Wageningen UR and nationally. Many scientific challenges arise on the edge between nature and technology. It is the ambition of the Farm Technology Group to play a leading role in this scientific field, nationally and globally. We expect to achieve this through targeted networking and collaboration with research groups in related non-technological and technological fields to develop new scientific knowledge in support of the challenging field of Biosystems Engineering.
Challenges for research
The main scientific challenges in Biosystems Engineering are the complexity of production systems including many and usually non-linear interactions between the various entities. Additionally, variability of nature apparent through variation in position, size, shape and colour of objects as well as variability in the response of processes in time together with uncertainty in for instance the weather, pose considerable research challenges. Focus is nog only on studying and understanding these comples systems, but typical for engineering, also on management, control and (re)design of such systems, with a special focus on the technology. With a growing number of PhD students we address the above topics yielding a growing number of scientific publications in peer reviewed journals and knowledge and experience that can be applied in agricultural practice. Various examples of our research done by staff, post-doc, MSc and BSc students is presented in our annual report.
High quality education
The Farm Technology group is one of the main suppliers of the BSc and MSc programmes Biosystems Engineering at Wageningen University. In The Netherlands these programmes are singularly unique within the higher education landscape. The group provides 17 courses at bachelor and master level, besides an internship programme as well as bachelor and master thesis projects. Both education programmes rank high in the yearly student evalution of higher education in The Netherlands.