Aandrijfenbesturing.nl – A digital twin of bell pepper?

The digital twin as a virtual representation of the reality directly related to it may not be an everyday phenomenon in an industrial context, but the term would seem strange to a few. But can you also apply technology in the agriculture and food sector and more specifically to develop digital twins of animals and plants? Marcel Rosen, director of Fontys GreenTechLab, is looking into the matter.

Fontys GreenTechLab is studying whether digital twins can be used to detect lameness in animals and the digital cultivation of peppers.

GreenTechLab is located within Fontys University of Applied Sciences Venlo and deals with technical questions in agriculture, food and logistics. Digital twinning presents a unique challenge; While IoT solutions can collect data in an industrial process and relate it to reality, this is not possible with a living organism. Thus, applications of digital twins in agriculture and food work differently, but can mean a lot in improving processes, data collection and signal transmission. Rosen and his team started two pilot projects to explore this; Detecting lameness in animals and digital cultivation of pepper.

animal welfare

Livestock often keep large numbers of animals, which makes timely identification of health issues a challenge. Walking behavior is a key indicator of potential lameness, which can have far-reaching consequences. Discovering this in time can make a big difference, Rosen explains: “A digital twin of a cow can help quickly and effectively analyze a video image. What we’ve done is create a system that can digitally reproduce images of a cow., which turns the cow into a digital twin. We have We trained this system to recognize abnormal walking behavior in cows. The technology you use for this is called recurrent neural networks, which you can now use to signal unhealthy walking behavior. It benefits animal welfare and offers many applications in livestock, as well as for other diseases.” .

Cultivation of peppers digitally

A similar application for vegetable and fruit cultivation has been investigated, in which a digital twin of sweet pepper plants has been developed. This is a challenge, because this is one of the applications of artificial intelligence that you must learn to identify peppers: “We recognize peppers instinctively, based on the experience and knowledge of the farmer. The system must learn this first and this takes a long time, but also presents many opportunities. It may require This is thousands of iterations, also to enable classification. What we get here is a translation of what’s in the greenhouse into understandable and analysable data How many peppers grow in a greenhouse and how well do they grow? What is their density? Where are the areas of interest? This is the missing digitization step in Agriculture This has many advantages for the grower, more insight and predictability in harvesting, better planning and preventive measures to keep plants healthy, and healthier business operations.

“digital greenhouse”

Image recognition technology (Convolutional Neural Networks), used in the case of paprika, has been around for some time. The innovation lies in the application, whereby the contents of the greenhouse are converted into a data set that offers many possibilities. Farmers can start working on this data-driven. Digital twinning can also have a signaling function in disease management; Plant disease starts small, but often grows large. The digital twin is accelerating opportunities for digitization and making the digital greenhouse possible, Rosen postulates: “In theory, you could reproduce the entire greenhouse as a digital twin and control it digitally. From humidification and air circulation to the day-night cycle. The big challenge here is trust in the system and acceptance of the twins. Digital and artificial intelligence applications. Technology is a kind of “black box” for an entrepreneur; the process is inexplicable. With Virtual Plant Twin, we are taking a step forward to validate the technology.”

digital twin academy

Virtual Plant Twin is a pilot project within the Digital Twin Academy. Within this larger project, digital twins are being provided to SMEs and applications of the technology are being explored in a number of projects. This specific project is being implemented by the GreenTechLab Knowledge Center, part of Fontys Hogeschool Techniek & Logistics, with support from other institutes, including Fontys Hogeschool ICT and Fontys Engineering. The Digital Twin Academy is an Interreg Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) project. The program is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and is a collaboration between various governments, research, education and business partners.

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