ISPA Account

Precision Agriculture in Sweden

Mats Söderström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
Anna Rydberg, Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE)
The 2013 May issue of the ISPA Newsletter contained a country report of precision agriculture (PA) in Sweden at that time. This text focuses on new developments of PA in Sweden during the last six years. In this time, PA has become a more generally accepted concept, and it is now regarded as an important part of the solution to many of the challenges that we are facing concerning e.g. need for increased and sustainable food production. In the National Food Strategy for Sweden by 2017 (Government bill 2016/17:104), it is for example stressed that knowledge and innovation are keys for a more productive and efficient agriculture, while at the same time striving for relevant national environmental targets. The increased accessibility of useful digital data, and the current rapid digital transformation of the society at large, including the agricultural sector, are also beneficial for the development of digital tools and in turn increased adoption of PA. Now, more or less all farmers in Sweden have access to free and easy-to-use decision support tools for various applications of PA. This is one aspect that we think has been important for the spread of PA recently.

Since its launch in 2014, the satellite image based system CropSAT (the first of its kind in Scandinavia, mainly used for variable-rate application (VRA) of nitrogen in grain crops), has become a very widespread tool for advisors and farmers, both for visual inspection of the fields by “near-real time” Sentinel-2 data, but also for wireless transmittance of VRA files to the machinery. That system has also opened the market for a number of other satellite-based systems now available to the Swedish farmers. CropSAT was first a system only for Sweden developed in collaboration between university researchers, advisory organizations, authorities, and private enterprises, but it is now available in different languages, and can be used globally, still for free (CropSAT.com).

Another major development has been the Digital Soil Map of Sweden (DSMS), which is a soil properties database with predicted values of soil texture and other properties every 50 m ´ 50 m. DSMS is available open-access and has been used in different soil based decision support systems. One such system is the web application Markdata.se in which farmers can produce VRA seeding files and prescription files for liming. Through interactive functionality, the user can upload their own soil data and downscale the DSMS maps to become more correct locally.

We are still waiting for drones to have a general break-through in practical PA applications in Sweden – it is today only the more enthusiastic pioneers who has embraced this technology. The availability of decision support systems for drone images, such as the Swedish application Solvi.nu, where the user easily can turn hundreds of images to VRA maps and practical implementation, can possibly facilitate this process.

Will PA be mainstream until 2025? It is quite possible.

More info and references on the applications mentioned in the text can be found on the Swedish
University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) web page Laboratory for intelligent agricultural decision support systems (LADS)