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      Smart Farming

      Farms Are Becoming Smart: with Bits and Bytes as Today’s Seeds

      Largely unnoticed by the general public, an industry that is generally considered rather more traditional has reinvented itself in recent years: agriculture. The answer to the agricultural challenges caused by climate change, the growing world population and the shortage of skilled workers in industrialized countries lies in one word: digitalization. Continental is one of the driving forces behind the progress taking place on farms.


      Cute farmyards, a few cows grazing in the meadow, a flock of chickens in the coop, and not forgetting a chugging tractor – that is the picturesque scene you picture when imagining the typical farm. To this day, it shapes our thinking and our perspective on agriculture. But it has about as much in common with reality as a cheap hospital novel does with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even in the past, this rural idyll was no reflection of reality. For our grandparents and our parents, agriculture meant, above all, tough physical work. Today, modern, high-performance agricultural technology is indispensable when it comes to making this work easier – and in the efforts to feed a steadily growing world population.

      The world population is growing, and the demand for food increasing

      According to estimates by the United Nations, there will be around 8.5 billion people living on the Earth by the year 2030 – around half a billion more than in 2023. But food is already scarce in many places today. And there are further challenges to consider in addition to this.

      In many industrialized countries such as Germany, stricter sustainability regulations have meant that the area of land used for agriculture has been shrinking for years, and fewer pesticides and fertilizers can be used. Lower margins for agricultural products, the shortage of skilled workers and the resulting surge in cost pressure present further challenges. In addition, climate change is causing more severe extreme weather events such as droughts and heavy rainfall, which make cultivation more difficult. Many soils are compacted, over-fertilized and leached.

      Agriculture is faced with the task of providing for the growing world population. At the same time, it is experiencing a far-reaching transformation toward a greater degree of digitalization and sustainability. It is also the job of technology companies such as Continental to support farmers in this transformation process and address their day-to-day challenges. Only in this way will farmers be able to fully focus on the change in their industry and the delivery of their products.
      Philip Nelles
      Continental Executive Board member

      Smart farming stands for more efficiency and more sustainability – thanks to a greater degree of digitalization

      There can be no “business as usual” with the old farming methods, conventional machines and technologies, and fewer and fewer staff, while demand for agricultural products is growing at the same time. The key to the future has been clear for every farm for years now: digitalization and automation. The catchphrase for this trend is “smart farming” – and this involves better ideas, greater efficiency and more sustainable results.

      Technology companies play a significant role in smart farming, both as pioneers and as companions. This was also shown by the Continental study “Agriculture in Transition”, presented at the beginning of November. On behalf of Continental, the market research institute Innofact AG surveyed more than 500 farmers in Brazil, Germany, France, Japan and the USA on their current challenges as well as expectations for the further development of their industry. When asked what farmers want from their technology partners, the top priority cited was affordable prices for new machinery and equipment (64 percent). The proportion of respondents giving this answer was particularly high among German farmers, at 71 percent. However, there is also a demand for more user-friendly technologies (around 43 percent worldwide / 59 percent in Germany), the option to upgrade or retrofit existing devices and machinery instead of making expensive new purchases (around 37 percent worldwide / 48 percent in Germany) as well as training and further education on the correct use of the technologies used (around 37 percent worldwide / 43 percent in Germany).

      From the Continental study “Agriculture im Transition”

      0 %

      of the farmers want from their technology partners affordable prices for new machinery and equipment.

      0 %

      would like to have the option to upgrade or retrofit existing devices and machinery instead of making expensive new purchases.

      0 %

      request training and further education on the correct use of the technologies used.


      At the world’s largest trade fair for agricultural technology, Agritechnica 2023, Continental once again showcased its expertise in this area in mid-November 2023. Our tagline for this event was: “Our Smart Farming. For your harvest of tomorrow.

      Continental’s 2023 trade fair highlights included AI-based systems, autonomous mobile robot solutions, sensors and tire technologies that ensure greater sustainability, safety and efficiency on the farm, in the greenhouse and out in the fields. Worthy of special mention here are a herbicide-free weed control system, a robotic solution for greenhouses, the new cleat design for Raptor draper belts, the Lite version of the ContiConnect digital tire management system, the surround view system ProViu 360 and the NightViu working lights. Another focus of the exhibits at Agritechnica 2023 was on multifunctional terminals and displays that make operating the high-tech trucks even more convenient and intuitive for farmers.

      Continental’s tradition in the field of agriculture can be traced back one and a half centuries already. The company’s long history of an affiliation with mobility in rural areas began with hoof buffers, and this was later followed by discharge hoses and tires for tractors. Today, Continental still produces modern interpretations of classics such as tires for tractors, high-tech mowers as well as other agricultural vehicles. At the same time, the technology company is working on forward-thinking digital solutions for even more efficient, safer and more sustainable agriculture. 

      This includes, for example, certain material-driven solutions: since the resilience and flexibility of materials play a crucial role in agriculture. Material combinations comprising elastomers, metal and thermoplastics for hoses, damping elements or drive belts increase productivity, durability and yield.

      Intelligent agriculture is only possible with a high level of digitalization. We believe that in this decade we will see digitalization in all regions of the world as well as a leap toward seamless digital processes, the automation of mobile machines and sustainability. These developments are only possible if agriculture finds a way to integrate technologies that are already being used in other industries. Continental is in a unique position to support this development.
      Mario Branco
      Head of Off-Highway at Continental

      The best view and visibility

      Farmers go out into the fields even when it is dark outside, or when it is stormy, raining or snowing. But nature is a fickle thing, and does not always provide the best visibility, and in turn safe conditions. The innovative ProViu 360 surround view system and the NightViu working lights can help:

      The ProViu 360 captures images with the help of four HDR (high dynamic range) cameras and a resolution of 1.3 megapixels – and combines these to create a perfect all-round bird’s eye view of the vehicle. In addition, the additional features specifically designed for use in the challenging conditions of agriculture – pedestrian detection, clean camera assistant and transparent chassis – set new standards for surround view camera systems, making blind spots a thing of the past while out in the fields.

      Thanks to their automotive-grade homogeneous illumination specially designed for agricultural applications, the NightViu working lights ensure better visibility as well as greater safety and efficiency while harvesting. At approximately 100 lumens per watt, these LED lights feature an enhanced light efficiency level compared with other LEDs offered for agriculture. They cover a wide variety of lighting scenarios and beam patterns, ranging from highly focused spotlight illumination to floodlighting and an extremely wide illumination field.

      Using a drone to determine the best time to spread fertilizer

      The development of progress takes place on the ground – and in the air. Sensor, satellite and drone data already provides farmers around the world with important information about the conditions in their fields. Based on this measurement data, an algorithm calculates the optimal time and dosage for applying the fertilizer. Not only does this protect the natural environment by no longer spreading too much fertilizer on the fields, which is then washed out into rivers, lakes and seas, but the farmers also benefit financially. Since, due to the rapid rise in energy prices, fertilizer has become rare and expensive.

      A particularly sustainable highlight from Continental’s most recent trade fair appearance is a solution that makes weed control in fields possible without the need for any herbicides. This detects and eliminates weeds organically. The system is based on optical sensor technology, supported by automotive-grade software and artificial intelligence (AI), which helps to accurately distinguish weeds from crops and eradicate them with boiling water. The weed control system was designed and engineered by development and production service provider Continental Engineering Services (CES), which specializes in developing customer-specific, technological solutions for companies across multiple industries. Continental and its partners are now further developing the smart farming solution with the aim of industrializing it.


      Robotic solution specifically for use in greenhouses

      An example of the successful use of mobile robots in agriculture as well can be seen in another trade fair innovation from Continental: a robot solution for greenhouses. The solution is based on a modular concept consisting of an autonomous robot platform as the carrier for various implements to fulfill tasks such as treatment with ultrav
      iolet light (UVC), selective harvesting or plant analysis. Continental is working with the Dutch-Belgian technology company Octiva to bring the solution to market in 2024.

      But even on a seemingly small scale, there is still plenty of room for improvement in agriculture and thus for “becoming smart.” With its draper belts, Continental is now showcasing a solution that is capable of withstanding the impact forces of common debris. This is important for preventing unplanned down-time and replacement costs.


      Optimized tires and optimized tire pressure

      And, no matter how much IT and AI will be introduced into agriculture in the future, the agricultural machinery and tractors will need to keep on rolling. And in as smart a way as possible: the new generation of agricultural tires from Continental places particular emphasis on soil protection and fuel efficiency, which leads to optimized total cost of ownership for the farmer thanks to their durability and quality. The VF TractorMaster Hybrid is characterized by high traction and fuel efficiency, both on the road and out in the fields. The tire also has a sensor inside for digital tire monitoring using the ContiConnect smartphone app.

      To ease the transition to smart farming, Continental has developed user-friendly technologies such as the Lite version of ContiConnect, a system for getting started with digital tire monitoring. Thanks to the Bluetooth-enabled sensor inside the tire, the system allows farmers to easily access important tire data via their mobile device directly. No additional hardware is required. This allows for efficient workflows, lower emissions and significant cost savings, since farmers are able to set the correct tire pressure, for example, before starting work out in the fields.

      The study:

      Smart farming as an answer to the current challenges of agriculture

      Farmers around the world do not feel adequately prepared for the upcoming transformation toward more efficient and sustainable agriculture. This is one of the key findings from the first Continental study “Agriculture in Transition”. On behalf of Continental, the market research institute Innofact AG surveyed more than 500 farmers in Brazil, Germany, France, Japan and the USA on their current challenges as well as expectations for the further development of their industry. Only around 45 percent of the farmers surveyed stated that their farm is sufficiently prepared for the upcoming transformation in terms of current technological equipment. More than one in three farmers worldwide are calling for greater use of digital solutions in one’s own operations. At the same time, the study shows that it is not the farmers’ attitude: for example, nine out of ten farmers think it is important that the machines and equipment used on the farm make a contribution to sustainability.

      Currently, around 72 percent of farmers in the Continental study complain that the issue of “price pressure” is present for them on a daily basis. While they are getting increasingly low prices for their products on the world markets, spending on energy, fertilizer and personnel continues to rise.

      Given the major challenges facing farmers, the transformation toward a more efficient agriculture business in which intelligent applications and environmental protection coexist is essential. Technology companies play a central role here as pioneers and companions.

      Click here for the findings of the study “Agriculture in Transition”

      Find out more about agriculture technologies

      Status: November 2023