Creating digital doubles of cherry trees

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Bild: Fraunhofer IIS

Partner in the new ‘For5G’ cooperation project

A practical 5G application for cherry farming is being developed as part of the ‘For5G’ project. The heart of the project, located in the region known as Franconian Switzerland, is the creation and analysis of a ‘digital twin’ for fruit trees. The findings gained during the project will be transferred to other applications in future. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), FAU, the Institute of Horticulture at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HWST) and the Forchheim administrative district are all collaborating on the implementation of the project, which has received 1.4 million euros of funding from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

As the trend moves towards ‘smart farming’, an increasing number of innovative technologies are being developed and used for sustainable agriculture. This also includes digitalisation and the use of 5G applications, which represent a further step on the way to fundamental changes in traditional farming methods. The opportunities arising from these changes for agricultural businesses are significant, and they can expect increases in production, a reduction in costs or optimised use of resources.

Drones supply the data for the ‘digital twin

A ‘digital twin’ is an exact copy of a physical object that can be simulated, controlled and improved. The images required for generating the twin are captured by drones and transferred to a computer infrastructure using 5G technology. Since the drone itself cannot process the data, the technology for transferring the data is vital for the success of the project. To counteract the poor 5G coverage of areas used for agriculture, the mobile 5G campus network of Fraunhofer IIS is used as it can be transported to each location and ensures the drone is connected to the network.

It all started with a sweet cherry

A sweet cherry tree was selected as the first application for the project. The first step of the three-phased process involves creating a digital twin of the tree, a colour 3D model of the tree in its entirety that accurately depicts fruit, pests and the tree’s general state of health. This model is already sufficient to cover most use cases. The digital twin is available to the farmer in the local cloud immediately after it has been created. On site, the data can be checked on the basis of various objectives such as detecting disease or predicting crop yield and any potential measures for ensuring the tree is successfully managed can be implemented.

Many uses for the results of the project

The expertise in the fields of 5G and phenotyping (Fraunhofer IIS), robotics and visualisation (FAU – Chair of Computer Science 9 (Visual Computing) and Professorship for Information Technology (Location Tracking and Navigation Systems)) as well as in the area of fruit growing (HWST, Forchheim administrative district) brought together in this project are the perfect combination for ensuring its success. The possible applications for the digital twin in agriculture and fruit growing are extremely varied. The spectrum ranges from assessing the health of individual trees and the fruit to the ability to make prognoses about potential crop yield. Even entire forests can be analysed in this way, thereby enabling early detection of forest fires or early localisation of pests. Forestry is extremely important in terms of ecology and the economy in Germany. Not only the Free State of Bavaria with its almost 2.5 million hectares of forests but also other federal states and the EU could greatly benefit from the introduction of this new 5G technology.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Marc Stamminger

Chair of Computer Science 9 (Visual Computing)

Phone: +49 9131 85 29920

Prof. Dr. Jörn Thielecke

Professorship for Information Technology (Location Tracking and Navigation Systems)

Phone: +49 9131 85 25118