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Special Issue "Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2022 | Viewed by 6335

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Charisios Achillas
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Supply Chain Management, International Hellenic University, 60100 Katerini, Greece
Interests: sustainable management; accessible tourism; operational research
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Dionysis Bochtis
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute for Bio-Economy and Agri-Technology (iBO), Centre for Research and Technology-Hellas (CERTH), 38333 Volos, Greece
Interests: operations management; supply chain automation; agri-business; ICT-agri; bio-energy; bio-recourses
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dimitrios Aidonis
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Supply Chain Management, International Hellenic University, 60100 Katerini, Greece
Interests: sustainable management; accessible tourism; operational research
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Undeniably, over the last few years, humanity has faced several threats, but also challenges, in relation to its security and preservation. As the world population is continuously growing, nutrition and food security are among the most critical debates in the public dialogue internationally, constituting a crucial aspect for global security and a prerequisite for democracy and freedom. In the years to come, the world will unquestionably require more (even doubled compared to current needs) food. Moreover, environmental deterioration due to agrifood production presents a major risk on global sustainability for the generations to come. In this light, the need for immediate actions is urgent. On the other hand, late rapid technological developments and advancements in ICT, ΙοΤ, robotics, automation, sensors, and farming equipment present major opportunities for humankind and provide stakeholders (governments, policy-makers, scientists, investors, agrifood companies, retailers, farmers, consumers, etc.) with revolutionary tools to boost efficiency in food production, battle against environmental degradation, and improve labor conditions and public well-being. To that end, digitization of agriculture constitutes a critical parameter of success toward sustainable development. Apart from this trend, “Farming 4.0” is widely accepted as the future of farming, influencing food security, poverty, and the overall sustainability of agricultural systems, by minimizing the required inputs in resources and maximizing agri-production. Farming 4.0 is expected to shift toward an innovation- and knowledge-based economy, ultimately resulting in safe, cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally sound agriculture.

This Special Issue seeks to contribute to the sustainable agriculture agenda through enriching scientific knowledge in an effort to proliferate performance efficiency and support decision-making in modern agri-business. In this context, we invite papers on innovative technical developments, reviews, case studies, and analytical, as well as assessment, papers from different disciplines, which are relevant to all different aspects related to the digitization of agriculture within the fields of primary agriculture, agrifood production, and agrifood supply chains. Indicatively, the following topics are welcome to be captured in the contributions to the present Special Issue: information and communication technologies (ICT), Internet of Things (IoT), machine-embedded tools, robotics, automation, human–computer interaction, artificial intelligence, remote sensing (e.g., wireless sensor networks, remote sensing and GIS applications, biosensors, physical/chemical/optical sensors), data management (e.g., big data, data mining, data visualization, image processing, knowledge management, data/metadata standards, ontologies for agriculture, knowledge repository, web of data and open data), traceability tools, social networking, etc.

Prof. Charisios Achillas
Prof. Dionysis Bochtis
Prof. Dimitrios Aidonis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • ICT
  • IoT
  • precision farming
  • robotics
  • automation
  • remote sensing
  • big data
  • machine-embedded tools

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Article
Stakeholders’ Preferences towards Contract Attributes: Evidence from Rice Production in Vietnam
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3478; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063478 - 16 Mar 2022
Viewed by 509
Abstract
Contract farming is typically considered an appropriate measure for small-scale farmers to solve their constraints and problems. However, despite positive effects, low participation in and high dropout rates from contract farming schemes remain challenges. Therefore, this study objects to evaluate preferences for contract [...] Read more.
Contract farming is typically considered an appropriate measure for small-scale farmers to solve their constraints and problems. However, despite positive effects, low participation in and high dropout rates from contract farming schemes remain challenges. Therefore, this study objects to evaluate preferences for contract attributes and attribute levels among contracting buyers, farmers, and government officials through data triangulation from key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observations. Based on Henry Garrett Ranking, Rank Based Quotient, and Rank Based Sum methods, results indicate that the most important attributes were price options, payment, delivery arrangement, input provision, input-use requirements, and product quality standards. Despite a consensus on the ranking of the contract attributes, the preferences for the attribute levels among the stakeholders were heterogeneous. It is recommended that attributes and their levels should be pertinent in contract agreements. Thus, contract design with an adjusted or premium price, 50% of estimated payment before harvesting and the rest after delivery three to five days or lump-sum immediate payment, delivery after harvesting, inputs provision by the contractors through the representative branches or stores located at the local areas or cooperatives, banning active-ingredients or flexible use of inputs from the contractors to produce Good Agricultural Practices or organic products are considerable options. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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Article
The Future of Agricultural Jobs in View of Robotization
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12109; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112109 - 02 Nov 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 694
Abstract
Robotics and computerization have drastically changed the agricultural production sector and thus moved it into a new automation era. Robots have historically been used for carrying out routine tasks that require physical strength, accuracy, and repeatability, whereas humans are used to engage with [...] Read more.
Robotics and computerization have drastically changed the agricultural production sector and thus moved it into a new automation era. Robots have historically been used for carrying out routine tasks that require physical strength, accuracy, and repeatability, whereas humans are used to engage with more value-added tasks that need reasoning and decision-making skills. On the other hand, robots are also increasingly exploited in several non-routine tasks that require cognitive skills. This technological evolution will create a fundamental and an unavoidable transformation of the agricultural occupations landscape with a high social and economic impact in terms of jobs creation and jobs destruction. To that effect, the aim of the present work is two-fold: (a) to map agricultural occupations in terms of their cognitive/manual and routine/non-routine characteristics and (b) to assess the susceptibility of each agricultural occupation to robotization. Seventeen (17) agricultural occupations were reviewed in relation to the characteristics of each individual task they entail and mapped onto a two-dimensional space representing the manual versus cognitive nature and the routine versus non-routine nature of an occupation. Subsequently, the potential for robotization was investigated, again concerning each task individually, and resulted in a weighted average potential adoption rate for each one of the agricultural occupations. It can be concluded that most of the occupations entail manual tasks that need to be performed in a standardised manner. Considering also that almost 81% of the agricultural work force is involved with these activities, it turns out that there is strong evidence for possible robotization of 70% of the agricultural domain, which, in turn, could affect 56% of the total annual budget dedicated to agricultural occupations. The presented work silhouettes the expected transformation of occupational landscape in agricultural production as an effort for a subsequent identification of social threats in terms of unemployment and job and wages polarization, among others, but also of opportunities in terms of emerged skills and training requirements for a social sustainable development of agricultural domain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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Article
A Farm Management Information System for Semi-Supervised Path Planning and Autonomous Vehicle Control
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7497; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137497 - 05 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1099
Abstract
This paper presents a farm management information system targeting improvements in the ease of use and sustainability of robot farming systems. The system integrates the functionalities of field survey, path planning, monitoring, and controlling agricultural vehicles in real time. Firstly, a Grabcut-based semi-supervised [...] Read more.
This paper presents a farm management information system targeting improvements in the ease of use and sustainability of robot farming systems. The system integrates the functionalities of field survey, path planning, monitoring, and controlling agricultural vehicles in real time. Firstly, a Grabcut-based semi-supervised field registration method is proposed for arable field detection from the orthoimage taken by the drone with an RGB camera. It partitions a complex field into simple geometric entities with simple user interaction. The average Mean Intersection over Union is about 0.95 when the field size ranges from 2.74 ha to 5.06 ha. In addition, a desktop software and a web application are developed as the entity of an FMIS. Compared to existing FMISs, this system provides more advanced features in robot farming, while providing simpler user interaction and better results. It allows clients to invoke web services and receive responses independent of programming language and platforms. Moreover, the system is compatible with other services, users, and devices following the open-source access protocol. We have evaluated the system by controlling 5 robot tractors with a 2 Hz communication frequency. The communication protocols will be publicly available to protentional users. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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Article
Feeding Models to Optimize Dairy Feed Rations in View of Feed Availability, Feed Prices and Milk Production Scenarios
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010215 - 04 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1225
Abstract
In the global dairy production sector, feed ingredient price and availability are highly volatile; they may shape the composition of the feed ration and, in consequence, impact feed cost and enteric methane (CH4) emissions. The objective of this study is to [...] Read more.
In the global dairy production sector, feed ingredient price and availability are highly volatile; they may shape the composition of the feed ration and, in consequence, impact feed cost and enteric methane (CH4) emissions. The objective of this study is to explore the impact of changes in feed ingredients’ prices and feed ingredients’ availability on dairy ration composition, feed cost and predicted methane yield under different levels of milk production. To meet the research aim, a series of multi-period linear programming models were developed. The models were then used to simulate 14 feed rations formulations, each covering 162 months and three dairy production levels of 10, 25 and 35 kg milk/d, representing a total of 6804 feed rations altogether. Across milk production levels, the inclusion of alfalfa hay into the feed rations declined from 55% to 38% when daily milk production increased from 10 to 35 kg, reflecting the cows’ increased energy requirements. At a daily milk production level of 35 kg, CH4 production (per kg milk) was 21% and 53% lower than in average and low milk producing cows, respectively, whereas at 10 kg of milk production the potential to reduce CH4 production varied between 0.6% and 5.5% (average = 3.9%). At all production levels, a reduction in CH4 output was associated with an increase in feed costs. Overall, and considering feeding scenarios in low milk producing cows, feed cost per kg milk was 30% and 37% higher compared to that of average and high milk production, respectively. The feed ration modeling approach allows us to account for the interaction between feed ingredients over time, taking into consideration volatile global feed prices. Overall, the model provides a decision-making tool to improve the use of feed resources in the dairy sector. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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Article
Can the Adoption of Protected Cultivation Facilities Affect Farm Sustainability?
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 9970; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239970 - 28 Nov 2020
Viewed by 705
Abstract
Given the increasing threat of climate change to agriculture, determining how to achieve farm sustainability is important for researchers and policy makers. Among others, protected cultivation has been proposed as a possible adaptive solution at the farm level. This study contributes to this [...] Read more.
Given the increasing threat of climate change to agriculture, determining how to achieve farm sustainability is important for researchers and policy makers. Among others, protected cultivation has been proposed as a possible adaptive solution at the farm level. This study contributes to this research topic by quantifying the effects of the use of protected cultivation facilities on farm sustainability. In contrast to previous studies that relied on small-scale random surveys, a population-based sample of fruit, flower and vegetable farms was drawn from the Agricultural Census Survey in Taiwan. Propensity score matching, inverse probability weighting and inverse probability weighting regression adjustment methods were applied. Empirical results show that the use of protected cultivation facilities increases farm profit by 68–73%, other things being equal. This finding is persistent when farms suffer from disaster shocks. Moreover, the changes in farm labor use can be seen as a mechanism behind the positive effect of the protected cultivation facility use on farm profit. Our findings suggest that agricultural authority can consider subsidizing farms to increase the adoption of protected cultivation facilities to mitigate the risks resulting from natural disaster shocks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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Review

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Review
Applications of Smart Technology as a Sustainable Strategy in Modern Swine Farming
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2607; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052607 - 23 Feb 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 974
Abstract
The size of the pork market is increasing globally to meet the demand for animal protein, resulting in greater farm size for swine and creating a great challenge to swine farmers and industry owners in monitoring the farm activities and the health and [...] Read more.
The size of the pork market is increasing globally to meet the demand for animal protein, resulting in greater farm size for swine and creating a great challenge to swine farmers and industry owners in monitoring the farm activities and the health and behavior of the herd of swine. In addition, the growth of swine production is resulting in a changing climate pattern along with the environment, animal welfare, and human health issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, zoonosis, etc. The profit of swine farms depends on the optimum growth and good health of swine, while modern farming practices can ensure healthy swine production. To solve these issues, a future strategy should be considered with information and communication technology (ICT)-based smart swine farming, considering auto-identification, remote monitoring, feeding behavior, animal rights/welfare, zoonotic diseases, nutrition and food quality, labor management, farm operations, etc., with a view to improving meat production from the swine industry. Presently, swine farming is not only focused on the development of infrastructure but is also occupied with the application of technological knowledge for designing feeding programs, monitoring health and welfare, and the reproduction of the herd. ICT-based smart technologies, including smart ear tags, smart sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), deep learning, big data, and robotics systems, can take part directly in the operation of farm activities, and have been proven to be effective tools for collecting, processing, and analyzing data from farms. In this review, which considers the beneficial role of smart technologies in swine farming, we suggest that smart technologies should be applied in the swine industry. Thus, the future swine industry should be automated, considering sustainability and productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farming 4.0: Towards Sustainable Agriculture)
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