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The Net in the cornfield

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Farmer Jürgens looks up at the sky. Not a cloud can be seen. The farmer leisurely selects the "Minimum fuel use" function in the cockpit of his combine harvester. Then he sets off. From this point, the harvesting of the 20-hectare field of wheat is nearly automatic.

Swathe for swathe, the cutters work their way through the ripe wheat, exact to the centimeter. They are followed by the tractors that pick up the wheat en route and take it to the silos. The mighty Claas Lexion combine harvester is equipped with sensors and software that help support the harvesting process intelligently. They control the interaction of up to 50 configuration parameters – from the winch to the shredder. But that's not enough for Claas. The agricultural technology manufacturer wants to optimize the harvesting process even further and integrate additional parameters, such as the optimum transfer time and the current weather data, in its machines.

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The LTE-based Industry 4.0 solution for agriculture optimizes interaction between equipment, vehicles and people involved in harvesting.

When the logistics reach a standstil

In a pilot project with Deutsche Telekom, Claas is testing the next step: the orchestration of logistics in the field. Before the grain tank of the harvester is full, which would make it have to stop working, the software notifies the next transfer vehicle. Thanks to the transmitted GPS data, it knows exactly where it has to go, avoiding unnecessary empty trips. This can pay off, because when the transfer of the harvest to the silo does not go seamlessly, the logistics chain can break down, easily costing the farmer 1,000 euros per hour at harvester prices of up to half a million.

Smart machines

In the future, the Claas Lexion harvester will know when its grain tank will fill up and automatically calls the tractor with the transfer vehicle, using Deutsche Telekom's LTE network. The tractor knows the terrain and all the equipment sites, and seeks the best path to the harvester to pick up the load. M2M will soon save farmers time, money, and stress. As soon as a loaded tractor sets off back home, the Claas Lexion sends grain quantity and quality data to silo management. At the same time, the harvester receives new weather data, so it "knows": it will rain in three hours. As a result, the harvester suggests that the pilot set maximum speed mode instead of minimum fuel use.

Self-organizing production processes

Soon, an even larger number of sensors, actors and embedded systems will perform monitoring, steering and control functions in the machinery. A crucial technical foundation for Industry 4.0 is machine-to-machine communication, or M2M. M2M is used to collect the data, process it with complex algorithms, and forward it to large, centralized computing systems. Likewise, M2M enables the receipt of data from high-performance computing networks, databases or other systems. The received data is then associated with the internal data and processed further, which in turn adjusts the tasks. The ultimate vision of Industry 4.0 is adaptive, flexible production equipment that is self-configuring and even partially self-organizing. Ultimately, this will result in more flexible, more cost-effective production tailored specifically to customer demand.

Award for Farming 4.0

Farming 4.0 is a collaboration between Deutsche Telekom and agricultural machinery manufacturer CLAAS which applies the German government's high-tech strategy to agriculture. The pilot project was presented at CeBIT 2015 and won an award in the "Landmarks in the Land of Ideas 2014" competition.

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