NOcsPS - Agriculture 4.0: Without chemical-synthetic crop protection

It is estimated that around ten billion people will be living on earth in 2050. Global agriculture poses this with the challenging question: How can we feed humanity without harming nature? Agricultural scientists from the University of Hohenheim, the Georg-August-University of Göttingen (UGOE) and the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) are working on a cultivation system that combines organic and conventional farming in a meaningful way with the help of artificial intelligence.

The photo shows a crossed-out tractor spreading pesticides in the field.
Alternatives to the existing chemical-synthetic crop protection are being researched in the NOcsPS project. © University Hohenheim/Klaus Wallner

Hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species worldwide are threatened with extinction due to the use of chemical pesticides. A gentler form of agriculture would be desirable, as purely organic farming will not be able to feed the world population in the foreseeable future.

The strategy of an Agriculture 4.0 relies on automated and digitally networked technologies and follows biological principles. It completely dispenses with the use of chemical synthetic pesticides (csPSM) and instead uses mineral fertilizers to ensure soil fertility to produce the required yields.

AI differentiates between weeds and crops

In the research project NOcsPS (Agriculture 4.0 without chemical synthetic pesticides) scientists work with remote-controlled robots that drive over fields and independently weed. With the help of image sensors, the robots distinguish whether the crop in question is a useful plant or a weed. "Those who use this technology therefore need fewer chemical pesticides or less manpower," says Prof. Dr. Enno Bahrs from the University of Hohenheim, head of the joint project.

The network is supported by many companies from production, processing and consulting, so that NOcsPS cultivation systems can be developed as a combination of innovative agronomic and other technical measures (e.g. sensor technology, robotics). In the future, this technology can also be further developed in terms of nature conservation, says Bahrs. To this end, research groups are also testing robots that use AI to distinguish between "good" and "bad" accompanying flora and fauna. Useful accompanying flora will then be preserved as needed and provide a better habitat for insects.

Bahrs sees opportunities for all types of agriculture. An arable farming system like NOcsPS could inspire organic farming with regard to alternative fertilization strategies and modified crop rotations, the scientist said. "In conventional farming, NOcsPS can help to reduce the use of chemical pesticides".

Agriculture 4.0 without chemical synthetic crop protection thus stands for an independent approach to arable farming. The resulting products could be in a price range that lies between conventionally and ecologically produced products.

Universität Hohenheim

AI Development partner
Universität Göttingen
Julius Kühn-Institut
K.U.L.T. Kress Umweltschonende Landtechnik GmbH

Application facts

Technology field
Image Recognition and Understanding
Data Management and Analysis
Robotics and Autonomous Systems
Robotics and Autonomous Systems
Application industry
Field of application
  • Miscellaneous
Value-added activity
Research and Development [R&D]
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)