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January/February 2024 | Henny Zitha and Dr Csongor Horvath

SmartPlanter – A cloud-connected planting device

Tree Planting

Planting

Background
The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) is hosting SFI SmartForest as a part of the Centres for Research-based Innovation scheme of the Research Council of Norway. SmartForest aims to improve the efficiency of the Norwegian forest sector by enabling a digital revolution transforming forest information, silviculture, forest operations, wood supply and the overall digital information flow in the industry. Research in Work Package 2 is dedicated to precision silviculture and forest regeneration. The SmartPlanter is a prototype for a cloud-connected planting device that has been developed within SmartForest. The concept originates from the PRECISION project and is motivated by the wish to address root and butt rot in Norway spruce by planting different tree species within a single stand, which requires high-precision real-time positioning of planting activities. Within SmartForest, the original concept underwent further development towards the SmartPlanter prototype with the help of industry and other centre partners.

What is it?
The SmartPlanter is an enhanced dibble bar equipped with an accurate positioning system that serves two main purposes: 1) to support the planting workers to enable precision planting and 2) mapping the seedling during planting. The SmartPlanter is a robust and easy-to-operate device that can be carried around. The full system includes a user interface on a smartphone, a companion app, and cloud-based services and the box attached to the dibble bar containing GNSS module, radio, and mini-PC. Correction data for the positioning is received via the National Correction Service (CPOS) through the cellular network or via a local base station.

How it works?
The SmartPlanter provides the planting workers with real-time positioning and mapping of the field or the reforestation site, which will show field features and boundaries, the current location, and the position of the seedling, besides guidance which encompasses self-orientation using sound signals. When using the SmartPlanter, species-specific stands or plots can be separated and displayed to plant one species at a time. This eases the orientation during planting and minimises incorrect planting or species location. The SmartPlanter can display the seedling count, which helps the planting workers to see if planting targets are reached. Moreover, it displays the species specification, area, and plot ID’s. Using the SmartPlanter during stand establishment simplifies data logging, where the coordinates, GNSS signal quality, and, optionally, the image of the environment are recorded when the data acquisition button is pressed at the seedling planting position. All data captured in the field by the SmartPlanter is captured in the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, facilitating easier data exchange and giving the developers the power to manage user and company access to the data.

Generations of SmartPlanter
In the first version, the SmartPlanter system included a dibble bar, and a backpack, storing the transportable components for off-line use. From there, the SmartPlanter developed to a v2.0, still offline operating version, with the components mounted on the dibble bar, to SmartPlanter V2.1 facilitating direct service connection, and scalable hardware configuration, camera for the recording of planting positions and a cloud connection for instant monitoring and data upload during the planting process.
Future Plans
• Continue field trials (increase the number of units and improve signal quality)
• Automate data transfer (download site-specific information and instructions and extend data processing in the cloud)
• Extend functionality (increase performance and simplify setup and operation)
• Software framework integration into forest management frameworks

Presenter: Dr Csongor Horvath from NIBIO
Presentation title: A cloud-connected planting: Smart Planter for precision planting
Conference presented: Advancing Silviculture Technology held SLU Campus Umea in Sweden from the 22-24th of August 2023
Funding: This research was funded by the Research Council of Norway under the projects PRECISION (project no. 281140) and SMARTFOREST (project no. 309671)
For more information visit: NIBIO | SMARTForest