Application area


Optics to optimise food production and minimize environmental impact

The challenge for the agri-food sector is to feed the growing world’s population, which will consist of 10 billion people by 2050. This will require an enormous increase in food production. Agriculture is already responsible for 70% of water consumption, 24% of greenhouse gas emissions and global environmental degradation. Increasing food production with current production processes is therefore unsustainable. At the same time, consumers are placing increasing emphasis on food safety, quality and transparency of the value chain.

Based on the information from partners from the AgriFood sector we focus on these 4 topics at the moment: grass, manure, data collection and sharing, and inspection of fruit and vegetables.


The composition of grass can be measured by optical techniques; dry matter, raw protein, raw fiber and sugar. Using this data the nutritional value of the harvested grass can be determined in real-time. To enable broad application of these sensors the accuracy and reliability have to be improved, and the cost have to further reduced. This could be the goal for a development project with knowledge partners and a group of innovative companies working with grass.

Another sensor development is aimed at monitoring soil composition of grassland.


At the moment the composition of manure is monitored by analysis of sample in the lab. A upcoming technology is Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR); NIR sensors for manure can measure the composition in real time, so fertilization can be based on absolute values (kg/m2) and can be locally combined with application of exactly the proper amount of additional fertilizers. More refined spectroscopic techniques can be applied in the near future for monitoring constituants of manure with higher accuracy; their basic performance has been demonstrated in the lab.

Data collection and sharing

The more detailed the data, the more specifically we can care for plants, the better we can guarantee animal welfare and the better we can reduce emissions and waste. But we also learn how to work more efficiently and where we can not only save money but have opportunities to earn extra money. In this way, the Agro sector can continue to meet the ever stricter requirements, without compromising the soundness of its operations.

Wondering what data can mean for your company? The DOC partners (e.g. TNO ) have a wealth of innovative techniques at their disposal, from which livestock farmers and greenhouse horticulturists, for example, can benefit. You can choose from various forms of collaboration, and together with knowledge partners, entrepreneurs can solve concrete problems.

Inspection of fruit and vegetables

Inspection of agro products for quality control or sorting is a tough job. Trained experts can to the manual work at incredible speed, and machines have been added to cope with increasing production volumes, harsh environment and 24/7 working schedules.

Quite complex combinations of optical sensors, data-processing and even artificial intelligence systems are needed to meet the required levels of accuracy and speed. Together with partners we are ready to combine existing building blocks, or develop new sensors for this task; however the solutions have to be tweeked indivually for every new type of fruit or vegetable.

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