University of Reading: Virtual tech helps teach sustainable practices

Would-be farmers will be able to learn new agri-technologies on the new Farming Simulator 22 game released on 19 April, thanks in part to help from the University of Reading.

Researchers at the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development have been involved in the EIT Food funded “Integrating Precision Farming in Computer Game” project aiming to increase awareness of the public about the benefits of precision farming.

Modern precision farming technologies are becoming increasingly important for sustainable agricultural management. From mid-April these technologies will be available to the public in the latest Farming Simulator extension. In the game, camera and sensor technology can reduce the expenditure on pesticides and fertilisers to improve gamers’ ecological footprint.

Picture of tractor taken from Farming Simulator 22 gameDr Yiorgos Gadanakis, Associate Professor in Agricultural Business Management at the University of Reading said:

“The exciting new features in the latest version of the game can help players to learn more about technology that can make a real difference to environmental footprints. At the University of Reading, we work closely with farmers and agri-technology companies to look into and implement the best of new agri-technology in a way that’s going to work for farmers.”

To make farming more sustainable in Farming Simulator 22, John Deere has provided a variety of technical solutions used by modern farmers today. For example, with the help of soil samples, soil maps and nutrient sensors, the mineral and organic fertilisation can be adapted to specific areas. Cameras record the weeds and enable targeted herbicide applications.

Variable sowing rates are also possible to optimally manage the plant populations. Players have the option of purchasing soil maps from a service provider for a fee, which saves them time to take soil samples themselves. A group of both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development have participated in a series of exercises to provide feedback for improving the game environment and the specifications of the game.

Players using the technologies can increase sustainability while also increasing crop yields, contributing to the new environmental score built into the game. Ultimately, all measures are aimed at reducing the impact on the environment.

The Precision Farming DLC Free extension will be available from 19th April 2022. It can be downloaded directly to the PC or to the game console. With more than one million downloads, the first version of the Precision Farming DLC extension for the Farming Simulator 2019 was a great success. With the next generation, GIANTS Software not only offers the general public the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of modern agriculture, but also puts the sustainability aspect front and centre in the popular video game.

The Precision Farming Free DLC is a joint development of John Deere, a global leader in precision farming technologies, and GIANTS Software, the developer of the most successful agriculture simulation series. The project was realised in collaboration with the University of Hohenheim, the University of Reading, the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS and the Spanish agricultural and food cooperative Grupo AN. The development was largely financed by EIT Food. It is the world’s largest network for innovation in the food sector, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). EIT Food aims to improve society’s knowledge of modern agriculture.

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