Smart cameras on drones or tractors can detect plant diseases in agricultural crops. By doing so, farmers will be able to detect local sources of diseases on their plots and treat them by using precision-agricultural technologies, what will lead to better protection of crops.

The new industry 4.0-living lab ‘Smart Farming 4.0’ that the Flemish government organizes through VLAIO, will develop and demonstrate during the next three years user-friendly and reliable applications for the cultivation of potatoes and fruit. Seven research centers will join forces, lead by ILVO (Research Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food).

The agricultural sector faces large challenges. The farmers are expected to produce more food in the future, but at the same time they need to reduce the impact on the environment. According to the researchers, precision-agricultural technologies can play an important role. An agricultural plot is divided into smaller blocks, and each block will get the correct amount of pesticides or fertilizer. This way not only the environment gains, but also the farmer, who can enjoy more production/revenue at a lower cost.

Flemish technology

A domain where precision-algricultural technologies can offer added value is in disease control. To avoid heavy harvest losses, today farmers are still aiming at applying an equal reliable dose of pesticide over the entire field. But when the farmer knows exactly where the source of infection is located – and where it isn’t – then he can interfere more directly. The technology to do this already exists and it comes from Flanders. Research center imec has developed hyperspectral cameras to put onto drones or tractors to map infection sources.

Focus on potatoes  …

The new industry 4.0-living lab ‘Smart Farming 4.0’ will during the next three years optimize applications and demonstrate them to algricultural companies. The first application is the detection of Alternaria on potatoes. This fungal disease is coming up more and causes large production losses every year. The smart cameras must make a difference between infected and non-infected plants during changing circumstances and must map the infections in the whole plot precisely. This digital infection map can then be used to guide the sprayer for a targeted treatment.

… and fruit

The second application is focusing on treating fire blight in the fruit sector. This bacteria disease is fatal for pear and apple trees and comes up every year in Flanders and causes major economic losses and risks for export opportunities in the fruit sector. It is crucial to detect this infection as early as possible. At the moment, this is still done by manual labour-intensive visual inspections. But thanks to automatic recognition on tractors, as developed in the living lab, fruit growers can detect the disease earlier and cheaper, so that infected branches or trees can be removed quickly and the infection stays limited.


For the new living lab ‘Smart Farming 4.0’ seven research centers are joining forces, each of them brings in a wide range of expertise. Besides ILVO and imec, Proefcentrum Fruitteelt vzw, VITO, KU Leuven, Flanders Make and Smart Digital Farming (the innovation clusted supported by VLAIO) are involved.

Press contacts:

Greet Riebbels, communication ILVO 0486 260014

Simon Cool, project coördinator 09 2722751


About the industry 4.0-living labs
The livings labs that the Flemish government is organising through VLAIO, are part of the industry4.0-transition programme, part of Vision 2050. In the whole of Flanders there are now seventien industry 4.0-livings labs active, where specialists offer their expertise during three years through workshops, demonstrations and events. The livings labs contain a large number of themes (AR/VR, training, drones, 3D-printing …) in various sectors (chemistry, building sector, agriculture …). Until now 8 million euros have been contributed to living labs. For more information please check