In conversation with Gianluca Feligini, Head of AG Precision Technology EMEA Region, CNH Industrial

1 September 2022

Precision farming is a key lever in the re-shaping of the agriculture industry for a future that is both more productive and sustainable. While it has been steadily growing in importance among farmers over the last 20 years, recent events and the consequences on energy and commodity costs are today placing an even stronger focus on the important role that technology can play to support the deployment of sustainable business models across the agriculture industry.

We talk to Gianluca Feligini, Head of...

We talk to Gianluca Feligini, Head of AG Precision Technology EMEA Region, at CNH Industrial, a leading agricultural and construction equipment and services provider with deep expertise in precision farming technologies, about what precision farming looks like, what the potential is for transforming agriculture and what policies can help and hinder.

Transforming agriculture is one of the biggest challenges we face. How can precision farming help?

Essentially, precision farming technologies work to help farmers increase their yields with an improved use of resources. For example, you can have GPS auto-guidance to effectively assist or even ‘steer’ agricultural machinery with different levels of automation, sensors to collect and analyse a variety of data for real time decision making, and a suite of connectivity services to enable remote monitoring of the fleet and the processing of agronomic data for optimised planning.

Our machines are connected through the CNH Industrial cloud to both the farmer’s tablet and to their dealers. They feature real-time data tracking and provide feedback on multiple performance indicators from machine health – to help farmers avoid downtime through preventive and predictive maintenance, maximising their time in the field – to agronomic data. Agronomic information can be leveraged to increase yields, optimise input – for example, reducing fertiliser use – and to reduce carbon footprint, in real time using our artificial intelligence (AI) sense and control solutions, and also through post processing in our cloud. Farmers have complete control of their agronomic data and can choose with whom to share.


Can you give some indicators of how it improves efficiency and sustainability in practice?

Farmers see quantifiable direct outcomes in terms of increased productivity, and we also see indirect outcomes such as improved water quality and soil health.

Specifically, we have been able to show that, through proactive and predictive error resolution, we can reduce machine downtime by up to 30%, and that machine and implement automation can improve field productivity by up to 20%, depending on soil conditions, crop and operator. Autosteer solutions have improved fuel efficiency by 10 to 15% and are virtually a standard product feature these days. For example, CNH Industrial’s latest harvesting automation solution monitors the combine harvester functions and adjusts the machine settings every 20 seconds. It improves productivity by 10 to 20%, depending on driver skills. This means less experienced operators can achieve high productivity and grain quality with limited training.

Overall, we estimate customers can improve their economic yield by up to 5%. We are confident these benefits are tangible and measurable, so we are actively translating data from our connected machines into objective performance, taking the lead to prove the measurable outcomes.

  Farmers see quantifiable direct outcomes in terms of increased productivity, and we also see indirect outcomes such as improved water quality and soil health. 

Gianluca Feligini

You mention the use of AI in precision farming applications – can you tell us a bit more about that?

AI is increasingly being integrated into multiple agriculture applications, from crop management to vehicle control. Our crop sensing equipment that can be installed on our vehicles is widely using agronomic AI to make autonomous decisions on input optimisation based on crop health on a ‘right here-right now’ basis. AI is also progressing within machine steering control, allowing remote control of the vehicle from outside the cab to sub-centimetre accuracy.

CNH Industrial is committed to strongly contribute to the AI development within the agriculture industry and our most recent acquisition of Raven, a leader in autonomous and precision agriculture technology, will further accelerate our roadmap by integrating their strong innovation capabilities.


What do you see as the enablers and obstacles in practice to greater adoption of precision farming tech in Europe?

To drive a long-term transformation more widely, it is important that all precision farming solutions carry three main characteristics: they enhance productivity, are inclusive and thus they can become systemic.

Customers’ adoption of precision farming including automation and connectivity is already significant in many European countries. Connectivity is becoming an integral part of farmers’ operations, and they are increasingly relying on their machines to collect data, just like we do with our smartphones in our daily life. However, we do see the status of agriculture digitalisation in Europe varying significantly across countries. Socio-demographic as well as institutional stakeholders play an important role locally in defining the steepness of the technology adoption curve. And of course, it is fundamental to help farmers to capture the benefits from the use of precision technology, as they start and progress in their sustainability journey.

So at CNH Industrial, we put considerable effort into spreading knowledge about precision farming, and facilitating the onboarding of new customers, working closely with our distributors, to ensure they have a  positive and seamless experience. We also recognise the importance of cooperating with institutional stakeholders, international organisations, sector associations and regulatory bodies to support the future development of policies and regulations, deployment of new policies and fostering schemes to help farmers embrace innovative agriculture technologies as an enabler to improve the sustainability of both their operations and of the communities they live in.


In your view, what policies would help and are any hindering?

It is very clear that digitalisation is a key enabler of the transition to more sustainable agricultural practices and hence of the EU Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and – as highlighted by the European Commission – the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP will be a fundamental tool aimed at facilitating investment to support the acceleration of the digital transformation of farms.

For the collection, processing and management of agricultural data, a farmer is at the heart of the system. Digital farming makes data collection and exchanges possible: data sharing must be conducted under fair and transparent rules to increase productivity while contributing to food security and making agriculture more sustainable, thus contributing to EU Green Deal goals.

The deployment of broadband infrastructure and encouraging investments in key precision farming technologies is of utmost importance. However, the uptake of such technologies that include transformation of a ‘traditional’ farm to a digital one with interconnected machines and software-based management systems, requires significant investments from farmers. Therefore, CAP, as well as other national policies, are key to the initial investment on precision farming, as it will pay back in the future, both for EU farmers and EU society overall. Some countries have in place relevant credit tax measures to promote and sustain AG 4.0, for the purchase of machines with precision farming technologies embedded, for example. Such measures can play a key role. They should be confirmed and expanded to other markets as well.