Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture”

Development of a comprehensive information-based ecosystem for the agricultural sector

Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture”

Digitalization as an opportunity for the agricultural sector

Industrialization has had a strong impact on agricultural technology in recent decades. Increasingly larger working widths and speeds as well as increasing degrees of automation have led not only to a significant rise in productivity, but also to heavier machines. Fertilization, excessive use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, or various types of genetically modified seeds also cause permanent damage to the biosphere. Organic agriculture has evolved as an alternative. Here, the focus is on resource-friendly farming, and productivity losses are accepted deliberately. According to the United Nations‘ Agenda 2030 for “food security and sustainable agriculture”, sustainability and productivity shall be balanced worldwide. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s new lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture” is in line with this goal.

With Fraunhofer towards highly efficient and sustainable agriculture of the future   

In the Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture” (“COGNAC” for short), eight Fraunhofer Institutes are doing joint research on basic principles that will enable farmers to achieve high productivity in line with further goals such as sustainability or product quality in our digitalized world. A uniform value system shall reflect decisions regarding the key aspects sustainability, resource efficiency, costs, and product quality. For this purpose, data on factors related to the agricultural enterprise and to the environment must be collected automatically with state-of-the-art sensor technology and must be evaluated, analyzed, and processed cognitively in agricultural work and business processes in order to make sustainable, fact-based decisions regarding both crop production and livestock farming.

In the lighthouse project “COGNAC”, the participating Fraunhofer Institutes will design and implement an integrated platform for information-based (cognitive) agriculture. The goal is to connect the numerous isolated solutions and make them usable as a whole from end to end in order to achieve maximum productivity and sustainability. The value chain begins with crop production and livestock farming, but also includes further process and processing steps in the long term.

The project is therefore expected to deliver crucial innovations in the three areas “Agricultural Data Space”, “Novel Sensor Technology”, and “Innovative Automation Concepts”.

Innovation areas in the Smart Farming project “Cognitive Agriculture”


Digital Ecosystem

Agricultural Data Space

Open data exchange in an agriculture-specific, digitally networked ecosystem that enables the use and linking of complex agricultural data in secure data spaces.


Biosphere Monitoring

Novel Sensor Technology

Automated interpretation and decision support based on high-resolution measurement data from airborne or ground-based systems.


Autonomous Field Robotics

Innovative Automation Concepts

Autonomous field robotics for plant-specific field work as well as robot-guided sensor platforms with specific sensor systems.

News about the Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture” from the area of Smart Farming

Prof. Dr. Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, about the project:

Prof. Dr. Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
© Fraunhofer
Prof. Dr. Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

“Agricultural technology is not only a branch of industry that is essential for our society – it is also a progressive, highly innovative industry. The use of state-of-the-art information technologies has great potential for making agricultural processes even more efficient in the future”, explains Fraunhofer President Prof. Reimund Neugebauer.

“In our new lighthouse project, eight Fraunhofer Institutes have joined forces to use innovative automation concepts and novel sensor technology to build a data-based ecosystem that shall become a milestone in digitalized agriculture. In this way, digital technologies, new research approaches, and the problem-solving competence of Fraunhofer can become the enablers of highly efficient and at the same time sustainable agriculture of the future.”



Fraunhofer Competencies in Agricultural Technology and Smart Farming

The institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are working on innovations for agriculture in various fields. The list below presents some example competencies and projects.



Fraunhofer IESE

  • Digital platforms for Smart Farming
  • Digital ecosystems
  • Data engineering


Fraunhofer IFF

  • Optical sensor systems for capturing agronomic parameters from crops
  • Development of industrial soft sensors via Machine Learning 
  • Making spectral measurement systems usable for the consumer market


Fraunhofer IKTS

  • Water purification, closed water cycles, recovery of reusable materials
  • Bioenergy, energy storage, energy conversion, energy management
  • Sensor and actuator systems, micro- and nano-electronics as well as industrial testing systems


Fraunhofer IOSB



Fraunhofer IPA

  • Autonomous small robots for agriculture
  • Cloud navigation with cross-sensor localization methodology for cooperative planning in field swarms
  • Actuator systems for applications in Precision Farming
  • Vertical Farming in urban contexts


Fraunhofer IPM

  • Mobile sensor systems for highly sensitive detection of N2O emissions of fields
  • Gas sampling system for use in agriculture
  • Lightweight sensor systems for 3D airborne data collection
  • Interpretation and evaluation of 3D data and 2D image data


Fraunhofer ITWM

  • Resource-efficient logistics planning under uncertainty
  • Multi-criteria decision support


Fraunhofer IVI

  • Electrical powertrains
  • Automatic vehicle control
  • Localization methods and trajectory planning for vehicles
  • Automated fast charging
  • Smart energy supply concepts
  • Highly automated field implement technology

Contact persons of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Cognitive Agriculture”

Peter Liggesmeyer

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Liggesmeyer

Director Fraunhofer IESE
Project Manager “Cognitive Agriculture”

Fraunhofer-Platz 1
67663 Kaiserslautern, Germany

Phone +49 631 6800-1101

  • Send email
Ralf Kalmar

Contact Press / Media

Ralf Kalmar

Management Business Development
Contact for Smart Farming
Contact for ”Cognitive Agriculture”

Fraunhofer-Platz 1
67663 Kaiserslautern, Germany

Phone +49 631 6800-1603

  • Send email
Bernd Rauch

Contact Press / Media

Bernd Rauch

Project Manager, Dept. Architecture-Centric Engineering

Fraunhofer-Platz 1
67663  Kaiserslautern, Germany

Phone +49 631 6800-2241