TractorsFrom Umbria to the world

The Italian company Farchioni produces oil, flour, beer and wine with the help of inno­v­a­tive agri­cul­tural machinery. Trace­ability, controlled supply chains and sustain­ability are criteria that play an impor­tant role in the work.

Making one’s way along the roads that meander through the hills of Umbria in central Italy, in addi­tion to lush forests, small villages, and medieval cities, it is not uncommon to encounter cereal fields, vine­yards and stretches of olives trees.

The Farchioni Group, which, inspired by Luigi Farchioni, began producing oil and flour using a small stone mill and water in the munic­i­pality of Spoleto in 1780 devel­oped from avail­ability of these crops. The produc­tion of wine and beer would follow later, after the construc­tion of an advanced olive oil mill and an elec­trical rolling mill in the 1950s. Those mills were later replaced by the grain mill still in oper­a­tion today.

In 1998 the Cantina Terre de la Custodia winery in the Monte­falco area was founded to publi­cise excel­lent local wines such as Sagran­tino and Grechetto. Diver­si­fi­ca­tion of the company’s prod­ucts continued in 2010 with the creation of the Mastri Birrai Umbri brewery. This involves growing several hundred hectares of grain, such as barley and wheat, and other brewing ingre­di­ents, such as chick­peas, lentils, and aromatic hops.

A selec­tion of the John Deere farm equip­ment fleet with its inno­v­a­tive imple­ments.

Agri­cul­tural invest­ment and inno­va­tion

Starting in 2014, the Group increased its agri­cul­tural invest­ments, adding to the areas under cultivation and the fleet of farming vehi­cles and equip­ment. Today, the company, still under the firm direc­tion of the Farchioni family, and with its head­quar­ters in Gualdo Cattaneo, in the Perugia province, has reached revenues of approx­i­mately €140 million. It has a total of 4,500ha of forest and agri­cul­tural farm­land, agro-industry and services in several regions in Italy. Four thou­sand hectares are dedi­cated to cultivation of grains, olives, vines, legumes, vegeta­bles and hazel­nuts.

Today, the head­quarter of the Farchioni Group is in Gualdo Cattaneo, in the province of Perugia.

In total, the Farchioni Group manages 4500 hectares in several regions of Italy.

Farchioni controls the produc­tion processes from the field to the finished product and tries to influ­ence other parts of the process through commu­ni­ca­tion campaigns and careful devel­op­ment of prod­ucts right from the design phase. The goal is to support consumers in using and recy­cling pack­aging mate­rials.

Sustain­ability is one of the key prin­ci­ples of the Group, which has been publishing its own sustain­ability report, covering all its agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and related produc­tion processes, since 2020. The report is certi­fied and edited in accor­dance with the inter­na­tional stan­dards of the United Nations‘ 2030 Agenda.

We acquired the first trac­tors with satel­lite receivers in 2014.

Stefano Bartolucci

When it comes to managing different crops, ranging from exten­sive to inten­sive, high-yielding crops, the Group looks to simplify field working processes. From this perspec­tive, Farchioni is an exem­plary case: a model of a company that has been able to evolve while consid­ering and making the most of the oppor­tu­ni­ties offered by Industry 4.0 within agri­cul­ture. Over the past two or three years the Group, mainly driven by the Umbria divi­sion, has taken advan­tage of govern­ment grants and financing provided by the plan. It has modernised most of its equip­ment in close collab­o­ra­tion with a devel­oper of agri­cul­tural automa­tion controls and systems according to the high tech­nical stan­dard of QS Control (in Narni, Terni).

“Our company is large, with frag­mented fields and prop­er­ties sepa­rated from one another by hundreds of kilo­me­tres. That’s why moving in the direc­tion of connected machines, docu­men­ta­tion of field work and preci­sion farming were neces­sary and, in some ways, an almost inevitable tran­si­tion,” says Stefano Bartolucci, Farchioni’s head of agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties. “We acquired the first trac­tors with satel­lite receivers in 2014. I remember wondering at the time whether and how they would prove useful.”

Making better use of skilled workers with JDLink

“In the 2019-2020 period, we started working with JDLink, the John Deere remote control system that allows us to consult and compare company machine-perfor­mance within our own fleet, but also across different organ­i­sa­tions through the John Deere Oper­a­tions Center. When, three years ago, we decided to buy some new equip­ment, we were already convinced and had the new machines equipped with a full package of preci­sion agri­cul­ture and connec­tivity solu­tions.”

The fleet consists of more than 40 machines, 30 of which are from John Deere.

All rele­vant infor­ma­tion for a work order is sent to the machines using JD Link and displayed to the oper­ator via the Oper­a­tions Center on the in-cab monitor.

Currently, there are more than 40 machines, 30 of which are John Deere, seven track trac­tors, and two harvesters for olive groves and vine­yards. All are controlled by the JDLink system.

The improve­ments that Bartolucci and his team imple­mented are all intended to simplify the use of tech­no­log­i­cally advanced farm equip­ment, making it almost intu­itive to operate, to help tackle a labour shortage. “More than 60 employees work on our farms,” says Bartolucci. “But only about half are able to operate trac­tors and, of those, only 10 are able to handle the equip­ment well and deal with any prob­lems that might arise.”

The proce­dures have been stan­dard­ised, the controls are more intu­itive to operate, and there­fore easier to use, for both the expe­ri­enced and less expe­ri­enced workers.

Stefano Bartolucci

“With the tech­nology now imple­mented on our machines and thanks to QS Control, we can plan and manage everyone’s work remotely from the offices at Gualdo Cattaneo without having to go on site. The proce­dures have been stan­dard­ised, the controls are more intu­itive to operate, and there­fore easier to use, for both the expe­ri­enced and less expe­ri­enced workers.”

Today, when an oper­ator gets into a machine to work at a specific loca­tion, whether in Umbria, Lazio or Tuscany, they get an infor­ma­tion package. It comprises detailed boundary lines of the field as well as the pre-planned work and agro­nomic para­me­ters that need to be followed. It’s all visu­alised through the Oper­a­tions Center on the display monitor in the cab.

Farchioni’s special Isobus sprayer for organic olive fruit fly control.

The oper­ator accepts the work order and starts working in the field, carrying out a task according to defined stan­dards, without having to worry about making mistakes due, for example, to the variety, or crop posi­tion. Once a task is finished, the manage­ment office receives a noti­fi­ca­tion and archives all the agro­nomic data related to the job, such as work depth, seeding and fertil­i­sa­tion rate, or crop yields.

This is done for all crops, including grain, legumes, vegeta­bles, olives, and wine. The team at Farchioni devel­oped a couple of special control systems, for example for the defo­li­a­tion in vine­yards. The system ensures oper­a­tion only on the side of the row which is exposed to the sun. One machine is dedi­cated to precise and punc­tual inter-row weeding in olive or hazelnut groves and vine­yards. There is also a special Isobus sprayer used for the organic treat­ment for olive fly, which, by multiple sensors and a compass, can deliver the product either only to the south or to the west of the plot and only around each plant. These are just a few exam­ples of the inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies incor­po­rated into Farchioni’s range of agri­cul­tural equip­ment.

Machine with inter­change­able working tools for precise weed control between rows in orchards, olive groves, hazelnut groves and vine­yards.

“We are still studying and testing this new equip­ment, which has already brought us notable improve­ments in the stan­dard of oper­a­tions and more accu­rate manage­ment,” say Matteo Casciola, Giacomo Ital­iani, Michele Mangoni and Stefano Anni­bali (managers of vine­yards, olive groves, arable land and of the Group’s manage­ment plat­forms, respec­tively). “Moni­toring the equip­ment is easier than it used to be, just as changing programs and oper­a­tional settings is faster if some­thing unex­pected occurs or with sudden bad weather, without the need to call anyone or wait for feed­back from the field.” This results in higher effi­ciency, opti­mised and short­ened work times, as well as opti­mised and reduced use of crop-protec­tion chem­i­cals and expenses related to labour and fuel.

Among the most inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies imple­mented in Farchioni’s farming equip­ment …

is an orien­ta­tion control system devel­oped for vine­yard defo­li­a­tion, …

… which ensures oper­a­tion only on the shadow side of the row.

Above all, however, the greatest advan­tage, according to Bartolucci, is the creation of real “evidence”; some­thing that used to be done by hand with manual data collec­tion is today a precise, digi­tised process, which is also useful in terms of trace­ability controls within the supply chain or for the recording of data related to company certi­fi­ca­tions. “The agro­nomic data is an inex­haustible source of analysis: a true and proper support for the deci­sion-making process,” Bartolucci says. “This makes it possible to recal­i­brate and rework our deci­sions with great effi­ciency. We started to use this tech­nology to metic­u­lously trace every oper­a­tion and vari­able in the field and now we can apply it to the total farm area. We are contin­uing to study and to exper­i­ment with new appli­ca­tions to even further improve perfor­mance and our prof­itability.”

Farchioni Group

For many years, Italian conglom­erate Farchioni has been producing oil, flour, wine, and beer and exporting it inter­na­tion­ally. This has encom­passed trace­ability and a controlled supply chain, envi­ron­mental and social sustain­ability and inno­va­tion, as well as a focus on its agri­cul­tural machinery.

Left to right: Stefano Anni­bali, control plat­forms manager, Matteo Casciola, manager, vine­yards, Stefano Bartolucci, manager, agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties, Giacomo Ital­iani, manager, olive grove oper­a­tions, Michele Mangoni, manager, arable land for the Farchioni Group.