LOFAR is a real-time multiple sensor array. Very different sensors can be placed along a common infrastructure and make use of it the same time. LOFAR is being developed by a consortium of knowledge institutes, universities and industrial parties, led by ASTRON. LOFAR is funded by the Dutch governement and the Northern provinces. All participating institutes provide also some of their own resources to the development of LOFAR.
The radio interferometric array of LOFAR consists of many low-cost antennas. This is the main application of LOFAR. There are two distinct antenna types: the Low Band Antenna (LBA) operates between 10 and 90 MHz and the High Band Antenna (HBA) between 110 and 250 MHz. These "sensors" are organised in aperture array stations. The stations (currently, 36 stations are being constructed in the Netherlands) are distributed over an area about one hundred kilometres in diameter (located in the North-East of the Netherlands). Several international stations are to be built in Germany (5), Sweden (1), the UK (1) and France (1). The international stations are owned by their host institutes. Half the stations (18) in the Netherlands will be located in a 2x3 kilometre core area between the villages of Exloo, Buinen and Buinerveen. The remaining stations will be distributed around this core at distances of up to 50 km. The largest baselines across Europe are of the order of 1500 kilometres.
The ICT infrastructure that LOFAR will give rise to holds great potential for non-radio astronomers, enabling them to make strides in monitoring at an accelerated pace. In the geosciences field, it should be possible, for example, to extend the understanding of natural and induced seismicity, subsidence, and water management. The TU Delft, the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and TNO-NITG are participating in the application of LOFAR in the geosciences.
The agricultural application of LOFAR will make use of the (fibre-)infrastructure developed and has chosen as its first application the measurement of the micro-climate in potato crops. This information will be used to improve the advice on how to combat phytophtora within a crop, based on the circumstances within each individual field. Currently further application of sensors for agricultural purposes is developed.