Agricultural Innovation & Knowledge: Unlocking the potential of rural areas

Presentation of the DataBio project during the workshop

Smart Farming in the early 2010s, was boosted by the advancement of new technologies such as Earth Observation (EO), cloud-based ICT systems and big data analytics. Recent technological improvements in terms of big data management, available computing power as well as the Copernicus Sentinel data and imagery allow the continuous and automated provision of agri-environmental information for objects being monitored such as agricultural parcels. In the upcoming Common Agricultural and Food Policy, which is currently being designed, these technologies are the most valuable tools because their combined use leads to an optimal and sustainable production and allows the provision of advisory services based on facts.

NEUROPUBLIC and GAIA EPICHEIREIN have launched a number of highly ambitious pilot activities in Northern and Central Greece and Peloponnese, under the umbrella of the H2020 Big Data Lighthouse project DataBio. These activities aim at the evaluation of a set of Earth Observation-based services designed appropriately to support specific needs of the CAP value chain stakeholders, such as Paying Agencies and farmers. The Greek pilot activities of the project will focus on five high-value open crop types such as dry beans and peaches, maize, olive trees and grapes, as presented at the workshop that took place on November 9, 2017, on the first day of the 4th Panhellenic Congress.

The aforementioned Congress entitled “Agricultural Innovation & Knowledge: unlocking the potential of rural areas” at Thessaloniki Greece, was organized by GAIA EPICHEREIN, a member of Copa and Cogeca. Every year, the Congress is a point οf reference in the Greek agri-food sector. This year, it attracted more than 900 stakeholders of the agricultural sector, including producers, representatives of agricultural cooperatives from Greece and the EU, academia and researchers, regional, national, and EU officials, agri-food businesses, policy makers etc.

In the context of one of the four workshops of the Congress organized by NEUROPUBLIC and GAIA EPICHEIREIN , titled «Smart farming: Case studies from Greece & the EU», the DataBio project was presented. The presentation included among others an introduction to the project, its aims and objectives, the work so far and a description of the project’s smart farming pilots in Greece that NEUROPUBLIC is working on in collaboration with GAIA EPICHEIREIN. The presentation drew the attention of the audience; discussions took place with a lot of questions from the attendants that led to fruitful conclusions for the future activities of the project. At the end of the workshop, representatives of CiaoT (one of the DataBio’s projects partner) and GAIA EPICHEIREIN had the opportunity to interview farmers and other stakeholders resulting to an enlarged success concerning the dissemination of the project. In addition, the workshop was followed by a circulation of questionnaires, aiming at collecting users’ requirements of how the stakeholders could benefit from the DataBio final outcomes.

In order to support the pilot activities of the project, NEUROPUBLIC collects and stores huge volumes of field-sensing data (both atmospheric and soil) through its network of telemetric IoT stations, called gaiatrons. Moreover, within the same cloud infrastructure, remote sensing data from the new Sentinel 2 optical products (13 spectral bands) are also being extracted and stored.

The high ambition of the current pilots is to exploit the “produced power” for dealing effectively with CAP demands for agricultural crop type identification, parcel monitoring, collaboration, transparency and analytics.

The pilot activities facilitate and expand the adoption of technology to the farmer communities, promote the penetration of Earth Observation deeper into the CAP line of business, provide tools for analytic governance and deliver actionable smart farming content to the information consumers.

In-situ visit of the Greek Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media at the DataBio’s smart farming pilot site with peaches (collaboration with agricultural cooperative Venus Growers)

Regarding the interaction with policy makers, the next day of the workshop, the Greek Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media Dr. Nikos Pappas accompanied by officials of the Ministry, visited the  DataBio’s smart farming pilot site on peaches. The site is located at the area of Veroia, in Greece and is one of the smart farming pilot sites that NEUROPUBLIC with GAIA EPICHEIREIN bring to the project through their collaboration with the agricultural cooperative Venus Growers. During the field visit, agricultural advisors and farmers of Venus Growers presented the challenges addressed so far, along with the benefits gained through the adoption of smart farming in peach production. In addition, the Minister had the opportunity to see how the data collected are transformed into advice and the way that this advice is provided to farmers.
What is getting more and more obvious is that the aforementioned pilot activities can be considered as a stepping-stone towards addressing related challenges in the near future. As CAP continues to evolve, there is a broad acceptance that recent technological trends will play a critical role in shaping the main pillars of the agricultural policy like market measures, direct payments and rural development.