AGRO4+: Holistic approach to Agriculture 4.0 for new farmers

The term Agriculture 4.0 (synonymous to “smart agriculture” and “digital agriculture”) is used in analogy to Industry 4.0 to denote networking, “internal” and “external”, of all processes of the primary agricultural production. It is essentially the evolution of the “precision agriculture” combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) and data management tools aiming to face the global challenge of developing an environmentally friendly agriculture that will be able to meet the food needs of an estimated population of approximately 10 billion people by the year 2050. In this context, Agriculture 4.0 seeks to improve and make more efficient the use of natural resources, to contribute to the sustainable use of land, to increase the yield while minimizing the environmental footprint (burden), and to support (improve) the income of producers. AGRO4+ aims to support these goals through the creation of a research infrastructure with a tangible scientific laboratory background and digital means. 

The digital infrastructure includes essentially three online platforms to support: a) the investment decision in the field of “digital agriculture”, b) the implementation of the investment using “digital agriculture” and “precise agriculture” techniques in cultivation, and c) the management of the investment (cultivation, product). 

Decision making is supported through the access to a variety of both agricultural data (varieties, characteristics, crop establishment requirements, pests, diseases, weeds, plant protection, organic farming rules, etc.) and area reference data concerning the area of interest (geological and climatic data, statistical data, infrastructures, transportation, etc.), which are supplemented by data of a legal nature (land uses, protected areas, relevant legislation, etc.). 

The implementation of the investment is supported by the installation of networked sensors in the field that provide continuous, online, real-time measurements of plant physiology, soil and atmospheric conditions. Additional on-site data will be collected from autonomous ground (agribots) and air (drones) robotic systems equipped with the appropriate instrumentation. The forementioned data will be supplemented with periodic laboratory measurements and analyses provided by the laboratories of the collaborating bodies and their specialized equipment, which on a case-specific basis will be carried out according to the needs of the project. The aim is to create a complete, “intelligent” system of agricultural production based on the management of inputs in a field according to the real needs of cultivation both spatially and temporally. The aim is to create a complete, “intelligent” agricultural production system based on the management of inputs in a field according to the real needs of the crop both spatially and temporally. For this purpose, appropriate special algorithms for data management and processing will be developed, as well as forecasting models for the planning and automation of cultivation processes and tasks, the provision of tools for the optimal management of natural resources and the limitation of inputs to the field. At the same time, the appropriate documentation of the production will be provided, which aims to give added value to the product (certification, traceability, carbon footprint, etc.).  

The management of the investment is supported by the provision of automated scheduling of required field works (farmer’s diary), financial monitoring of the production (inventory management, procurement planning, contract management for contract farming, etc.), access to commercial information (plant protection products, fertilizers, etc.) with enriched data (suitability, use, etc.) as well as automated issuance of official documents (where required). 

Viticulture will be used as the pilot crop for the development of the infrastructure, given the special interest of the East Macedonia and Thrace region in wine production (RIS3 strategy).