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EU Program Offers Funding for Projects That Combine Robotics, Agriculture

Robotics companies and farmers can compete for grants from a program aimed at strengthening the European network of digital innovators.

Apr. 22, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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Robotic tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and Euro­pean farm­ers are col­lab­o­rat­ing on inno­v­a­tive agri­cul­tural projects that employ robot­ics to be sub­mit­ted to the Euro­pean Union for the first agROBO­food Open Call for Inno­va­tion Exper­i­ments. At stake is a prize pool of €2.65 mil­lion that will be divided among the best six projects.

With the open call, we expect to reach out to many small and medium enter­prises across Europe.- Frédéric Colledani, head of the France-Italy por­tion of the project

In order to win, projects will need to demon­strate a solid inno­v­a­tive con­cept, a strong com­mit­ment to the lat­est avail­able tech­nolo­gies and an assess­ment of the impact of the final prod­uct, includ­ing the role it could play for farm­ers in the field, the pro­jec­t’s man­agers told Olive Oil Times.

The projects must directly address prob­lems of the agri-food sec­tor, such as reduc­ing costs for every­day oper­a­tions, max­i­miz­ing yields, or solv­ing secu­rity and safety prob­lems with a focus on robotic tech­nol­ogy.

The agROBO­food ini­tia­tive, part of the Euro­pean Union’s Hori­zon 2020 research and inno­va­tion pro­gram, is a con­ti­nen­tal net­work of dig­i­tal inno­va­tion hubs and com­pe­tence cen­ters aimed at rais­ing aware­ness among farm­ers about the ben­e­fits of robot­ics in agri­cul­ture. The cen­ters offer sup­port farm­ers need to develop their own projects, find the right part­ners and obtain the needed skills.

See more: Tech­nol­ogy Updates

With the open call, we expect to reach out to many small and medium enter­prises across Europe. Projects must involve robot­ics and end-users, in small con­sor­tia formed by two to five part­ners,” Frédéric Colledani, head of the France-Italy por­tion of the project, told Olive Oil Times. Con­sor­tia could be cross-bor­der, for instance, involv­ing part­ners from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, or cross-sec­tor, with part­ners from dif­fer­ent fields, like robot­ics, tech­nol­ogy providers, farm­ers, and so on.”

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agROBO­food already has expe­ri­ence oper­at­ing among olive groves. In Spain, farm­ers and robot­ics experts are build­ing a plat­form to max­i­mize olive yields. The core of the project is the devel­op­ment of a mobile, elec­tri­fied auto­matic guided vehi­cle (AGV) plat­form equipped with sen­sor mod­ules to gather infor­ma­tion for use in olive groves.

While the vehi­cles are being designed for rel­a­tively small test­ing groves, the project aims to be scal­able, to work in dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios and large pro­duc­tions. The key is to look for strong inno­va­tion within an orga­nized frame­work of inno­va­tors.

Since agROBO­food is a net­work project, par­tic­i­pants should also be con­nected to a local [dig­i­tal inno­va­tion hub] that will con­nect them to the other stake­hold­ers of the agri-food sec­tor, in order to help them find rel­e­vant part­ners and dis­sem­i­nate the result of the project as widely as pos­si­ble,” noted Colledani, who is also a robot­ics expert from the List Insti­tute at CEA Tech.

Colledani said that the com­pe­tence cen­ters can pro­vide part­ners with ser­vices such as tech­ni­cal infra­struc­ture, tech­ni­cal sup­port on scal­ing up and test­ing.

In addi­tion to that, the dig­i­tal inno­va­tion hubs are orga­ni­za­tions that act as a one-stop-shop and will also pro­vide non-tech­ni­cal ser­vices, such as com­mu­nity build­ing, strat­egy devel­op­ment, ecosys­tem learn­ing and pro­mo­tion as well as incubator/accelerator sup­port, access to finance, project devel­op­ment, skills train­ing and edu­ca­tion and more,” he said

The cen­ters and hubs are located around Europe in a grow­ing net­work and are con­nected to one another. Infor­ma­tion on apply­ing for the Open Call is on the web­site linked below.

Win­ners will be selected in August.



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