D4AgEcol will show the potentials of digitalisation as enabler for agroecological farming systems in Europe based on available knowledge and actors' and stakeholders' co-innovation capacity . Partners from seven countries across a wide spectrum of pedoclimatic zones in Europe will assemble a holistic evaluation of digital tools and technologies. This will be based on indicators for agroecology, economic considerations and investigations about perceived benefits for user and stakeholder. Drivers, barriers and risks of digital technologies for a transformation towards agroecology will be identified. The results of this analysis will feed in national and European roadmaps for agroecology, indicating the need for adjusted policies and a technology research and innovation agenda.
European agriculture still lacks compliance with principles of agroecology, resulting in emissions to neighbouring ecosystems, shrinking biodiversity and negative effects on natural resources. Thus, a transition to agricultural systems, which consider the principles of agroecology, is necessary. Digitalisation can be a key enabler for achieving sustainable agricultural and food systems in Europe.
Digital tools and technologies can identify local soil properties as well as plant features, wild fauna and livestock in farming systems. Innovative technologies are capable addressing farm management to the special features of agroecological systems and enabling smart farming, taking into account the economic challenges of farming in different environments. Digitalisation enables new farming concepts, which can drastically change the management in farming systems. For example, grazing systems without fences, could control the grazing of hot spots of weed communities and enable ecological farming of remote areas, which were not able to be farmed without GPS-guided technologies. Intelligent weeding systems could enable organic farming systems, where farmers had little incentive to pursue ecological farming without these technologies. The implementation of robots in agricultural processes may increase labour productivity, reduce soil compaction, among other environmental benefits, and enable the cultivation of crops in remote areas, which have not been cultivated before or would have been prone to abandonment. Fragile complex agroforest-ecosystems such as cork oak woodlands in Southern Portugal could be managed with the help of remote sensing technologies to provide monetary values and ecosystem services, which otherwise might be prone to desertification. However, these potentials can only be realized, if they are wisely aligned with a joint effort including science, technology development, stakeholder/ actors’ involvement and policy frameworks, which enable the development of agroecology. This includes financial aspects as well as legal aspects.
The overall objective of D4AgEcol is to provide knowledge for the transition to agroecological farming by identifying appropriate digital tools and technologies4 and suggest measures to adapt and exploit their potentials to the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems. The project is driven by the vision of the rapid digitalisation of agriculture, which strengthens the agricultural sector. However, in order tocapitalize the potentials of agroecology, policy intervention is necessary to enable the implementation of digital tools, which foster agroecological systems. To enable a smooth transition to agroecology, D4AgEcol shall provide a balanced assessment of relevant digital tools and technologies for multiple farming systems, while considering its impacts on the agroecology. In addition, potential trade-offs, and concerns of stakeholders and citizens shall be identified, while capturing the co-creation capacity of actors and stakeholders. Necessary policy interventions shall be demonstrated in national and European roadmaps for promoting agroecology with digitalisation in the EU and more detailed in European regions covering the broad spectrum of European agricultural farming systems in the most relevant pedo-climatic zones. The results of this project will be relevant for farmers, stakeholders, and policy makers at different scales - from regional to national and European level. The benefits for farmers and stakeholders will be to identify promising digital tools and technologies in their environment. For policy makers information about necessary policy frameworks and potentials for policy interventions will be useful to develop the digitalisation as an enabler of agroecology in Europe.
Project Website: https://d4agecol.eu/
EU Horizon (Innovate UK)
Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB)
CETRI, ZALF, AUA, UCPH, BOKU, LfL, PESSL, DLG, LUKE, UNAC