Published: 20/05/2022 News
The LIFE GAIA Sense: Smart Farming for Sustainability digital event, organized by GAIA EPICHEIREIN with the support of FARM EUROPE and within the framework of the LIFE GAIA Sense project, co-funded by the EU LIFE Programme, was successfully concluded on Wednesday 11 May 2022 with the participation of leading members from EU institutional and representative bodies. The event was hosted by Member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Agriculture of Italy, Paolo de Castro.
The LIFE GAIA Sense project is based on the innovative gaiasense by NEUROPUBLIC smart farming system, and aims –inter alia– to reduce the impact of agricultural production on natural resources and to protect the environment, while supporting circular economy models.
At his opening remarks, Mr. de Castro highlighted the importance of the project in the effort to reduce the environmental footprint of agricultural production and achieve the environmental and climate objectives set by the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “Projects such as LIFE GAIA Sense are important to support farmers and cooperatives in order to ensure productivity and quality, enhance competitiveness and mitigate climate and environmental impacts,” he stated.
The event programme continued with speeches by Maria Spyraki, Clara Aguilera and Alvaro Amaro, all Members of the European Parliament from the three respective project partner countries: Greece, Spain and Portugal. Ms Spyraki, in particular, spoke about food security, as well as the significant role of cooperatives in the digital transformation, and stressed that “we need to link science and agricultural production, and transfer know-how to end users”.
Ms Aguilera talked about the participation of farmers in collective schemes, as well as greater access to resources and knowledge. “European farmers are making constant efforts to adapt to the new realities created by climate change. We must support the digitalization of the agri-food sector,” said the Spanish MEP.
“There is still some resistance to modernization”, argued Portuguese MEP, Alvaro Amaro. “That is where co-funded projects should help. That is where cooperatives help,” he concluded, adding that we need to look at sustainability through a broader lens, taking into account the environmental as well as the economic and social dimension, and adapt the different tools accordingly.
The role of digitization not only regarding offsetting savings, but also for protecting the environment, was discussed by Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director, Biodiversity Directorate, Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission. “The challenges to be addressed are how to increase productivity while reducing the impact on natural resources. Smart farming can support good decision-making,” he explained, stressing that the latter should be adopted by a large number of farmers, regardless of the size of their lot. At the same time, he added that emphasis should be placed on energy and biodiversity in the context of the digital transformation of agriculture.
Then, Vassilis Pyrgiotis, Coordinator of LIFE GAIA Sense and Head of EU Funded Projects at NEUROPUBLIC, took the floor and presented the outcomes of the project. Namely, the application of smart farming in 18 regions in Greece, Spain and Portugal and in nine types of crops (olive, peach, cotton, peanut, potato, industrial tomato, walnut, kiwifruit and vines) was analyzed.
The “verdict” was impressive: after the adoption of the smart farming advice offered by the gaiasense by NEUROPUBLIC system, a 20.23% drop, on average, in irrigation costs was achieved, reaching 33.76% in some cases. In addition, there was an average reduction of 21.89% in fertilization costs, which in some cases reached 40.84%. At the same time, there was also a significant reduction of about 33.72% in the cost of pesticides against specific crop pests and diseases, while in terms of energy consumption costs, the average cut was 20.18%. Finally, thanks to smart farming practices, there was an up to 30% improved nitrogen use, depending on the crop, which led to improved air quality and less environmental pollution.
Pierre Bascou, Director, Sustainability Directorate-General for Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission, discussed the importance of biodiversity and the role of the farmer in its protection and conservation. “Farmers depend on natural resources and environmental degradation affects them directly,” he said. At the same time, Mr Bascou presented the tools available in the new CAP to support the green and digital transition.
Daniel Azevedo, Director, Commodities, Trade & Technology, COPA-COGECA, explained that some regions have limited resources and, therefore, limited capacity to contribute to the sustainability objective. He stressed that that “technology must offer clear benefits to farmers, and all farmers must have access to it.”
The speeches were concluded by Yves Madre, President of FARM EUROPE, who referred to the objectives of the EU’s “Farm to fork” strategy and argued that they should be re-evaluated in line with current events and in particular the impact of the war in Ukraine. “To support the digital transition of EU farms and their training, an additional investment plan of at least €30 billion –in addition to the one provide by the CAP– supported by the EU at 50%, is needed,” he said.
The event wrapped up with questions from the audience and brief answers from Messrs. Delgado Rosa, Bascou και Azevedo.
It is worth noting, that the coordination of the LIFE GAIA Sense project was undertaken by NEUROPUBLIC in collaboration with GAIA EPICHEIREIN, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, as well as the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Meramvelos in Crete, the Agricultural Cooperative ASEPOP of Velventos in Kozani, the Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Portugal (CONFAGRI), and the wine cooperative Viña Costeira in Spain.
You can find more information on the project, here.
You can watch the entire LIFE GAIA Sense: Smart Farming for Sustainability event, here.
The presentation of project’s results and key elements is available here.