Sustainability and competitiveness of European agriculture are intrinsically related to the efficient use of water, fertilisers and Plant Protection Products (PPP), for optimizing plants needs while minimizing the environmental impacts. The joint effort of minimizing wastewater, and optimizing use of nitrogen-and phosphorus-based fertilizers and PPPs is aligned to the so-called Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in the context of the circular economy, where issues such as efficiency and resilience of water use are mandatory.

Based upon the premise the more you know the better you can manage, reliable decision-making systems and fertigation and water quality feedback controllers demand cost-effective, robust, low-maintenance and accurate sensor data. It is very important to evaluate the suitability of the circulating water in closed or semi-closed soilless systems and of the irrigation and drainage water in soilgrown cultivation, mainly in terms of macronutrient concentrations (NPK), salinity and contamination by PPP. So far, the available sensors technology does not meet these challenges for on-site monitoring.

Therefore, AGRINUPES will focus on the research and development of an effective integrated and sustainable monitoring and control system with innovative ion selective sensors for nutrients and bio-based sensing of PPP for optimal water and nutrient supply and reuse, minimizing the effects on the environment. In order to validate the developed technologies and demonstrate their applicability, four case studies (demonstrations) convering several types of crop production systems from greenhouses to open-field agriculture in various climatic regions will be addressed. The appropriate handling of these data as inputs in an easy-to-use decision support system fosters the design of an improved fertigation Model Predictive Controller (MPC), which incorporates robustness and fault-tolerant features, as it can meet both the crop needs and the grower yield/costs expectations. The new sensors will lead to worldwide new markets for European water technology sector, thus strengthening the competitiveness and growth of SMEs and related companies.

Achieving the implementation of this project requires a trans-disciplinary team and involvement of multi-actors. This proposal builds on the extensive experience, competence and early work conducted on optical fiber-based sensors, biosensors, water policy models, plant nutrition, smart irrigation scheduling and robust control. With the sensors, the growers will have information about the input and output water quality, and can evidence-based decide on how and when to irrigate and fertigate, and on whether the costly task of cleaning is advisable before disposal. As a result, significant increase of water and fertilizer use efficiency is obtained (expected < 50%), longer and economic reuse cycle for the drainage water is achieved, and pollution of surface and ground waters by fertilizers and PPP is prevented or significantly reduced.

This project is made possible by the Ministry of Economic Business.