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Wageningen University & Research ‘connects the dots’ during SmartAgrihubs event

Published on
July 29, 2022

The SmartAgriHubs Final Event will take place in Lisbon at the end of September. This three-day event is meant to bring together digital innovators in the agri-sector and to look back at what has been achieved and how to maintain and build on these achievements. George Beers of Wageningen University & Research is the coordinator of SmartAgriHubs (SAH): “We want there to be a strong European network of agricultural Digital Innovation Hubs.”

Digitalisation and Green Deal

Digitisation in the agri-sector helps tackle major challenges involving food and sustainability so that production can be more efficient and more sustainable. Hennie van der Veen is the project manager of SmartAgriHubs: “This really is the future; innovation is especially necessary to meet the requirements of the Green Deal.” The process of becoming more sustainable must happen rapidly, and digitisation helps European farmers become more efficient and sustainable in their production.”

“If, for example, you wish to cut back on your crop protection, it helps to use a drone and GPS to detect the weeds. This way, you can be more precise, spray less, or use less water and energy. Also, consider the use of sensors that can detect diseases among cattle early on. These sensors can keep track of animal movements, among other things. If a cow stands still for too long or moves less than usual, this could indicate either disease or an accident and you can respond more quickly.’

Rolling out digital developments

The goal of SAH is to develop a network that accelerates digital innovation in the agri-sector and to improve the roll-out of these innovations. WUR’s role is both project-based and strategic. Hennie van der Veen explains: “We want to build networks, and the strategy for building these networks lies with the WUR: ‘Connecting the Dots’ is the motto here. We are focused on the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs), which act as a sort of umbrella organisation within a region. They are one-stop shops that support digitisation by offering services. They maintain relations with start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises in order to, for example, build networks, offer support in securing funding, or set up new business models. The corresponding innovation portal allows people to search for available solutions and determine who is working on these.”

What has the project accomplished?

The first day in Lisbon is all about the SmartAgriHubs project. Hennie van der Veen: “The question is: where are we at now, and what project results do we see? What have we accomplished?” On the second and third day, we will be looking to connect with other projects in the field of agriculture digitisation. A total of 15 different European projects will be represented. This will open the door for connections on a management level, DIH level, and innovation level. It is important for the project coordinators to achieve synergy between projects, so that the SmartAgriHubs results can be reused, strengthened, and rolled out further.

The employees of the DIHs can attend workshops during the event in order to improve their services. They will learn about developing new business models, the use of YouTube, organising demonstrations, and other topics. They can also learn about blockchain and the complexity of processing data.”

Later in the event, innovators can meet each other during an exhibition that showcases their innovations. They can see and learn from the other participants’ work with drones or AI, with seed-sowing robots or GPS-controlled machines.