agROBOfood: Towards a European network and effective adoption of robotics technologies

Starting June 2019, the 16 mln EU project agROBOfood builds the European ecosystem for the effective adoption of robotics technologies in the European agri food sector. Kees Lokhorst, coordinator agROBOfood: ”Now the agROBOfood project has started, it is possible for companies throughout Europe to be supported in Vision + Robotics innovation and business. Through the network of digital innovation hubs, borders can be crossed and European strengths combined. agROBOfood will demonstrate and accelerate new robotics technology to make the European agri food sector more efficient and competitive.”

Open call: until 31-05-2021!
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The challenges faced by farmers are immense, knowing that they are asked to produce more and better food while using fewer resources, to lower their environmental footprint and to meet evolving consumer demands. agROBOfood aims at maximising the return of EU investment in agri food robotics and advance Europe to become the vanguard in providing safe and adequate food in a sustainable way.

Read more about this call

Innovation Experiments

The heart of the project is formed by Innovation Experiments, organized and monitored by Digital Innovation Hubs. In 7 Regional Clusters, initial experiments will demonstrate robotics innovations in agri food in a manner that ensures replicability and wide adoption across Europe.



To protect people from working in sub-zero temperatures, in the agROBOfood project a demonstrator robot will be built: a mixed palletiser to work in a freezer room. Another example will be to harvest fruit automatically, on time and with less manpower. This results in lower production and resource costs, whilst solving the labour shortage problem. Furthermore a demonstrator for cucumbers will be built which can judge the maturity and pick & handle fruits in a greenhouse. Also, we will show a drone monitoring vineyards. Many more examples will be shown, both by the consortium and by companies who can apply for funding in the open calls. The Digital Innovation Hubs and connected experts will support these innovation experiments.

Digital Innovation Hubs

agROBOfood connects the world of Robotics and Agriculture, R&D and business by establishing a sustainable network of Digital Innovation Hubs. This consolidates, extends and strengthens the current ecosystem. Digital Innovation Hubs support companies in digitization by connecting technical, human and financial stakeholders.

agROBOfood will work closely with the broader European robotics community, ensuring synergetic effects with initiatives such as EU-Robotics. This will maximize the return of European investments, including private capital, in the digital transformation of agri food.


The agROBOfood network already consists of 49 digital innovation hubs and 12 competence centers and will grow during the project. The project consortium fuelling this growth has 38 partners, led by Wageningen University & Research.

Open calls

An Industrial Advisory Board will provide strategic guidance and also define priorities for the selection of solutions to be funded. Open Calls will attract additional Innovation Experiments and Industrial Challenges. There is €8 million available to the benefit of SMEs.

Through its inclusive structure and ambitious targets, agROBOfood aims to bring the entire European ecosystem together; connecting the dots in a way that ensures effective adoption of robotics technologies in the European agri food sector. Please grow with us!



What is the mission of agROBOfood?

Many end users in agri-food are not aware of the opportunities robotics can offer to their company. Perhaps they have even never thought about it. The agROBOfood network will raise awareness by organising events, showcasing demonstrators and reaching out to these end users through the DIHs. When end users become aware of what is possible, they often do not know where to find the right support. One of the goals of agROBOfood is to change this. We will actively promote the one-stop shop principle so that everyone who wants to use robotics knows where to go to find the help that they need. Which goals do we want to achieve?

agROBOfood aims to create an open, expanding, and sustainable ecosystem of a wide range of stakeholders (DIHs and CCs, SMEs, farmers and agribusiness suppliers, traders and technology providers, Research, Government, Investors, the Public) combining various competences and addressing multiple dimensions (technical, human, financial) towards a common vision for the uptake and integration of robotic technologies in the agri-food sector. The agROBOfood network includes 7 Regional Clusters covering the whole of Europe with representative organizations as leaders, each coordinating DIHs in their own region.

How is agROBOfood organised?

The agROBOfood network connects five basic components: (i) Competence Centers, (ii) DIHs, (iii) the Innovation Services Maturity Model, (iv) the Catalogue, and (v) the digital portal. This network reaches out to both end users and technology developers in Innovation Experiments and Industrial Challenges with the goal of increasing the penetration of robotic technologies into the agri-food industry at all levels.

What is an Innovation Experiment?

The Innovation Experiments (IEs) are the key instrument in the project and their use is two-fold. On the one hand IEs are used to mature technologies meeting end user needs and demonstrate robotics solutions to increase technology uptake. And on the other hand, the IEs are used to test and improve the quality of the network and services. The IEs aim to stimulate collaboration between European countries therefore at least two different European eligible countries are represented in each consortium.

Digital Innovation Hub (DIH)

What is a Digital Innovation Hub?

Digital Innovation Hubs are one-stop-shops that help companies to become more competitive with regard to their business/production processes, products or services using digital technologies. They are based upon technology infrastructure (competence centre) and provide access to the latest knowledge, expertise and technology to support their customers with piloting, testing and experimenting with digital innovations. DIHs also provide business and financing support to implement these innovations, if needed across the value chain. As proximity is considered crucial, they act as a first regional point of contact, a doorway, and strengthen the innovation ecosystem. A DIH is a regional multi-partner cooperation (including organizations like RTOs, universities, industry associations, chambers of commerce, incubator/accelerators, regional development agencies and even governments) and can also have strong linkages with service providers outside of their region supporting companies with access to their services.

More information can be found here.

What are the obligations of new DIHs’?

Digital Innovation Hubs, as an innovation ecosystem that provides access to the services, facilities and expertise of a wide range of partners, ensure that individual customers get the services they need; that the target market segments receive innovative, scalable solutions; and that DIHs cooperate effectively with each other. Proximity between DIHs and companies is an important factor and the first point of contact for companies will often be a DIH in the same region.

DIHs will actively approach companies themselves to share their knowledge in robotics and explain their service portfolio. Amongst others, DIHs can guide and teach companies, help them to discover robot abilities and how these relate to their needs, and if needed identify sources of financial support for automation. Finally, this will result in a large community of competitive (aware and able) digitized European companies.

Open calls

What is the aim of the “Open Call”?

The Open Calls aim to:

Support industry, in particular SMEs of the agrifood sector, in their digital transformation, through demonstrators and platforms development, technology transfer experiments and other services.

Allow the European automation industry (agricultural machinery, material handling, etc) to benefit from the opportunities of guiding, supporting and teaming up with start-ups and SMEs from the robotics sector.

Mobilize private matching funds (e.g. acquisitions by big industrial players, corporate VC investments, that will support the scale-up of robotic technologies and accelerate the digital transformation of the agrifood sector.

What amount of budget is allocated to Open Calls?

€8M budget of Open Calls for Innovation Experiments and Industrial Challenges (ICs) will be allocated for the direct benefit of SMEs.

How many “Open Calls” will there be?

Two Open Calls for Innovation Experiments (IEs) are planned, one to open in March 2020 and the other in May 2021. Each IEs will take up to 18 months.

What are the selection criteria?

The solution tackles a commercial need within agri-food.
The solution is based around robot technologies.
A local partner DIH is used as the primary contact point.
They agree to use network cross-border services.
They provide feedback on each service that they use.
They agree to videotape non-commercially-sensitive parts of their work for agROBOfood dissemination. They agree to promote our network at one project-organised event.

When will the Calls open?

Two Open Calls for Innovation Experiments (IEs) are planned, one to open in March 2020 and the other in May 2021. Each IEs will take up to 18 months.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825395.
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