Familia Torres leads an R&D project to achieve sustainable, resilient and efficient crops thanks to technology
A total of 15 Spanish entities, including 8 agricultural and technological companies and 7 research centers, participate in the SmartCrops 5.1 research and development project, which focuses on the digitalization and sustainability of the agricultural sector to increase its competitiveness and adaptation to climate change. Under the leadership of Familia Torres, the overall objective of the project is to study how the application of smart technologies such as digital twins (virtual replicas of products or processes that take place in reality) can help manage crops in a more sustainable, resilient and efficient way, reducing the consumption of water resources and inputs and optimizing the use of plant material.
The increase in temperatures and intensive agriculture are accelerating the desertification of the Spanish agricultural sector: almost 50% of the territory is at risk of desertification and the forecast for 2050 is that this percentage reaches 67%. In addition, Spain has the highest index of water stress in Europe (33%) due to the lack of rainfall, with the agricultural sector being the most affected as it consumes the most water (about 70% of the total). Given this situation and the need to promote the digital transformation and sustainable development of agricultural companies, SmartCrops 5.1 aims to propose solutions to face the great challenges facing the agricultural sector and offer a roadmap to achieve a technified agricultural production focused on sustainability, efficiency and regeneration.
The agrotechnological cooperation project, whose full name is 'New digital, technological and agro-ecological tools for the sustainable and resilient production of woody and horticultural crops in semi-arid climates in conditions of climate change', has a duration of 4 years and is led by Familia Torres. It has a budget of around 6 million euros, co-financed by the European Union and the Center for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI Innovation) - with ERDF funds, through the multiregional Operational Program for Smart Growth 2021-2027, within the framework of the Strategic Program of National Business Research Consortia (CIEN).
The members of the consortium come from 5 Spanish regions (Andalusia, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Valencia and Navarra). Among the 8 business partners, 3 are agrotechnology companies whose activity focuses on the design of digital software solutions for agricultural management, data and integration platform (HISPATEC ERPAGRO), technological solutions in crop protection (FEDE SPUTTERS) and technological solutions for increasing the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and saving and optimizing water (PRIMA-RAM). The remaining 5 are agricultural companies from different sectors: wine (FAMILIA TORRES and MATARROMERA WINERY), olive groves (CORTIJO GUADIANA- CASTILLO DE CANENA GROUP and MATARROMERA WINERY), nuts (Almond tree) (MATARROMERA WINERY), subtropical crops (TROPS) and broadleaf vegetables such as lettuce (FLORETTE IBÉRICA).
Along with these companies, 7 top-level national research centers participate: Center for Research on Desertification (CIDE-CSIC), University of Almería, Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA), FIDESOL Foundation, International Institute for Research in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science Foundation (Air Institute), University of Burgos and Experimental Station and Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture “La Mayora” (ISHM La Mayora-CSIC).
SmartCrops 5.1 is mainly based on the application of digital twins to optimize the water and nutritional management of crops in the current conditions of climate change and on the monitoring and estimation of sustainability indicators of agricultural production systems to achieve sustainable, efficient, intelligent and regenerative agriculture. The digital twins allow to reproduce in a computer what happens in the field, simulating the behavior of the plant and its interaction with the environment, to check the effectiveness of the processes before being carried out in the crop. For this project, it is especially relevant to measure the results achieved in irrigation, nutrition and fertirrigation and the application of phytosanitary products.
The specific challenges addressed by the project to adapt crops to climate change include efficiency in the consumption of resources and their optimization thanks to digitalization; the reduction of the water footprint through intelligent irrigation; the reduction of the use of phytosanitary products that will lead to a reduction in pollution; the use of Big Data / Al / Cloud / Edge Computing and energy efficiency measures in crop management; and the implementation of regenerative practices in crops to obtain healthier and more balanced soils that allow better water retention, prevent erosion, increase biodiversity and reduce the use of pesticides.
To achieve these objectives, from the technical point of view, this collaborative R&D project is articulated in two technical activities. The first proposes the generation of knowledge for the sustainable, intelligent and efficient use of plant material and water resources and available inputs to improve the technological capacity of the national agricultural sector in front of the foreseeable impact of climate change. The second activity proposes the experimental validation of the scientific-technological solutions proposed in the previous activity with five use cases in the wine, olive, horticultural and fruit sectors.
About SMARTCROPS 5.1
SmartCrops 5.1 is a collaborative R+D project whose main objective is to investigate and develop new digital, technological and agroecological tools for the sustainable and resilient production of woody and horticultural crops in semi-arid climates and in conditions of climate change. The consortium that develops it is composed of 8 companies in the agrotechnology sector and agricultural production (Familia Torres, Trops, Hispatec Erpagro, Pulverizadores Fede, Cortijo Guadiana (Castillo de Canena Group), Prima Ram, Florette Ibérica and Bodega Matarromera) and 7 national research centers (Center for Research on Desertification-CIDE-CSIC, University of Almería, Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology-IRTA, FIDESOL Foundation, Air Institute Foundation, University of Burgos and Experimental Station Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture "La Mayora"-IHSM La Mayora-CSIC).
The project has a budget of 5,879,574 euros, co-financed by the European Union and the Center for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI Innovation) - with FEDER funds, through the multiregional Operational Program for Smart Growth 2021-2027, within the framework of the Strategic Program of National Business Research Consortia (CIEN).