Over 50 researchers, academics and industry representatives met on February 16th, at Fraunhofer Portugal's headquarters. As well as discussing the role of cooperation in precision agriculture and water management, they looked at the future of the sector in Portugal.
The discussion was articulated around national case studies, born in academia and industry, in order to allow participants to become acquainted with the latest progress on the technologies applied to agriculture and water management, and to assess potential avenues for collaboration and further innovation.
The projects presented featured technologies such as sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones and robots, smart tools and systems, and many others that allow sensing and monitoring, information analysis and decision making, and on-site intervention. All agreed that information and communication technologies (ICT), geospatial technology and robotics can enhance decision making, facilitate the management of resources and assets, as well as improve the accessibility of information.
Cristina Pires, from the Hubel Group, for example, was among those who stressed how “receiving the right information at the right time can be critical to making right decisions”. As Raul Morais dos Santos, professor at University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, put it: "data is needed everywhere".
Throughout the debate, participants underlined the need for further technology development, as well as the importance of the usability of applications to facilitate the adoption of new technologies.
Another priority identified was the need laboratory-to-field extrapolation and the need to drive the economic contribution of research. While highlighting the importance of having industry representatives present in the audience, Pedro Almeida, executive board member of Fraunhofer Portugal, said that “the R&D activities of the future Fraunhofer centre for smart agriculture and water management will strive to be a cornerstone for innovation-driven growth and to generate economic value”.
Among those present were representatives of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, University of Évora, University of Lisbon, Hubel Group, GeoDouro, RAIZ (Forest and Paper Research Institute), Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA) and the FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technoloy).
Debate contributed to shaping the future of new research centre
Through industry presentations and an open debate, Fraunhofer Portugal aimed to identify the challenges and opportunities which will guide the activities of Fraunhofer's new research centre, dedicated to smart agriculture and water management, planned to be launched at the end of 2018. This research centre is slated to have hubs in both University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro and University of Évora, and work in close collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) in Saxony and Thuringia (Germany). FhP-AICOS will also contribute with its expertise in information technology and emerging communications to this new initiative.
"Fraunhofer Portugal has developed powerful and unique capabilities to drive research and development and seeks to create knowledge capable of generating added value to its clients, partners and future end-users. That's why activities such as this, where we join others in debate, are important to help guide us in our work", said Pedro Almeida.
Keynote speaker Ingolf Voigt, Director of the Fraunhofer IKTS, talked about the opportunities brought by collaboration and the institute's focus on water management, namely through inorganic and chemical-free processes, and the use of ceramic membranes.
Also speaking at the workshop was the Dean of University of Évora, Ana Costa Freitas, and Raul Morais dos Santos, professor at University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, who both highlighted their institution’s contributions to research and on-going projects.