A forum on precison farming to present the scenarios opened by new technologies applied to crops and the opportunities for a sector in constant evolution, which in Lazio can count on extraordinary growth factors thanks to the integrated system of highly specialized companies, universities and research centers.
It was held on 17 February in Dubai, at the Italy Pavilion, the forum of the Lazio Region entitled “Precision Agriculture – For the Competitiveness of the Territory and Environmental Sustainability”.
The event in the United Arab Emirates, organized by Lazio Innova in collaboration with Ismea (Institute of Services for the Agricultural Food Market), e-GEOS (a Telespazio Group company) and the University of Tuscia, is part of the activities of the Lazio Region at Expo 2020 Dubai. The meeting was an opportunity to present the topic of precision farming to stakeholders and potential investors from the Arab and international world and new space technologies for Earth observation that allow the monitoring and optimization of resource use and a more sustainable management of land and crops.
Speakers included, among others, Giuseppe Finocchiaro, Consul General in Dubai; Paolo Glisenti, General Commissioner of Italy at EXPO 2020 Dubai; Quirino Briganti, responsible for the activities of Expo 2020 Dubai of the Lazio Region; Enrica Onorati, Regional Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Promotion of the Food Chain and Culture, Equal Opportunities of Lazio; Mario Ciarla, President of ARSIAL (Regional Agency for Development and Innovation of Agriculture in Lazio); Alessandro Ruggieri, Professor of Technology, Innovation and Quality at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo; Laura De Gara, Professor of Plant Physiology and Dean of the Departmental Faculty of Science and Technology for Man and the Environment of the University Campus Biomedico of Rome; Lucio Baron, Vice President Strategy of Pure Harvest Smart Farms; Mario Bonaccorso, director of the Italian Cluster of Circular Bioeconomy SPRING; Fabio Volpe, head of product innovation unit with optical and hyperspectral data of e-GEOS (joint venture between Telespazio and Italian Space Agency).
Some of the most innovative productive realities of the territory also participated: CerereTech, a startup already incubated at Spazio Attivo Roma Tecnopolo of the Lazio Region and participating in ESA Business Incubation Centre Lazio, which offers innovative solutions through the use of effective and suitable precision agriculture to companies; Ferrari Farm, a company that has developed a hydroponic cultivation system unique in Europe, hermetic, sterile and totally computerized, without exchange with the external environment for production independent of climate and environmental pollution; Maccarese SpA, one of the largest farms in Italy with a dairy herd of 3.600 cows for a production of 57.000 liters of high quality milk; The Circle, a farm with a sustainable and competitive development model that produces food and energy, without any impact on the environment or waste; Arcadia, a spin-off of the University of Tuscia that provides companies with a service for the development of biostimulants and fertilizers with high efficiency and based on the use of advanced omics technologies including phenomics and metabolomics.
The Forum focused, in particular, on issues related to high-tech hydroponic crops and on those above ground, made in greenhouses with automated systems for the management of climate and nutrient solution. Agriculture and agro-industry constitute, in fact, an optimal “terrain” for the integration of advanced technological contents deriving from different fields such as aerospace, ICT, nanotechnologies, new materials and biotechnologies, in order to realize highly innovative solutions in precision cultivation and in the production of vegetables in extreme environments.
Digital transformation now involves all sectors of the production world, including agriculture, which has always been considered a “traditional” sector. Agriculture thus becomes 4.0, taking advantage of the so-called enabling technologies that develop the value of the production chain and the innovation of processes, products and services. In this revolution, precision agriculture is one of the pivotal points that allows interventions aimed at reducing waste and optimizing the resources to be used, by monitoring weather conditions, water resources, plant health and crop needs.
“Innovation and technologies must be at the heart of a more sustainable and equitable development transformation. A decisive step is to help build a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly agrifood system, as indicated by the European Green Deal”. Said the President of Lazio, Nicola Zingaretti, who explained: “to achieve this goal it is necessary to activate targeted policies that focus on agroecology and agroforestry and, in particular, on precision agriculture and new related technologies, to improve production, optimize resources and reduce waste. Precision agriculture is one of those emerging industries that arise from the integration of technological and traditional sectors such as digital aerospace and agriculture, in line with the trajectories identified in our Smart Specialization Strategy. With the new 2021-2027 planning we will continue to do our part, committing ourselves to overcome the global challenges we face, to fight inequality, to ensure the quality of life and well-being of the planet to deliver it in all its beauty to the humanity of the future”.
The agro-industrial system of Lazio is one of the most important in Italy and represents 3% of the wealth of the entire regional economy, contributing with 6.3 billion of annual turnover to 6% of the national agrifood. It is a sector that can count on a wide range of high quality products, on a strong link with the territory and its traditions, on a marked propensity for innovation and on high safety standards.
The aerospace sector is among the major contributors to the success of precision agriculture: in Lazio, Aerospace can count on absolute excellence in research and industrial leadership. The transversality of this sector ranges across different competencies, with the use of technologies that contribute to the development of processes, goods and services to support the competitiveness of Lazio companies on the global market.
“Our goal is to strengthen this system that is able to deliver the most innovative solutions to benefit not only the territory but the entire society. The Lazio Region supports the foundation and growth of innovative startups and through Lazio Innova’s “Spazi Attivi” offers them accompanying services in the path of technology development and business acceleration,” said the Regional Minister for Economic Development, Trade and Crafts, University, Research, Start-Up and Innovation of Lazio, Paolo Orneli. “Innovation, technology transfer and digitalization are our keys to help companies face and overcome one of the global challenges we face for a new, more sustainable model of development, capable of safeguarding natural resources, protecting the well-being of the environment and improving people’s quality of life.“
“We have demonstrated as Lazio to think, invest and support an all-round agriculture, as shown so far in Dubai. An agriculture that speaks of our wonderful territory and its products made in Lazio, in a perspective of environmental, social and economic sustainability, and that does not forget to experience new ways, that is more and more innovative and stimulating. It is no coincidence that we have chosen best practices for this forum, dedicated to precision agriculture, with a view not only the rationalization but also the optimization of resources and sustainable management of land and crops. I’m thinking of a large and consolidated reality such as Maccarese Spa, which since 2018 has also created the Training Pole for agro-livestock development, demonstrating a concept of putting back into circulation the virtuosity of good practices. And to The Circle and Ferrari Farm that well represent the spirit of agriculture that knows how to seize the great opportunity given by the European funds of the PSR to invest with passion, commitment and vision in their ideas and in their future. I strongly believe that a policy should always try to give concrete, current and effective answers to the problems of the time in which we live; in this case from the point of view of a complementarity between tradition and innovation of an agriculture that innovates and reinvents itself and a policy attentive to the issue of climate change and access to food for all. We truly hope that Dubai remains as enchanted as we have been and that our realities can inspire new investments”. This was stated by the Regional Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Promotion of the Food Chain and Culture, Equal Opportunities of Lazio, Enrica Onorati.
“The Region continues to be a protagonist in Dubai with the sectors of strategic importance, for the regional dimension, which the Italian participation in Expo intends to represent. These are topics of global interest, such as Precision Agriculture, correlated with the major economic and social challenges that express the highest levels of innovation, international competitiveness and sustainability. During the Forum on “Precision Farming” insights have been developed into new space technologies for Earth observation that allow monitoring and optimization of resource use and a more sustainable management of land and crops. The focus of the meeting will be on innovative techniques related to high-tech hydroponic cultivation, i.e. crops grown out of soil in greenhouses with automated systems for the management of climate and nutrient solution. New technologies, therefore, are to safeguard the health and well-being of citizens from environmental risks”. This was the comment of Quirino Briganti, responsible for the activities of Expo 2020 Dubai of the Lazio Region.
Rome is home to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), which aims to contribute to increasing levels of nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, improve the lives of rural populations and contribute to global economic growth in the area; the IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), a specialized agency of the United Nations for increasing the agricultural activities of EU countries and the WPF (World Food Program), another UN agency that deals with food assistance, whose goal is to help people who are unable to find or produce food for themselves and their families.