Precision agriculture is a modern farming practice based on measuring crop variability using high technology, remote sensing and forecast meteorological data.
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture is a major concern, since this sector is one of the most seriously affected by climate change, especially in developing countries. At the same time, it also accounts for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates, the share of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is increasing (accounting for about 15%), higher than that of transport and about half of that of energy production.
Over the last few years we have been involved in the ERMES (An Earth obseRvation Model based RicE information Service) project whose purpose was precisely to implement some services regarding precision farming. ERMES is a European Union - FP7 SPACE project coordinated by the IREA/CNR Institute. ERMES ambitious objective was to create an integrated system allowing to exploit information from different sources and different levels of spatial and temporal granularity (Earth Observation data, crop modeling, and user-collected data), in order to provide useful information for various crop monitoring/management applications. Precision farming has the potential to contribute to the wider goal of meeting the increasing demand for food, whilst ensuring the production sustainability. The main beneficiaries are scientific and technical communities, administrative operators, citizens, and stakeholders (in agricultural and industrial sectors).
Total for the whole project € 2,477,583
Total to CNR/IMAA € 169,539
Evidence of success
The main outcomes of the referred project activities have been i) the development of algorithms to retrieve useful information from the available data sources in a fast and automated; ii) the creation of suitable tools for disseminating that information to different stakeholders in an easy-to-understand format and exploiting user-friendly web; iii) training and information to scientific, technical and administrative operators to increase skills on the various aspects of precision agriculture
ERMES' challenges were mostly connected to i) the development of algorithms to retrieve useful information from the available data sources in a fast and automated way and to ii) the creation of suitable tools for disseminating that information to different stakeholders in an user friendly format.
Potential for learning or transfer
The system was designed following a modular approach, where core software components are easily extensible with specific functionalities. Moreover, it is possible to replicate ERMES project for the different crops of Basilicata region; in fact, although developed for European rice cultivations, the solutions implemented in the ERMES system can be, and are already being, adapted to other crops and/or areas of the world. The experience of the ERMES project in developing value-added services for agriculture will not be wasted. In fact, several stakeholders have already shown their interest in providing funding to maintain and further improve some of the services, in particular for what concerns biotic risk simulation and alerting (on the regional side). Finally, although ERMES was mainly focused on European agriculture, its methods and technologies can also be exploited for other fields of interest (e.g. to support PV plants installation and/or for building energy efficiency).