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Enhancing working conditions and strengthening the work force through digital and data technologies – the potential of robotics and augmented reality in agriculture

Digital and data technologies can facilitate the work in agriculture, enhance working conditions[[ The enhancement of working conditions is of cross-sectoral relevance. In agriculture, under the CAP post 2022 more attention will be dedicated to working conditions and social

conditionality: CAP payments will be linked to the respect of certain EU labour standards and

beneficiaries will be incentivised to improve working conditions on farms.]] and mitigate the challenge of a lack of work force, by which some branches and regions are affected. They have the potential of making farm-related jobs more attractive, including for younger generations, and to make them safer. Digital and data technologies can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of applications, including for instance through a higher level of precision, and thus increase the sustainability and competitiveness of the sector. Automation is increasingly used in agriculture; frequently, the cost-effectiveness of innovative digital and data technologies still presents a bottleneck to their use in the sector, particularly in fields where their application is not primarily relevant for increasing process efficiency and effectiveness. Technical solutions based on augmented reality approaches offer many opportunities to facilitate and enhance the use of digital technologies in agriculture, to enhance the performance of digital tools, and to provide remote assistance, which is important for remote businesses, particularly in rural areas.

Proposals should address the following:

  • Development of augmented-reality based solutions to improve working conditions, safety and failure avoidance, and to further increase robotic performance.
  • Development of robotic solutions to improve unhealthy working conditions, where applicable. Robotics tasks to be fostered might be directly related to agricultural production, such as harvesting, weeding, crop monitoring, animal husbandry or indirectly related, such as logistics/ farm management (TRL 7-8).
  • Development of robotic solutions for tasks, for which there is a high interest/ need to support and/ or replace the human work force, not only because of an interest to improve productivity, but to ensure production in an environmentally and socially sustainable way (TRL 7-8).
  • Strengthening AI capabilities for agro-robotics in the fields of applications fostered by the proposals including through the use of (scalable) platforms to further increase robotics performance (TRL 7-8).
  • Development of business models for the use of the developed innovative technologies under consideration of various farm structures and inter-farm linkages as well as of various biogeographic and socio-economic framing conditions.
  • Development of a tool for system analyses of the consequences for farmers and rural communities of enhancing working conditions through automation and augmented reality and of replacing human work force with robotic systems.

The development of such technologies should take into account relevant (forthcoming) EU legislation, in particular linked to the horizontal Act on AI, as well as the legislation related to liability and machinery. Projects are encouraged - when reflecting on the effects of automation and augmented reality - to dedicate particular attention to youth/ younger generation, women and persons with disabilities as well as to the affordability of digital solutions. Projects are expected to develop training material allowing the targeted end users and multipliers to easily deploy and promote the new technologies.

Proposals must implement the ‘multi-actor approach’ including a range of actors to ensure that knowledge and needs from various stakeholder groups, including farmers, farm workers, farm advisors and scientists are taken into consideration. This topic should involve the effective contribution of social sciences and humanities (SSH) disciplines.

Projects are expected to take into consideration the results of other related Horizon 2020/ Europe projects as well as of other relevant EU-funded projects and initiatives.

Proposals may involve financial support to third parties, e.g. to academic researchers, hi-tech start-ups, SMEs, and other multidisciplinary actors, to for instance, develop, test or validate developed approaches, tools and applications or to provide other contributions to achieve the project objectives. Consortia need to define the selection process of organisations, for which financial support may be granted. A maximum of 20% of the EU funding can be allocated to this purpose.

A project duration of 60 months might be envisaged.