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Development of an automatic irrigation and fertilization system

Final Report Summary - OPTIFERT (Development of an automatic irrigation and fertilization system)

Executive Summary:
OPTIFERT aims to develop an automatic system for combined fertilization and irrigation system for medium and large-scale agricultural plantations. Based on real-time monitoring of key soil parameters and crops’ needs, the use of the OPTIFERT system will entail savings in water and fertilizer consumption. In addition, this tailor-made fertigation system will also entail a reduction in the environmental risks of to the use of fertilizer, such as groundwater pollution and eutrophication of water bodies.
The main advantages of the OPTIFERT-system application for the European farmers will be:
• It optimises irrigation and fertilisation of the plantation (higher crop production with reduced costs on fertilisation and irrigation = higher efficiency),
• Safes manpower
• It is easy to control, easy to maintain and easy adjustable,
• It allows a strict control and feedback in terms of performance and environmental impact.
For the SMEs applying for the OPTIFERT project this is a huge opportunity to become market leader for fertigation systems in Europe. Besides the fast growing market for new irrigation and fertigation systems, the SME proposers are also planning to develop the OPTIFERT technology as an update module for existing irrigation systems. OPTIFERT will give all present users of irrigation systems the opportunity to use their already existing irrigation systems and combine it with the OPTIFERT technology in order to obtain a full competitive, combined, innovative and demand driven irrigation and fertilisation system. The OPTIFERT technology will be compatible with all existing irrigation systems.

Project Context and Objectives:
The European agricultural sector is facing several challenges related to policy and legislation, climatic changes, increasing costs for fertilizer, water and energy and reduced subsidies. Most of the European farmers experiencing more and more weather related risks and increasing market pressures to produce high quality and low cost products. The summer 2010 with long drought periods (figure 1 ) and related losses in crop production (up to 100%) has underlined the vulnerability of European farmers to climate change.
Today farmers have to adapt quickly to changing circumstances such as market prices, unstable precipitation schemes or new environmental legislation. Especially, the present and upcoming changes in different European climate patterns will increase the need for reliable and sustainable irrigation and fertilisation technology in many European countries. Longer dry periods increase the risk of volatile harvests and the need for irrigation. Therefore, the market for irrigation systems in Europe is increasing quickly. More than 9 million farmers in Europe using different irrigation systems, irrigate an area of more than 188.000km². This refers to an area of Greece or 4,5 % of the EU territory [2]. Over the past 10 years the use of irrigation systems rose approximately 9.5% per year and this market development is expected to continue. It is expected that over the next 10 years more than 700.000 sprinkler systems and 1.200.000 drip irrigation systems (EUROSTAT) will be sold alone in Europe. Most of these irrigation systems are inefficient and none of them is demand driven or based on a feedback or control system. As a result valuable water resources are wasted and fertilizer is washed out reducing the cost-efficiency of crop production and leading to environmental damages such as eutrophication. There is a clear need for innovative and adapted agricultural technologies and methods that will reduce the risk for investors, guarantee a reliable production and lead to a more sustainable crop production scheme. In addition, due to increasing labor costs there is a clear tendency to automatic systems in European agriculture and in the future farmers will do most of their monitoring and control using high-tech electronic systems.
Against this situation, the proposing SMEs intend to take an integrated and more proactive approach to the problem. The vast amount of water and fertilizer which is used per hectare every year can be reduced and, in this way, a more efficient, competitive and sustainable agriculture production in Europe is possible. The main objective of OPTIFERT project will be the development and implementation of a demand driven (feedback orientated) and fully automatic and combined irrigation and fertilisation system in order to enable farmers to monitor and control their water and fertilizer consumption. The proposed system will allow a one-step tailor-made supply with fertilizer and water specific for each crop`s needs. The planned system will supply water and nutrients based on the need of the specific crop in real time. The given amount of water and fertilizer will be measured and calculated based on a mix of different data. The processed data will include data from an innovative soil sensor system (ph, humidity, salinity, fertilizer concentration) and as well meteorological, crop physiology and market data. The OPTIFERT system will consist of a combined soil sensor-data processor-dosage system, which includes a monitoring, control and distribution unit which enables the dosing, mixing and distribution of water and fertilizer. By combining the needed irrigation with a just in time fertilization (so called fertigation) the planned system will bring additional benefits to the clients. Being able to count on an efficient loop orientated irrigation and fertilisation technology would significantly help European farmers to respond to the upcoming climate and economic changes.
OPTIFERT aims at achieving the following objectives:

Overall objectives:

Development of a competitive, combined, innovative demand driven irrigation and fertilisation system for European farmers.
To increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the European agricultural sector
Scientific and technological objectives:
To develop, build and implement a prototype of an OPTIFERT fertigation system based on a feedback data processing (software) which is able to provide amounts of water and nutrients tailored to suit specific crop requirements
To develop and test an innovative soil sensor system measuring soil moisture, ammonium (NH4+), ortho-phosphate (PO_4^(3-)) nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-) and salinity
To combine irrigation and fertilisation in a one-step approach
To reach and assure the compatibility of the OPTIFERT prototype with existing irrigation system (sprinkler, Center pivot irrigation, Lateral move (side roll, wheel line) irrigation, drip irrigation)
To test different alternative liquid fertilizer (manure, urine, biogas digestate) with the OPTIFERT prototype
Environmental objectives:
To save scarce water resources by reducing the need of freshwater for agricultural irrigation up to 30%
avoid pollution of surface and groundwater water resources (in terms of EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EG) by reducing the amount of applied fertilizers (-35 %)
to develop a system which combines irrigation and fertilisation in order to reduce the consumption of energy and fuel, which leads to lower emission of CO2 in terms of the “Kyoto Protocol” and the EC program “Reducing greenhouse gases by 2020”
Socio-economic objectives:
To develop and test a market oriented and cost-efficient fertigation system which can be introduced successfully in the European agricultural market and worldwide
Allow agricultural production in water scarce regions avoiding effects of desertification and degradation
To reach an market share in Europe of new sold irrigation systems of at least 20 % in the year 2016
To upgrade at least 20 % of presently used irrigations systems in the year 2016
To distribute and commercialise the developed soil sensor-software system in markets which will be not addressed directly by the SME consortium (world licence)
To reduce the costs of irrigation for the final user by at least 30% (water savings).
To reduce the costs of fertilization for the final user by at least 35% (saving of mineral fertilizers and use of alternatives).
To summarize the existing knowledge in irrigation and fertilization systems and transfer this knowledge to potential end users (awareness rising).
To increase competiveness of European farmers and therefore safe and create employment in rural areas
To create new jobs in the production, maintenance and operation of the proposed system.

Project Results:
Exploitable foreground foreseen and its status at the end of the project:
1. OPTIFERT soil sensor, developed and tested
The working principle of the on-chip microfluidic sensor is based on capillary electrophoresis (CE). CE is an established tool in analytical chemistry for the separation of a wide range of analytes such as inorganic ions.
The sensor consists of multiple layers of a carrying material (ceramic, glass) which encompass micro-channel and electrode structures. A water sample taken from the field is injected into the sensor incorporating a micro-channel filled with electrolyte solution. Under the influence of an electric field, the ions start travelling along this channel. The migration velocity of the ions is governed by their inherent electrophoretic mobility and will vary for different ions. Because of their distinct migration velocity, the initially grouped ions will separate from each other as they travel along the channel. They will therefore reach its end at different times. Here a detector is located and records changes of the electric conductivity caused by the migrating ions.
The development of this result is directly linked with the work packages 1, 2 and 4 of the Description of Work (DoW) of the project.
As described in Deliverable D2.1 (submitted in August 2012) the task of the OPTIFERT soil nutrient sensor is the measurement of the macronutrients Nitrate (NO3-), Ammonium (NH4+), Potassium (K+) and Phosphate (PO4-). During the development, all partners agreed that the most important nutrient is NO3-. Therefore, the sensor development focused in first instance on the measurement of NO3-.
The research performed in the project has yielded a sensor, suitable for on-site measurements of NO3-, NH4+, K+ and PO4-. The sensor calibration showed good linearity and stability. Further on, it has been established that the calibration of two different chips gave very similar calibration results.
With the investigations within this project the sensor is suitable for the use of several extraction solutions (e.g. water or CaCl2).
The central objectives of this result have been achieved:
1) Nmin measurement:
The measurements of soil mineral nitrogen evidenced good reliability of the sensor data and of the on-site extraction procedure. With these results the sensor is ready to be tested as a tool for the replacement of standard Nmin tests in a larger production volume in future.
2) Test of K+ and PO4- measurement:
K+ has been resolved in the full concentration range found during the on-site measurements. The sensor data fits well to laboratory analysis performed on the same soil sample extract.
The PO4- concentrations after H2O extraction turned out to be very low, so that often it is beneath the detection limit of the sensor. A stronger extractant must be found if these low concentrations need to be determined.

2. Design and construction of final prototype of new OPTIFERT system for on-site testing at pilot scale

As described in the DoW, the OPTIFERT prototype consists of the following parts:
Module 1: The innovative soil sensor system will be developed as a Miniaturized Analytical Sensor System.
Module 2: Sensor Data Acquisition System including data transfer
Module 3: Automatic Monitoring and Control Station
Module 4a: Water and fertilizer storage and mixing unit,
Module 4b: Application unit
In the field tests of the planned project the OPTIFERT prototype has been adapted to a standard sprinkler system and tested at the end-user site from partner PETKUS (corn and cereal fertigation).
The development of this result is directly linked with the work packages 1, 2 and 4 of the Description of Work (DoW) of the project.
The consortium encountered some difficulties in the work conducing to achieve this result. The first constraints were given from the legislation:Concentrated fertilizers are considered hazardous material and for the prototype installation we needed to comply with European and Germany water legislation

Furthermore, since the tanks are placed directly in the field and liquid fertilizers are considered hazardous material, there would be an environmental risk if there were a leak or breakage in the tank wall. Therefore, it was mandatory to use double walled tanks with leak detectors to ensure no spilling of the fertilizer under any circumstance. This also implied that the pump aspiration could no longer be placed at the bottom of the tanks but need to be done from the top. The weight of the pumps now had to be supported by the tank lids, requiring structural recalculations.
Another implication came for the pumps, since they now needed to be suited for vertical aspiration and additional pressure drop.
Apart from the needed flexibility the system requires, the integration with the existing irrigation system (central pivot) offered other technical challenges, which have been solved:

• The pivot system is a closed system with small possibilities to get data and no possibility to input. Signals like pivot speed or position could not be accessed. The PLC is controlled by single signal from the pivot (start/stop)
• It is an American system: different voltages used = > we used integrated relays in the control to convert the voltages
• The dosing depends on the speed of the pivot, but no direct signal available => we needed to use the motors signal to calculate the speed and the discharge rate. The signal is self –generated based on the discontinuous motor signal of the last wheel, counting the time of the impulse every minute interval. Since the pumps are frequency controlled, it was needed to establish a correlation between impulses, voltage output on the PLC, frequency on the frequency converters and real pump flow.

3. Fertigation software developed and programmed
The automatic monitoring and control station will run software on a standard PC which has an interface to the wireless gateway connecting the sensors located in the field. The control software has access to defined pre-prepared databases of scientific growth information of different crops, soil data (type, structure, fertility) and economic data (costs and prices). Additionally, weather forecast information is obtained from the nearest weather station or dedicated weather service providers and fed into the system. There will also be a user-interaction interface that requires input from the user such as crop and planting time information. As output the system will clearly indicate the mixture and amount of water and fertilizer which should be applied. The system will run automatically the water and fertilizer storage and mixing unit but the farmer will be able to monitor and correct all activities via a user interface.
The partners used a comparison of different plant growth models in order to reach the necessary knowledge pool to predict the answer of the crops to different fertilization and irrigation patterns. The partners implemented the temperature sum driven BETA semi-empirical growth function combined with a fixed N-concentration of plant dry-matter into the OPTIFERT steering software. Using field data measured during the 2013 vegetation period at the test field, the partners calibrated the software, i.e. deriving parameters for the BETA plant growth model. Since the model calibration was to be done with the 2013 season data, the model results were not used to define the fertigation scheme – for this we used validated sources.
After calibration of the growth and N demand function of the BETA model, a preliminary comparison of farmer’s fertigation practices during 2013 with recommendations from the BETA demand function underlying the OPTIFERT software was done. This is however only a partial validation of the growth and N demand model. The entire OPTIFERT software requires the interaction with soil N data from the sensor that has been developed as a prototype with the project in order to output accurate fertigation recommendations.
Generally, the BETA model based demand function is a proper basis for fertigation. Comparison with farmer’s practice indicated potential improvement by shifting fertigation towards the high demand periods of the crop.

4. Testing results and final prototype - Flawless running of new OPTIFERT fertigation system

This result includes the reports and analyses performed on the data collected during the testing phase, as well all alterations done in the different modules to reach a flawless operation of the prototype.
During the demonstration of the OPTIFERT dosing unit, some new challenges appeared, and as well as modifications needed, which lead to design improvements. The improvement activities are presented below.
Fertilizer dissolution and agitation time: considering the solubility of the fertilizers specified in the data sheet and dissolution lab tests conducted at TTZ´s facilities, 1h of agitation time at the beginning of the fertigation process was set. After the 1st application, it was noticed that some fertilizer remained undissolved at the bottom of Tank I. The PLC was re-programmed to automatically start agitation every 2,5 h of operation, during half an hour, in addition to the 1st agitation hour, to ensure that the fertilizer remained dissolved and the solution homogeneous during the full process.
The coupling of the pump discharge rate with the pivot speed has been one of the most problematic aspects of the control design, as already presented in D2.3. It was clear during the design phase that the discharge rate needed necessarily to be connected with the irrigation rate (variable) to automatically adjust itself in case of change in the irrigation rate by the farmer, even during an application, to ensure a correct dose application. However, the initial control program linked full discharge of the pump with full speed of the pivot, and sled down from there. This proved itself not adequate in the growth peak in July, when the plants needed a high irrigation rate (and so lower speed), and also high fertilization rate. It was therefore needed to have a variable set point on what rate discharge corresponded to what pivot speed at the beginning of the process, maintaining then a correlation if the pivot speed changed during the application. Being not possible do directly detect the pivot speed signal, this was a challenging task, finally solved by using the motor control signal for the very last motor of the pivot system. The Pivot control can’t communicate with the OPTIFERT control because it is a closed system, but the switch signal for the pivot motor corresponds directly to the pivot speed. The OPTIFERT control uses this signal to calculate the Pivot speed and reduces the discharge level if necessary.
The input signals for the frequency converters had to be calculated and programmed to the control. The frequency converters determine the pump speed and with it the discharge level. The frequency converters use an analog voltage signal from the OPTIFERT control system. A measurement of the changes of the frequency converter by different input signal was necessary to define the output signal of the OPTFERT control.
After solving these technical issues, the dosing unit was tested and rendered fully functional.

Potential Impact:
Potential impact:
For the SME HYDRO-AIR, irrigation systems are already a major growth area in terms of global business. The opportunity to offer an update for already sold irrigation systems (existing customers) or supplying a unique, highly effective product for demand driven irrigation and fertilization that no other company can offer in their respective markets in Europe could significantly increase the company’s market position. Right know HYDRO-AIR sells ca. 45 sprinkler irrigation systems a year and the price for one system depending on the size is between 20.000€ - 70.000€. The markets in Europe for irrigation systems rise by 15%/year and HYDRO-AIR is planning to sell at least 75 % of its systems with the OPTIFERT technology and is counting on at least 35 additional systems sold per year within 2 years of the project and starting than with serial production. New customers in areas with a high irrigation demand could be reached not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East, North America and Asia. For new markets the possibility of licenses have been be discussed with the SME consortium.
The positive economic impact for the SME partner Pessl Instruments lies in the newly developed soil sensor system. Right know Pessls soil sensors can just measure moisture and salt concentration. The price for one sensors depending on the quality, durability, data transfer, energy supply etc. lies between 80€-1500€. Per hectare it is useful to install 1-3 sensors. Right know in Europe there are 188.000km² = 18.800.000 ha of land which are irrigated (market potential of ca. 20 million soil sensors just in Europe). According to the fact that the market for soil sensors is already rising by 20% per year and Pessl is selling 3.000 sensors a year, Pessl is going to expect to sell at least 5.000 OPTIFERT sensors within 2 years after the end of the project. Pessl is the market leader for sensor technology in Austria and, once the sensor is market-ready, they will increase their market share in Europe (at present 8 %) and will gain new clients overseas.

The partner Integrated Microsystems Austria GmbH is expert in microsystem technology, which is a key part of the soil sensor. Based on the experience and developments made in OPTIFERT IMA is planning to advance the sensor technology and adapt it for additional applications such as medicine, food processing and process engineering. A possible further development for IMA would be the transfer of developed sensor technology to medical applications.
PWWM is offering irrigation management technologies and concepts to farmers in several European and non-European countries. Taking into account the outcome of the project, PWWM will extend its customers base by offering them the OPTIFERT advanced irrigation and fertigation technologies. PWWM is expecting a 30 % increase in business activities and the additional employment of 3 irrigation specialists.
Petkus GmbH is a crop production company, producing mainly cereals. Taking into account the increasing costs for water and fertilizer and the proposed savings, Petkus will by applying the OPTIFERT system increase its cost efficiency by 15 %.

Main dissemination activities:
OPTIFERT envisages a dissemination and exploitation strategy that foresees dissemination activities to be performed along the project implementation and further activities aimed at the dissemination and exploitation of the project results. The project’s dissemination activities have the general objectives of spreading the notion of fertigation, and of fostering the implementation of the new OPTIFERT system among European farmers both in existing irrigation systems and in new facilities.

Activities and target groups:
In order to assure appropriate dissemination during and after its duration, raise awareness and assure the continuity of the achievements beyond, the dissemination strategy considers the following target groups:

 Agriculture SMEs(farmers), which could improve the efficiency of their processes by the implementation of the new technology in their existing crops or an entire new automatic fertigation system in order to optimise the amounts of fertilizer, water and energy needed.

 General public: Given the role played by public opinion concerning agriculture, it is important to consider the general public as a target group, raising awareness of advantages of the OPTIFERT technology in relation to droughts as well eutrophication of ground and surface water.

The dissemination activities undertaken during the project aim at ensuring that the results are disseminated as swiftly as possible, with HYDRO-AIR being responsible for assuring that they are compatible with the protection of intellectual property rights, confidentiality obligations and the legitimate interests of the SMEs.

The general dissemination instruments for the presentation of the project activities and expected results include:

• a web page, www.optifert.eu

• Press releases published in generalist media
• Appearances in radio or television outlets

The specific dissemination activities consist of the following activities:

• Advertisement of the project at the SMEs and via institutions supporting the activities of this sector such as chambers of commerce, the relevant ministry of enterprise, as well as any industrial association they might belong to
• Promotion on specialised trade fairs
• Publications in specialised magazines, according to the SME's business, market and target groups.
• Scientific publications: The RTD performers will submit any scientific paper prepared on the work performed in the project to the SMEs, and will request their consent to publication before its submission for review.


1.1.1. Web page
The project’s website proved to be a valuable tool for disseminating the objectives and events. It was also used as a specific tool for receiving information from the sector, hosting a survey for the prices the modules could have in the current market.
As of November 30th, 2013, the website has had 8.269 single visits. The page with most visits was the one explaining the background of the project (1.799). The survey received 585 visits, and the explanations of the results obtained, 464. The news informing of the price the project received at the fair AGRITECHNICA received 127 visits. The page containing the video of the project in the euronews program Futuris received 112 visits.

1.1.2. Press releases published in generalist media
The partners were active in the preparation of press releases whenever there has been any relevant information to convey to the public. Due to the design of the work plan, this has resulted in a higher impact during the second period of the project. A comprehensive list of all publications is compiled in section 4. The main media where OPTIFERT press releases have been published are:
- Kurier (Austria, national newspaper), 30th October 2013
- Die Welt (German national weekly newspaper), 20th October 2013
- Berliner Kurier (German daily newspaper, region Berlin and Brandenburg), 20th October 2013
- Focus (German weekly news magazine), 20th October 2013
- Bild (German daily newspaper), 20th October 2013

1.1.3. Appearances in radio or television outlets
- Video about the project in Futuris (euronews) http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/15/intelligent-irrigation-growing-green/ , published on 15th July 2013. It was published on their webpage. The link was forwarded 73 times via Facebook, 16 times via Twitter and 1 time via Google+ (data from euronews)
- Video about the project shown during Agritechnica. 12-15th November 2013
- Video about the project prepared by UWM and posted at their website and aired in the local broadcaster in the program “What is going on at UWM laboratories” (potential audience, 25.000)
- Radio segment in Deutschlandfunk (German). Aired in October 2013.
- Radio segment in “Early in the morning” (Polish), broadcasted three times during October 2013 in the regional radio station, in a program dedicated to agriculture. Estimated audience: 20.000
- Radio segment at OE1.ORF.AT interviewing Martin Smolka (TUW) about the development of the sensor. 7th August 2013

1.1.4. Advertisement of the project at the SMEs and via institutions supporting the activities of this sector
- Appearance in the website REA News Alert (http://ec.europa.eu/rea/about_us/news/2013_11_11_news_en.htm ) 11th November 2013
1.1.5. Promotion on specialised trade fairs
OPTIFERT has been present in all fairs attended by the project partners. Especial mention must be made to the award won by the sensor at the fair Agritechnica 2013 (Silver medal to the innovation). Silver Medals for Innovations are awarded for products which have been developed further in such a fashion that an essential improvement of the function or the process may be expected. However, the product does not totally satisfy the criteria for the award of a Gold Medal for Innovations.

The following aspects are crucial for the award of a Silver Medal:
• Importance for practical application
• Advantages in work performance
• Improvement of operational reliability

There are no different categories: any agricultural machinery and/or equipment product can be submitted, and it will be awarded gold, silver or no award. There were 393 submissions, from which 4 were awarded gold medal and 33 silver medal. You can check all the awards at http://www.agritechnica.com/innovations.html.
Our award is on the name of Pessl Instruments, beneficiary SME of our project and exhibitor.
All awards are published in the Innovations magazine: http://www.agritechnica.com/uploads/media/Agritechnica_2013_Innovations-Magazine.pdf contributing to a large dissemination of the project.

1.1.6. Publications in specialised magazines
It is foreseen that an article prepared by ttz will be published in the Spanish magazine “Tierras” in December 2013. (http://www.oviespana.com/revista-tierras-ovino ). An earlier publication date was not possible due to the contents decided for earlier issues of the magazine.
1.1.7. Scientific publications:
Published with the authorisation of the SMEs in the project.
- Hydrogel plug for independent sample and buffer handling in continuous microchip capillary electrophoresis, Dietmar Puchberger-Enengl, Mireille Bipoun, Martin Smolka, Christian Krutzler, Franz Keplinger, Michael J. Vellekoop. Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI. Proc. of SPIE Vol. 8763 87631B-1
- A new injection method for soil nutrient analysis in capillary electrophoresis. M. Smolka, D. Puchberger-Enengl, M. Bipoun, G. Fercher, A. Klasa, C. Krutzler, F. Keplinger, M.J. Vellekoop. . Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI. Proc. of SPIE Vol. 8763 87631C-1

OPTIFERT has been also mentioned in the review article (not related to the consortium):
- Mobile sensor platforms: categorisation and research applications in precision farming. C. W. Zecha, J. Link, and W. Claupein.

The partners in the consortium have identified dissemination activities as necessary for the successful completion of the project, and have sought not only participating in events such as conferences and fairs, but also to present the project to their business partners. These contacts are not reflected in the tables for dissemination events due to their informal nature.

Even though dissemination of the project objectives and results is an objective for the partners, each beneficiary is aware of the restrictions in terms of disclosing confidential foreground.

Dissemination activities including but not restricted to publications and presentations shall be governed by Article II.30 of the Grant Agreement. In the case of a party objecting a publication has to show that its legitimate interests will suffer disproportionately great harm and shall include a request for necessary modifications. In order to avoid conflict, a party may not publish foreground or background of another party, even if such foreground or background is amalgamated with the party’s foreground, without the other party’s prior approval. Any data which is to remain secret should be cleared labelled as confidential. Parties agree to abide by the default notice period foreseen in the grant agreement to communicate their planned dissemination activities with a notice at least 45 days prior along with sufficient information about the intended dissemination.

The partners have agreed on the fact that they will continue their dissemination efforts even after the project is finished, including information about the results in their presentations to clients and partners, and distributing information at conferences and trade fairs. For this purpose, ttz has printed leaflets of the project and has distributed them to each partner (in German and English), 150 copies each. The partners have also the master files of the leaflets so they can print more copies and add information.

Expected exploitation:
The system developed in the project presents a high potential for its commercial application. However, further work is required in order to achieve its entry in the market. Furthermore, the different modules present different opportunities and therefore need to be considered separately. During the final meeting all SMEs agreed on the following strategy for further developments:
- Dosing unit: The partners, especially PWWM and HYDRO-AIR, should check the demand that could be for a system applicable for high-value crops (such as cabbage). A mobile system that could be shared among various farmers could be interesting, maybe developed in partnership with a fertilizer company.
- The prototype at PETKUS: can be used as a demonstration site for the OPTIFERT system.
- The software is not yet a standalone solution, not ready for commercial exploitation. It has been valuable for achieving other results in the project that have reached a further step on development, but right now the partners do not see many viable chances for a market entry in the medium run. The most interesting feature is that it is adjustable to every crop.
- The sensor: the partners agree on the need to further improve the last prototype and on the potential value in the market of a fully functional sensor. The SME partners have agreed on pursuing three points:
o Further development on the technical / electronic part of the sensor: to be achieved after receiving funds from a national project (Austrian, FFG). The project proposal is being prepared by PESSL, The rights to the results will be handled according to the Consortium Agreement. The funding decision is expected for January 19th 2014.
o Further development on the technical/ agronomical part: to be achieved with a national (German, ZIM/AiF) project proposal led by HYDRO-AIR
o To achieve the entry into market, the internationalization and to achieve a whole-chain solution, ttz will search the upcoming Horizon 2020 calls for proposals for preparing a project proposal including all the partners from OPTIFERT

List of Websites:
WWW.optifert.eu

Mirko Hänel
ttz Bremerhaven
Wasser-, Energie- und Landschaftsmanagement
Fischkai 1 - 27572 Bremerhaven – Germany
Phone: +49 47180934 155
Mobile: +49 15114841536
Fax: +49 471 809 34 599

Email: mhaenel@ttz-bremerhaven.de
Web: www.ttz-bremerhaven.de