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Drone-based integrated monitoring system for early detection of crop pathology and pest control in high tech greenhouse agriculture.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GIDROM (Drone-based integrated monitoring system for early detection of crop pathology and pest control in high tech greenhouse agriculture.)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-01-31

Target market of GIDROM project is Greenhouse (Gh) Agriculture. A main problem of Gh farmers is monitoring the Gh environment to control plant diseases. Unchecked plant pathologies cause extensive crop damage and direct losses to farmers up to 15% of yearly incomes. The cost of pesticides and chemicals application is €2.000-5.000 / ha x year. Worldwide area dedicated to Gh agriculture production is about 800.000 ha of which 20% (160.000 ha) is situated in Europe (mainly in Spain, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, France). The disruptive innovation technology proposed by the GIDROM project is the use of drones in Gh monitoring. The project partners ABO DATA and GLOBI HI-TECH have been jointly developing an innovative drone-based system, giving a total non-invasive, flexible and low cost approach to monitor autonomously and precisely the critical areas of the cultivar inside a Gh. The business potential of the technology is estimated > 18M€ with at least 700-800 GIDROM drone-based monitoring systems installed in Europe within 5 years from first commercialization.
Short-medium term objective (during SME Instrument Phase II) is to bring the GIDROM technology from the present readiness TRL 7 (technology demonstrated in relevant environment) to TRL 9 (actual system proven in operational environment).
Feasibility assessment goals of SME Instrument (Phase I) have been the elaboration of the comprehensive business plan and the industrialization development plan, as well as selection and contacts with end-users and business partners.
The expected outcomes of the project, after completion of Phase II, are:
1. pilot demonstration of the system for routinely monitoring of crops
2. definition of the business model for the commercialization of the technology in Europe
3. establishment of strategic alliances with key stakeholders
4. to start-up a new Company (joint venture from ABO DATA and GLOBI HI-TECH) to move towards Phase III of H2020 SME Instrument
Brief description of the GIDROM Project
The main problem of greenhouse farmers is monitoring and managing the greenhouse environment (temperature, humidity, irrigation, fertilizers pesticides and chemical spraying) to control plant diseases, since unchecked plant pathologies cause extensive crop damage and create direct economic losses. To improve crop monitoring and management, a number of commercial sensors and instruments are already in use to control heating, venting, fans, screens, nutrient dosing, irrigation, carbon dioxide supplementation and fogging or misting systems. The integration of data into Decision Support Systems (DSS) is rapidly providing better information about growing conditions and assisting in the detection of plant stress and disease. The disruptive innovation technology proposed by the GIDROM project is the use of drones in greenhouse monitoring. Small drones can hover around inside the greenhouse, navigate autonomously and collect images of the crops at different wavelengths (visible, near-infrared, thermal infrared), with a resolution high enough to detect plant diseases and pest problems at a very early stage
ABO DATA and GLOBI have been jointly developing an innovative drone-based system, giving a total non-invasive, flexible and low cost approach to monitor precisely the critical areas of the cultivar inside a greenhouse. The GIDROM system integrates hw and sw components: the IT Platform PLAT.ONE® components deal with the Cloud and are in charge of collecting, storing, managing and publishing all data coming from the “field”. The primitive data (air and ground humidity, temperature, light measuring, leaf humidity, etc.) can be used ‘as is’ in the platform and presented to the agronomist and the farmer. Using a rule based engine, data are aggregated into more significant metadata to create warning/alarms detection rules. Data are filtered and managed by the platform through pattern recognition algorithms and rule based action. The end-user (the farmer and/or the agronomist) will have access to the collected data and to their automatic (or semi-automatic) analysis through a web interface that can be accessed by fixed or mobile devices.

Objectives of Phase I Feasibility Study
Engineering and technical assessment, identification and contacts with business and technical partners, elaboration of an industrialization development plan (“Phase II implementation plan”), elaboration of a comprehensive and sound business plan
All these objectives have been successfully achieved
The activities that have been implemented and the results achieved are summarized.

Task 1.1 Engineering/Technical Activities
We evaluated several types of drone on the market, selecting those that could be more suitable to be use inside a close greenhouse environment
Below a representative scheme of all greenhouses available in the market:

Our selection was focused on two kinds of greenhouse :

1) High-tech greenhouse for vegetables with a translucent outer shell (glass, or in some areas plastic materials), equipped with climate management systems automatically controlled by a computer (in accordance to EFSA, 2008). Drone could fly in the area below over phot impressed sized about 4 x 1,5m.

2) Low technology greenhouses , walk-in tunnels, static, with a transparent outer shell (glass or plastic roof and frequently glass or plastic walls). The size ranges from small sheds to very large buildings, generally without automatic controlled climate management systems (in accordance to EFSA, 2008). Fly space is about 2 x 2m.

The GIDROM system components (and costs) to be used in Phase II piloting trials for walk-in tunnels and high-tech greenhouses were also selected.

Task 1.2 Partner search and marketing activities

The Phase I Feasibility study was implemented with the support of two highly recognized R&D Organisation dealing with precision agriculture technologies :
- Wageningen UR (The Netherlands)
- Centro di Sperimentazione e Assistenza Agricola – CERSAA (Italy)

The unit Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture (UW) of the Dutch Foundation for Agricultural Research (DLO) with a staff of about 100 people, is probably the largest group in the world dedicated solely to greenhouse horticulture. As a leader in the development and implementation of innovations, on behalf of and in partnership with the greenhouse horticulture sector, it carries out dedicated research into the issues that determine successful business. Its ultimate goal is to make long-lasting contributions to sustainable and competitive greenhouse horticulture. The group is a member of international horticultural networks, and carries out regularly large research projects with partners in the EU, Mediterranean partner countries, Middle-East and several countries in Asia and South America. In particular, the team “Greenhouse Technology” is specialized in designing greenhouses, climate modelling, climate control, computer vision and robotization in horticultural greenhouses. With a strong focus on applied research, projects are commonly implemented in close collaboration with companies to assure that the results obtained are implemented in horticultural practice.
The Centre for Agricultural Experimentation and Assistance (CE.R.S.A.A. ) is a special agency of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Handicraft and Agriculture of Savona. The staff is composed by 15 researchers and technicians having different expertise ranging from agronomy to plant pathology, from biology to environmental engineering, from economics to chemistry. Two laboratories are involved in analysis mainly on plant pathogens, microbiological contaminants and abiotic stress of vegetables, ornamentals and perennials. Services are offered to technicians, farmers private and public companies mostly working in horticultural and agro-industrial sector. Moreover Ce.R.S.A.A. has at its availability climatic chambers, glasshouses, plastic houses and open fields addressed to research and demonstration trials an area of 50,000 m2 on the whole. Ce.R.S.A.A. is actively involved in research and demonstration activities funded by private companies for which, Ce.R.S.A.A. acts as R&D unit. Ce.R.S.A.A. is involved in the development of new pesticides and biocontrol agents in support of the agrochemicals companies and other centers for pesticide evaluation, being officially recognized as “Center for Pesticide Testing and Evaluation” by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies and the Italian Ministry of Health.

Both UW and CERSAA will be involved as scientific consulting subcontractors in Phase II GIDROM project Implementation. (WP2-WP6)
Techfin, a consulting firm located in Genoa (Italy), acts as business advisor to support hi-tech companies in developing strategies and projects for technology innovation, internationalization and co-operation with University Labs and Research Centres and has been involved in Phase I activities related to market analysis and business plan definition TECHFIN will be involved as subcontractor in Phase II of the project (WP6).
Thanks to the partnership network of UW and CERSAA, a number of potential End User have been listed and some of them have stated their appreciation for the project and the interest for hosting Phase II demonstration trials (WP5) in their greenhouse facilities.

Task 1.3 Legal Activities

Intellectual Property, knowledge protection and regulatory issues (included in Phase II proposal)
• IPR: all provisions related to the management of IPR including ownership, protection and publication of knowledge, access rights to knowledge and pre-existing know-how as well as questions of confidentiality, liability and dispute settlement will be laid down in detail in the Consortium Agreement before the project start. In addition, a specific task in the WP will prepare the ground for a steady documentation and afterwards, most effective exploitation of Intellectual Property arising from the project
• Knowledge management: a database, starting from the compilation of pre-existing know how necessary to carry out the project appended to the Consortium Agreement, will be maintained during and after the project including also references to existing relevant IPR/patents outside the consortium. This database will be continuously updated throughout the project and will constitute the basis for the final IPR exploitation agreement. The Consortium agreement will dedicate one section or one appendix to define which access rights to the background may be granted.
• Drone: for Phase II implementation, we will use the best drones commercially available on the market. GLOBI engineers have been modifying and customising drones for better flight control inside the greenhouse (automatic take-off and landing), self-directed battery recharge, imaging sensor integration. IPR issues have been considered during PHASE I execution and it has been assessed the possibility of submitting patent applications for an innovative solution designed by GLOBI
• Image processing algorithms: background IPR is owned by GLOBI in IDL environment programming language and ENVI software stand-alone solution.
• PLAT.ONE®: ABO DATA has the rights to deploy PLAT.ONE® IoT platform free of charge for the consortium participants during the project duration. For result exploitation after project completion, ABO DATA has the rights to commercialize PLAT.ONE® defining market strategies and conditions.
• Freedom to operate (FTO) analysis : PHASE I preliminary FTO analysis has assessed that testing and commercialisation of the GIDROM System can be performed in Europe and Extra EU Countries without infringing IPR of others.
• Regulatory issues : an evaluation of risks and a review of existing international regulations on drone use has been conducted in Phase I. The outdoor use of drone for agricultural applications is strictly subject to pilot and drone authorities certification under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Guidelines, but such certification does not applies for use of drones inside the closed greenhouse environment. Drone flights and use inside the greenhouse must comply with EU directives and national regulations on safety and health at work.

Critical risks of the implementation of the Phase II of the project, work packages involved and proposed risk mitigation measures of the contingency planning were defined.

The overall structure of the Phase II Work Plan was defined, wich includes the following 6 work packages for an overall duration of 24 months in order to accomplish the technical and commercialisation objectives of the project.

- WP1 Project Management WP1 is project management, coordination and reporting
- WP2 System integration, set-up and bench testing WP2 covers users’ requirement specifications, components selection and bench testing, drone flight control sw implementation, sensors integration and interfacing with the IoT Platform Plat.One®
- WP3 Image and Data Processing WP3 develops the study and implementation of image and data storage and processing, end-user’s interface, algorithms and software for the early stage recognition of plant pathologies
- WP4 Pilot testing of the GIDROM System at CERSAA and UW facilities In WP4 pilot testing of the prototype system will be performed with the technical and scientific advice of CERSAA and UW consultants. Piloting will be done in greenhouses at CERSAA and under controlled conditions, in order to define processing algorithms, flight procedures and control, data storage and processing, user’s interface. The output of WP4 will be the final set up of the GIDROM prototypes to be used in WP5.
- WP5 Demonstration/ market replication of the GIDROM System in large-scale greenhouses The activities carried out in the frame of WP5 will lead to the fulfillment of the main objective of the project. GIDROM prototype will be tested in real environment conditions, at least in 3 different sites in Italy, The Netherlands and Spain. End users will be trained to use it autonomously. The output of WP5 will be validation of the ‘ready for the market’ GIDROM System
- WP6 Communication and ‘Commercialisation’ (dissemination and exploitation) WP6 concerns communication and dissemination activities in line with the H2020 SME INSTRUMENT guidelines. WP6 includes updated market analysis, exploitation plan, IPR issues definition and delivering of the final Business Plan ready for the investors (SME Instrument Phase III).

WP1 (Project management) and WP6 (Communication and Commercialisation) will be developed during all the duration of the project.
A public website will collect and publish project developments and results.
GIDROM project will be based on 4 project milestones (MS1-MS4) to accomplish the technical and market focused objectives of the action.
Four project meetings (PM1-PM4) at M1, M6, M12, M18 and a final project meeting (PM5) are scheduled.
All project meetings will host the participation of the scientific experts, business consultants and greenhouse owners involved in the project.

A forecast Business Plan (that will be regularly updated in Phase II) was detailed, based on the CANVAS building blocks methodology.
The GIDROM project will continue, by submitting a Phase II proposal on call “SMEInst-07-2016-2017: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors” at the cut-off date of 03/02/2016
During Phase I, the objectives of Phase II were better defined and focused: two main greenhouse (high-tech and walk-in tunnels) types were selected as target for piloting and demonstration activities.
With the help of CERSAA and UW, the overall concept of the system was well defined and also some greenhouse farmers (end-user) suggestions were taken into account, in order to correctly approach the technology of the system and fulfil market needs and requirements.
We confirm that the Phase II successful completion will lead to a strong impact on ABO DATA and GLOBI business, as estimated in the Phase III business plan .
Support that would be useful in Phase III could be to access to venture funding for product launch in the EU market and further expansion to US and other Extra EU markets.