CORDIS - EU research results

Subarea specific irrigation system for pivot- and linear fertigation techniques (SMART Fertigation)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMART Fertigation (Subarea specific irrigation system for pivot- and linear fertigation techniques (SMART Fertigation))

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Growing uncertainties in water availability, rising fertilizer and energy costs, increasing demand for agricultural products and a competitive global market impose serious challenges on the European agricultural producers, a sector employing around 13 Mio people. In response to these challenges, farmers are introducing precise irrigation techniques to their farming practices. In 2010, the EU-28 countries irrigated around 5.8% of utilised agricultural area.

Simultaneously wastes from farms with high nutrient availability as manure from animals, digestate from biogas plants and sewage sludge from waste water treatment are becoming difficult to dispose and expensive as new EU Directives are being approved. Their nutrients are barely being recovered: 67 % of the digestate treated in Europe is disposed where no valorisation is taking place, and from the total manure produced in the European Union, only 7.8% is being processed which is equivalent to 108 million ton, containing 556 000 ton nitrogen and 139 000 ton phosphorus. By consequence more inorganic fertilizers are needed. According to the EUROSTAT, in 2010 the EU-28 used a total of 10.4 million tonnes of inorganic fertilizers.

SMART Fertigation aims at tackling these challenges by introducing an innovative and SMART fertigation system. This state-of-the art technology enables the farmer to irrigate and fertilize fields more efficiently and thus to increase productivity, resource efficiency, compliance and competitiveness in the production of raw materials, while mitigating environmental impacts from water abstractions and fertilizer application.

The main aim of this study is to verify the technological as well as economic viability of the development and application of the SMART Fertigation system as an eco-innovative, resource-efficient system for most applications. Reducing the water demand, increasing the crop growth rate, reducing costs for fertilizers as well as for a highly automatic low-work intensive fertigation system are the aimed outcomes in order to provide a useful and efficient system for to support farmers and minimize environmental impact. This study presents an overview of the methodology used to identify large agricultural producers and areas with a high amount of nutrient-rich wastewaters (manure, biogas digestate) to obtain the priority markets in Europe for promoting SMART Fertigation as an alternative for irrigation and fertilization of agriculture areas.
The work performed in this project is divided in 5 Tasks.

Task 1: Identification and characterisation of the supply side and main target countries for SMART Fertigation. The main focus was given on large agricultural producers (land) and areas with a high amount of nbutrient-rich wasetwaters such as manure, biogas digasattate.

The main potential markets were discovered in:
- France
- Germany
- Poland
- Spain
- Rumania

Task 2: Identification and Characterization of main target countries and creation of potential client groups

- France (Bretagne and Picardie)
- Germany (Bayern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein Westfalen and Schleswig-Holstein)
- Poland (Pomorskie, Zachodniopomorskie, Wielkopolskie, and Dolnoslaskie)
- Spain (Castilla y León and Andalucía)
- Rumania (Nord-Est and Sud-Est regions)

Task 3: Identification and specification of potential customer profiles
Development of a market-study summarising the current state of supply and demand relationships

SMART Fertigation is designed for farms of all sizes, but it has great interest especially in the agricultural businesses with arable land areas of more than 50 ha as a national and international targeted group.

Task 4: Definition of legal requirements and implementation of safety regulations.
- Definition of the requirements for the SMART Fertigation system for commercialisation (CE- and DIN EN-certification, machinery directive, etc.)

• Related to plant building:
o Minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers: Directive 1999/92/EC
o Machinery: Directive 2006/42/EC
• Related to use of SMART fertigation:
o Protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture: Directive 86/278/EEC
o Quality of water intended for human consumption: Directive 98/83/EEC
o Framework for Community action: Directive 2000/60/EC
o Protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (91/676/EEC)
o Groundwater Directive (80/86/EEC)
o Bathing Water Directive, which lays down special quality requirements for bathing water (76/160/EEC).

• Related to agriculture:
o Fertilizers: REGULATION EC No 2003/2003
o Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC)
o Soil and amending: Directive 2004/35/EC
o Nitrates Directive

Task 5: Optimization of business plan
The information established in the previous tasks helped to further develop the initial business plan of SMART Fertigation. Among others, the following topics are specified in detail:

- The SMART Fertigation product: characterisation of the technology, benefits,comparison to major competitors.

- Market analysis, including competition: location, size, structure of market, trends and influences.

- Marketing Strategy, promotion activities and their associated costs, all adapted to the identified target markets for the initial introduction.

- SWOT analysis

-Financial: expected sales, turnover, employees.
Land deficits and high prices challenge farmers to adapt to the new circumstances. More and more farmers use irrigation systems resulting in higher security of expected yields and revenues facilitating future planning. The droughts of recent years have encouraged farmers across Europe to invest in adequate technologies. With the SMART Fertigation system, which can be retrofitted to exiting systems, it is now possible to meet the high requirements on soil and groundwater preservation using targeted fertilization while saving scarce freshwater on the contrary to the actual situation where every year 5.4 % of fertilizers nutrient in Europe gets unused in soil, groundwater, lakes or in the ocean. This savings potential and the possibility of increasing crop yields by 20% through growth phase adjusted fertilization leads to financial benefits on two sides: savings in water and fertilizers and a simultaneous increase in yields on the fields. Due to increasing dry periods European farmers progressively invest in conventional irrigation systems. This gives them the security to calculate fixed amounts of products to negotiate with the purchasers of the crops. These contracts often include certain quality and quantity requirements which have to be met by the farmer. Even if the farmer trades products on the spot market it is an enormous advantage to be able to calculate with fixed revenues.

In summary SMART fertigation systemsn will bring positive environmental, economical, societal impacts. Among others:

• Reduction in consumption of water and fertilizers by 20 %.
• Protection to the soil, water and groundwater due to the avoidance of overfertilization
• Avoidance of eutrophication and green house gases produced by the overfertilization
• Creation of a circular business approach that close the loop of nutrients (nutrients from manure and digestate– SMART fertigation- nutrients used in the crops)
• Recovery of more than 40% of the nutrients from the biowaste (ex. manure, biogas digestate)
• Use of difficult wastes to dispose of and expensive to treat (digestate, manure)
• Strengthen the economic competitiveness of farmers as they save money and makes them more independently from fertilizers
• Saving scarce freshwater
• Increament of crop yields by 20% through growth phase adjusted fertilization.
• Savings in water and fertilizers will give a higher profit to farmers
Inorganic fertilizers used in EU-28
Number of holdings per size of utilised agricultural area