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Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technologies in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ANTARES (Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technologies in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-08-31

From increased requirements for food production, to depleted soil, water scarcity and reducing environmental footprint, agriculture is facing enormous challenges today. In line with these requirements, ANTARES project aims to transform BioSense Institute from Novi Sad, Serbia, into an application-oriented, market-driven European Centre of Excellence (CoE) for advanced technologies in sustainable agriculture and food security.
A number of key enabling technologies have matured in the recent decade, including microelectronics, communications and signal processing, mechatronics, artificial intelligence, remote sensing, biosystem research, while others are emerging, such as nanoelectronics, material science, big data, agrorobotics, and archeobotany. However, although some of these technologies have already created a significant impact in various aspects of human life and well-being, none of them has delivered its full impetus to the agrifood sector. By attracting and maintaining a critical mass of high level scientists, technology developers and research managers, by the unprecedented upgrade of its research infrastructure, and by concentrating multidisciplinary research efforts towards a common goal, the new CoE will build the capacity to create scientific breakthroughs in all key enabling technologies in its focus, to steer their development towards answering global societal challenges, and finally to create a paradigm-shift in the global agrifood sector by providing solutions which will turn agriculture into a self-sustainable, rewarding activity and secure safe and adequate food for the growing population. But the mission of a European CoE does not end at delivering excellent scientific results.
BioSense cross-fertilizes two most promising sectors in Serbia: ICT and agriculture. By performing multidisciplinary research in the fields of micro and nanoelectronics, communications, signal processing, remote sensing, big data, robotics and biosystems, the new CoE is committed to contribute to the wider goal, beyond national borders: to meet the ever-increasing demand for food, while ensuring the sustainability of agricultural production. New CoE relies on a well-developed research agenda and on a documented financial analysis that proves the long-term sustainability and growth of the new CoE beyond Teaming funding.
CoE’s mission and vision are aligned with needs of European and Serbian society and focus on science for impact and economic growth. In order to achieve this, we teamed up with the best: Wageningen University and Research Center (WR) in the Netherlands, recognized worldwide as a global leader in agrifood and biobased research and the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (MESTD) who will provide both institutional and legislative support to newly established CoE.

ANTARES objectives:
1. CENTER OF EXCELLENCE – to transform BioSense Institute into a European Center of Excellence
2. SCIENCE – to achieve and promote scientific excellence as the main driving force for sustainable socioeconomic development
3. INNOVATION – to transform scientific results into game-changing innovations
4. PARTNERSHIPS – to build a strategic, mutually beneficial partnership and to spread its benefits across the entire value chain
5. SUSTAINABILITY – to guarantee sustainability and growth of the new CoE, through a diverse set of income streams
6. GROWTH – to create a long-term impact in terms of increased efficiency and reduced environmental footprint in agrofood sector and engage Serbia in a path of innovative growth
For the first 30 months of the project,the human capital of the BioSense Institute has been increased by 82%. These new human resources have enabled the following excellent results: a very prolific publications output of 276 high-impact papers and 17 book chapters with various national and international publishers. Moreover, we have filed for 3 patents and developed 23 prototypes in the same period. Another result we are very proud of is the 19 successful Horizon 2020 projects that have been granted and a very high success rate of attracting international funding (12.84 million euros in new projects).
Drawing from the complementary scientific expertise, BioSense and WR researchers have developed the Joint Strategic Research Agenda, which is divided into 4 research axes: Big Data for agri-food value chains, Omics technologies and bioinformatics, Sensor technology and robotics for agriculture, and Agro-biodiversity in action.

In March 2018, the first Digital Farm in Serbia was launched as an open-air show-room that allows farmers to see, test and assess the latest AgTech solutions in real-world settings. It is complemented by the AgroSense Digital Platform that provides a one-stop-shop for precision agriculture in Serbia, available free-of-charge to its thaousands of users. The BioSense Accelerator, on the other hand, has launched its first open calls in 2019 to support the start-ups and ecosystem development. BioSense is also parnering with regional institutions to provide the basis for widening the impact outside Serbia.
The researchers from BioSense have also been awarded a number of prizes in international competitive settings for best applied research in the field such as one of the latest - 3rd place at Syngenta 2019 Crop Challenge, for Engineering meteorological features to select stress tolerant hybrids in maize.
Despite the immense potential, agrifood sector in Serbia and the region still employs traditional methods. With its fertile Pannonian plain, Serbia has the potential to become the “breadbasket of Europe”. Investing into advanced technologies is a necessary next step.
By opening the first Digital Farm in Serbia and by developing a comprehensive set of digital solutions for our end-users, we are strongly committed to accomplish the envisioned goal: to support digitization of agriculture in Serbia and the region. Moreover, we are determined to prevent the severe brain drain in our country, enable accumulation of a critical mass of researchers and consequently bridge the gap between innovation performance in the region and Europe. By transforming our institution into the CoE, we provide sustainable and high value-added jobs to a young generations of scientists. Through the overall approach, we aim to contribute to Serbia’s convergence path towards Europe, particularly under the prism of accession of Serbia to the European Union.The ANTARES project is at the same time a smart investment into infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment, but also into excellent scientific research and invaluable human potential, enabling production of safe and adequate food for future generations of Europeans. With the finalization of the national investment into research infrastructure - the new facilities of the BioSense Institute, we strive to have Serbia and Novi Sad become the place to go for cutting-edge research and lead the way for a sustainable agriculture of tomorrow.
The opening ceremony of the first Digital farm in Serbia
ANTARES Work Packages
BioSense Institute, after 7 years of ANTARES project
Serbian Prime Minister Ms. Ana Brnabić at the ANTARES Annual Event 2019