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Boosting innovative DIgitech Value chains for Agrofood, forestry and environment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DIVA (Boosting innovative DIgitech Value chains for Agrofood, forestry and environment)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The agrifood sector (AgTech and FoodTech) is currently showing a growing interest in new digital technology as an option for improving existing services at farm level (water monitoring, fertilization modulation, risk assessment, farm management and traceability, etc.) or in the food industries (process improvement, quality monitoring, logistic chain, transport, etc.) and creating new services through a global concept of “smart agriculture” or “smart food systems”.
DIVA is a collaborative project coordinated by Agri Sud Ouest Innovation with nine partners coming from 6 countries in Europe. Its main aim is to boost the development and use of digital technologies in the agrifood sector and more particularly to support the emergence and development of new industrial digitech value chains with applications to the agrifood sector and related ones like forestry and environment.
In 2018 and 2019, the consortium has implemented different tools to foster cross-sectoral and cross-border innovation between the agrifood and ICT sectors. First, through national and european events, as more than 60 events have been organised, then through the creation of a Digital Value Chain Inspiration Framework which gives key-propositions and highlights key opportunities for the European community to instigate and help accelerate the emergence and development of agrifood digitech value chains. Finally, through the launch of a “Call for Challenges” where stakeholders have been solicited to express their needs and the “Call for Demonstration sites” where the objectives was to identify and to make available a set of demonstration facilities to allow SMEs to test their solutions.
Two open calls were launched in February 2019 and February 2020 at the European level. As a whole more than 400 proposals were received. They were evaluated by the DIVA consortium following three main criteria: impact of the project, its excellence and its implementation. In the end, 134 projects involving 180 SMEs from 9 different EU countries were selected: 88 maturation projects, 38 demonstration projects and 8 internationalization projects, which represents a 35 % average success rate. The beneficiaries benefited from direct financial support under the form of vouchers worth 10 to 60 k€ depending on the type of project and a strong support of expertise from the DIVA partners to carry out their project. Trans-national cooperation has been encouraged for Demonstration and Internationalization projects where at least 2 SMEs were required. 28 % of these projects turned-out to be trans-national. The list and summary of all the projects is available on:
The final event held on March 4th and 5th 2021 celebrated the end of DIVA with a series of conference and a matchmaking event.
A majority of the selected projects concerned the agri-food sector (90%), compared to Forestry (7 %) and Environment (4%), but many digital solutions developed for agri-food can easily be applied to forestry and for environment. Within the Agri-food chain, the first step of primary production, for crop production, was covered in majority (63%) through projects of smart farming. Irrigation, nitrogen status of plants or pesticides application monitoring are examples of topics addressed through new low-cost sensors or sensor networks. There is a confirmed trend of frugal innovation focusing on expected functionalities rather than a technical performance. New satellite images from the sentinel family also gave the opportunity of more affordable services for agriculture. Besides, new ideas of projects have emerged around the concepts of data economy (data valorization, traceability, security, incentivizing and shared added-value) and sharing economy (share of time, equipment, knowledge). DIVA will certainly help fostering the emergence of digital solutions that were not imagined so far in relationship with the very fast development of the digital sector. New trends in innovation include agricultural robotics to replace chemical weeding or avoid heavy labour, the use of IOT in animal husbandry and animal welfare characterization, digital twins and automated phenotyping for plant breeding. In terms of technology, it is the technologies related to data acquisition (sensors, IOT) and processing (IA, Data sciences) that are in demand.
The main recommendations to the SMEs are 1) to consider frugal, low-tech and organizational innovation together with high-tech solutions 2) to think “smart” and not only “Big data and AI”, as real big data situations where artificial intelligence can meet its full potential are not yet so often met in agriculture 3) to have in mind that farmers are not the only target of the digital transformation as many different players are part of the industrial value-chains (e.g. equipment manufacturers, input producers,...) with specific digital needs to be addressed 4) to combine “IT for Green” and “Green IT” to take into account the environmental foot-print of the digital solutions.
For the EU policies, there is a need 5) to unlock the barriers to data exchange and secure data flows to exploit its valorization potential as data is probably at the heart of the digital economy of tomorrow 6) to promote experimentation sites and facilities, and further, living labs to offer full demonstration test-beds for digital solutions in interaction of the end-users 7) to push forward cascade funding schemes with vouchers that turns out to be particularly relevant to boost innovation with SME as it allows to test ideas, which would not be done otherwise or require more time, 8) to give the possibility of intermediate size funding schemes since higher funding levels cc 300 k€ - 500 k€ are necessary for projects requiring more investment (e.g. robotics) and targeting higher TRL levels (7-8), 9) to give the possibility by way of derogation for experimentation outside the regulatory framework to unleash innovation and prepare future solutions. 10) Innovation clusters play a key role to reach SMEs and act as a catalyst for innovation within their ecosystems, together with intermediary organisations such as Research and Technology Transfer Organisation (RTO) and Experimentation Centres.
The European label of the project also provides visibility, and credibility when it comes to attract investors. Among the 180 beneficiaries, 34 SMEs benefited from an equity investment. Total equity investment represented 3,9 M€ and budget investment by the SMEs represented 4,8 M€. As a whole, 8,4 M€ of private investment have been made on the DIVA supported projects, which represents a leverage effect of 3,1 for the investment of the EC (2,7 M€ of vouchers). Finally, DIVA contributed to creating dynamics that find an echo at regional levels and European level. At regional level, the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) initiative will typically build on some of the DIVA regional actions. The community built will be further valorised through the Green Deal and Horizon Europe programs to meet the European digital transformation and environmental sustainability objectives.
DIVA Consortium