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Data Driven Precision Agriculture Services and Skill Acquisition

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DRAGON (Data Driven Precision Agriculture Services and Skill Acquisition)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2019-12-31

Estimates say that by the year 2050 planet Earth will be home to 10 billion people and we will have to increase agricultural production for as much as 70 % to feed all. We are already cultivating almost every piece of land we can and are using ever larger quantities of synthetic fertilisers. We are jeopardising our eco-system, already fragile due to climate change and pollution. There is a solution and it lies at a place we would hardly expect to find it – in artificial intelligence (AI).
Sensors, robots, satellites, GPS and drones serve as invaluable sources of data about crop growth, soil type and weather conditions. Each of them is very interesting on its own, but datasets are reaching their full potential only after we aggregate them and apply advanced AI algorithms. Today, in the 21st century, information technologies (IT) allow us to comprehend large amounts of data and extract hidden knowledge about agricultural production and processes happening inside the plants.

BioSense (BIOS), Novi Sad, Serbia is a research and development center with focus on the application of IT in bio-systems executed by its Knowledge Discovery Group (KDG). DRAGON's aim is to train ambitious early career researchers within the KDG, to increase their scientific and innovation capacity, thus evolving the KDG into the Knowledge and Innovation Group through the project.

The key partners in DRAGON are two institutions renowned for their excellence in IT/AgriTech/Precision Agriculture (PA) sectors: Wageningen University (WU) from the Netherlands and Agri-EPI centre from Scotland. They participate in knowledge transfer from Western Europe to Serbia within DRAGON.

Specific objectives:
a) To enhance the scientific and technological (S&T) capacity of BIOS researchers to perform analyses of multiscale multisource data: 1) Satellite and Mobile phone-generated data; 2) Internet-of-Things (IoT)-generated data; 3) Phenomics; 4) Genomics; 5) Meta-genomics;

b) To enhance BIOS researchers' capability to communicate knowledge and related legislative matters in PA to various stakeholders and local communities in order to achieve effective dissemination and lower the barriers to subsequent adoption of innovative PA data-driven solutions

c) To train and nurture young researchers to develop their careers in data-driven PA and facilitation of opportunities for enhanced career development within BIOS and partner institutions, WU and Agri-EPI Centre

d) To develop data-driven PA eco-system by providing access to practical agricultural know-how and emerging information systems
The work performed in the first reporting period (RP1) followed the initial plan and executed the corresponding activities of five work packages. Apart from WP1, concerned with Project Management activities, WP4 that comprises Dissemination & Outreach activities and WP5 that deals with Ethics requirements, two core work packages were also executed: WP2 - Enhancing Biosense (BIOS) S&T expertise in precision agriculture (PA) and WP3 - Enhancing BIOS COMMunication expertise in PA.

WP2 has focused on enhancing the S&T expertise of BIOS researchers as described in Objective 1. Intensive mobility was performed a) 7 expert visits of the senior researchers to BIOS (3 from Agri-EPI, 4 from WU) and b) 7 short-term visits (STVs) of the young BIOS researchers to the partners’ institutions (4 to Agri-EPI, 3 to WU). 5-day long DRAGON Training School was organized in BIOS in Nov 2019, bringing together a total of 53 students and 17 lecturers. The School agenda comprised two days of practical data science modules on ML, Deep Learning, Big Data and Scalable Data Analytics, given by the senior scientists from Agri-EPI and WU, two days of the Invited Talks on crop mapping and monitoring, precision farming, phenotyping, molecular data from crops, soil biodiversity as well as additional aspect of entrepreneurial activities in relation to described topics (invited speakers from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, UK, Germany) with the final 5th day devoted to group work on specific case studies. The group work followed a hackathon model linking WP2 and WP3 activities. Business-to-Business (B2B) meeting was organised on the 3rd day of the DRAGON School, capitalising on the opportunity to hold face-to-face meetings with guest industry experts together with representatives of the partner institutions, another activity relevant to WP2-WP3.

WP3 concerns COMMunication skill transfer, adopting the 2-step model co-creation (CoC) events, providing opportunities for close interactions with the end-users to capture their needs in turn enhancing the trainings in COMM skills of the BIOS-researchers. The 1st step comprises preparatory lectures by the experts from Agri-EPI, WU and invited speakers on to the most effective methods to present data/information/knowledge while the 2nd step involves CoC events with various stakeholders. DRAGON CoC events are: a) Info days b) Hackathons c) B2B meetings each customised to the specific target group: farmers, NGOs, Government representatives, SMEs/start-ups and large industry. COMM-related expert visits from Agri-EPI (2) and invited speakers’ visits (3) occurred in RP1. Further, 1 Info day for the startups graduating from the BioSense Accelerator program, took place in Nov 2019. 1 model-hackathon and 1 B2B meeting occurred during the DRAGON Training school.

WP4: Dissemination and Outreach focused in RP1 on promoting project results and raising awareness of PA technologies in Serbia and the region. A detailed Plan for the Exploitation and Dissemination of results (PEDR) has been prepare. Careful planning and coordination enabled efficient interlinking of the WP3 and WP4 activities, with WP3 CoC events presenting excellent opportunities for engaging the relevant stakeholders and networking. WP4 yielded a wide range of dissemination tools and materials, both in the digital and printed form, all prepared under the same DRAGON visual identity.

WP5, with its five tasks, was dedicated to fulfilling the Protection of Personal Data – POPD Requirement No.2.
WU is renowned for bio-informatics and high-throughput phenotyping, while Agri-EPI has state-of-the-art expertise in satellite data, as well as for the IoT- generated data and their analyses (WP2). Collaboration with these European leaders ensures that the BIOS data scientists work on development of PA solutions beyond the state-of-the-art.

Equally important, DRAGON implements activities well beyond the current state-of-the-art in respect of engagement of the key stakeholders throughout the co-creation process (WP3).

Expected results of the DRAGON project are the formation of the 'Knowledge and Innovation Group', development of online course and organisation of impactful events such as workshops, info days and hackathons, important for building the PA community.

As BIOS is evolves into the regional Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Agriculture, DRAGON project is core to provide significant enhancement in the manner solution development is performed. The combination of highly skilled researchers well versed in communication methods will significantly strengthen BIOS’ position as one of the top facilities for data research and data-driven PA services development in the region.
Visual shows multiscale_multisource approach to various data sources used in DRAGON
Dr Ioannis Athanasiadis from WU gives lecture on the 1st day of DRAGON Training school
The visual shows relationship between s&t and the need for direct communication to stakeholders
Photo from the DRAGON 2nd project meeting Feb 11-13 2019, Novi Sad, Serbia
Students at DRAGON Training school 25-29 November 2019, Novi Sad, Serbia
Visit of DRAGON researchers to the farm in Scotland
DRAGON project meeting
DRAGON infoday for startups
Students at DRAGON Training school 25-29 November 2019, Novi Sad, Serbia