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Sensors and daTA tRaininG towards high-performance Agri-food sysTEms

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - STARGATE (Sensors and daTA tRaininG towards high-performance Agri-food sysTEms)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

STARGATE aims to enhance the ability of the Centre for Biotechnology and Fine Chemistry (CBQF) of the Catholic University of Portugal (UCP) to respond to a key societal challenge: to evolve the agri-food system’s practice to promote more resilient and sustainable systems, starting from more resistant, nutritious and diverse crops at the farm level, to guarantee safer, healthier and sustainable options for consumers. This will be attained by increasing CBQF’s knowledge of high-tech sensors and phenotyping technologies with the perspective to develop predictive models relating to more resilient crops, robust to climate change and integrated into circular agriculture. These technologies have the potential to ultimately lead to benefits for the society, regarding increased production, efficiency, quality and sustainability.
STARGATE intends to:
• Strengthen scientific excellence at UCP in the use of phenotyping, multi-omics, signal and image data management and analysis tools and development of predictive models for crop performance towards food chain decisions;
• Strengthen innovation capacity and interactions with the industry, promoting UCP’s autonomy to collaborate with farmers and industry in this area, performing early-stage monitoring of agri-food production systems to understand and improve performance in downstream steps of the food chain, promoting advanced innovation transferable to the agri-food sector;
• Boost competencies in research management, communication and proposal preparation, to maximise the impact of UCP’s activities and improve success in securing international funding;
• Establish the foundation for the STARGATE Knowledge Hub in Portugal, bringing together transdisciplinary expertise, to exploit and realise the potential of sensor-based, signal, image and multi-omics data, towards sustainable food systems, fostering innovation and partnerships with the private sector.
To achieve these objectives, a comprehensive set of training activities and active engagement with different agri-food chain stakeholders will be carried out. It will bring STARGATE’s achievements to the scientific community, farming and industry stakeholders, contributing to boosting the national economy and promoting the country internationally.
The work plan of STARGATE is structured into 5 WPs. WP1 is focused on scientific capacity building. WP2, called moving beyond STARGATE, concentrates mainly on implementing the STARGATE Knowledge Hub. WP3 is closely linked with WP1 and is dedicated to training and advancing Early-Stage Researchers (ERSs) expertise in the STARGATE team. WP4 is focused on project communication, dissemination, and exploitation of results, and WP5 project management. STARGATE also includes a task on Ethics requirements to ensure compliance with GDPR requirements.
During the first 15 months of the STARGATE project, a substantial amount of effort has been devoted to:
• Kick-start the project and start to address the main technical challenges by active communication among all the STARGATE partners.
• Put in place all the necessary project management structures.
• Create a Project Quality Handbook establishing practical guidance to ensure the high quality of the project, which is regularly updated.
• Establish the visual identity of the project and the communication channels for project dissemination.
• Develop the Mobility Plan, outlining the activities planned for training within STARGATE.
• Detail the specific ethics requirements for Protection of Personal Data (POPD).
• Develop a document with the technical and regulatory requirements related to phenotyping and sensor applicability in the agri-food sector.
• Identify the relevant standards related to STARGATE development.
• Organize two online workshops.
• Launch and update the STARGATE website (
• Take part in relevant events to disseminate the project.
• Publish the two firsts STARGATE Newsletter.
Portugal and UCP as an institution still lags behind in the participation in international research and innovation networks and infrastructures and even more so in being at the forefront of the creation of such structures.
STARGATE combines the existing expertise in UCP in biotechnology applied from farm to fork, with that of partners at the forefront in developing biochemical (multi-omics), signal and image analytical tools for intelligent phenotyping (INRAE, IPK and WR), with the capability to study and select desired traits to face climate change challenges or respond to demands of the industrialisation of agriculture.
To enable the necessary changes at UCP and empower the Consortium, STARGATE will implement training actions to increase excellence in research and training, promote training schools, workshops, seminars, specific training programs, access to high quality equipment and field and lab demonstrations for capacity building.
STARGATE will contribute to raise the international profile of UCP and its researchers through improving specific scientific skills, increasing research management capacity, improving the ability to secure funding, increasing collaborations farmers and with industry and through the participation in international conferences presenting work within STARGATE.
Finally, STARGATE will impact the agri-food value chain actors, particularly in Portugal, providing tools, training and guidelines, and promoting a more resilient and efficient European food system.