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APOLLO Report Summary

Project ID: 687412
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - APOLLO (Advisory platform for small farms based on earth observation)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The problem that is being addressed by APOLLO is that of global population expansion, which is estimated to reach 9.15 billion in 2050. That growth poses an urgent need for more food production, which is expected to spike the world food demand by 70%. However, there is also a need to ensure the sustainable management and conservation of natural resources while taking actions to mitigate climate change. It is therefore essential that Europe maintains and improves its agricultural production capacity, while ensuring its sustainability by means of improved resource efficiency.
Small European farmers need to have access to novel low cost agricultural practice services, since they are not able to exploit economies of scale, their production level is limited and they encounter difficulties in procurement and application of modern technologies because of the high cost and greater risk involved. Earth Observation (EO) can address these needs by providing information on a wide range of crop and field related variables, such as soil moisture, surface temperature or photosynthetic activity. This information can support decision-making on a site-specific basis, allowing for more efficient utilisation of resources. The benefits of using EO information in the Agricultural sector stem from cost reductions, profitability and potential competitive advantages.
APOLLO will address the need of small farmers for an affordable and easy to use suite of farm management tools, and will enable them to take better-informed decisions over their practices and inputs in order to achieve maximum profitability. Amongst the services that are going to be offered via the APOLLO platform are: i) Tillage Scheduling; ii) Irrigation Shceduling; iii) Crop Growth Monitoring; iv) Crop Yield Estimation and v) Weather forecasting. APOLLO will help them not only increase their production efficiency, but also their resilience by increasing their competitiveness in the global market. At the same time APOLLO will ensure the minimum environmental impact by reduction of fossil fuels from machinery and reduction of the use of water resources.
Overall APOLLO will achieve: i) the establishment of a sustainable supply chain for the proposed innovative EO platform related to the application of precision agriculture services to small farmers; ii) substantially improve the productivity and efficiency of European small farms; and iii) lead to and provide new products for the agricultural sector in Europe.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

APOLLO will provide a suite of farm management advisory services to small farmers, including tillage scheduling; irrigation scheduling; crop growth monitoring; crop yield estimation; weather forecasting and farm zone management via the APOLLO platform. Farmers will not only optimise their production process, increase their farms’ productivity and as a result their income, but they will also impact the environment.
The overall strategy of the project is based on the six interrelated objectives that were set out since the beginning of the project. For the execution of each of the objectives a plan of work was devised in such a way, as to ensure that each of the tasks and activities carried out will complement and pave the ground for the next one.
During the first reporting period of the project the main focus was to develop the earth observation data products that were subsequently used for the development of the added value services, while in parallel the user’ needs analysis and specifications were gathered, in order for the results of all the above activities to be “fed” to the platform development and integration.
Furthermore, during those first twelve months the APOLLO consortium also devised a plan on the dissemination and communication of the project results, defining the means and channels to be used, in order to showcase the commerciality of the APOLLO platform right from the beginning. Communication tools such as the projects’ website, leaflets, brochures and fact sheets, were also produced. Additionally amongst the issues that were tackled during the first period was the strategy for the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that concerned the commercial exploitation of the project results and the Data Management Plan that dealt with issues of data collection, production and processing.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Soil Moisture advancements
In the framework of the APOLLO project an algorithm previously developed and validated for the estimation of soil moisture from SAR images is used for the first time with the new Copernicus satellites Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-1B.
Estimation of agricultural parameters
APOLLO project depends heavily from the use of state-of-the-art algorithms for providing accurate information on key agricultural parameters that are needed as an input for each service. The estimation of the agricultural parameters is based on systematic scientific literature review that documented the results of the state-of-the-art research in this domain. Specifically, Earth Observation products are used together with ancillary data (soil database, tables, etc.) in different algorithms to provide information regarding tillage scheduling, irrigation scheduling, crop growth monitoring and crop yield estimation services.
Agricultural Services
APOLLO developed and will provide 6 services to crop growers and agricultural consultants. These are tillage scheduling, irrigation scheduling, crop growth monitoring, yield estimation weather forecasting and farm zone management. All services are dependent on the above mentioned products.
Expected Impacts
The establishment of a sustainable supply chain for the proposed innovative EO platform related to the application of precision agriculture services to small farmers is an expected impact of APOLLO project.
Small farms have always been the backbone of European agricultural sector. With the use of the APOLLO EO applications, it is envisaged to substantially improve the productivity and efficiency of European small farms in short time.
On the other hand, the use of the APOLLO EO application by agricultural consultant SMEs in Europe can have a significant impact on the quality and precision of the provided services. This will have a significant impact on business activity which is expected to rise. Furthermore European agricultural consultancy SMEs will have a competitive advantage against their global competitors thus enabling the expansion of their activity beyond the borders of Europe.
New jobs are expected to be created among the application users since the improved efficiency of small farms has the potential to lead young people to rethink of becoming farmers, in most cases continuing the family tradition. Additionally, new opportunities for jobs will be opened in agricultural consultant SMEs, which will hire people skilled to use and promote the APOLLO EO application services.

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