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ANTARES Report Summary

Project ID: 739570
Funded under: H2020-EU.4.a.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ANTARES (Centre of Excellence for Advanced Technologies in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

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.
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 Centre 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. SUSTAINIBILITY – 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

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

For the first 15 months of the project, our institution recorded a striking 61% increase in human potential. Enhanced human capacities have already led to outstanding results: 48 international journal papers and 66 international conference papers were published. Additionally, 12 national journal papers and 6 national conference papers were published, as well as 9 book chapters. Moreover, we have filed 2 national patents and developed 10 prototypes.
Drawing from the complementary scientific expertise, BioSense and WR researchers have developed the Joint Strategic Research Agenda, which defines 11 state-of-the-art research topics that will strengthen the competitive positions of both institutions.

BioSense Institute has also achieved excellent results in terms of income diversification and self-sustainability. For the reporting period, we started 12 new projects, ensuring 5.14 mil EUR of additional funding to new CoE. Funding was received for 6 additional H2020 projects. We worked diligently toward transferring our research into innovative technologies and establishing collaboration with industry, resulting in another 3 projects. Additional diversification of income is expected through the CoE value-added facilities such as BioSense Accelerator, Digital Farm and Shared Research Facility, which will also greatly contribute toward maximization of the innovation potential of the new CoE and will act as an innovation-booster for the entire region.

In October 2017, under the scope of ANTARES project, BioSense launched Digital Platform AgroSense, as the virtual counterpart of the Digital Farm. AgroSense is a unique and comprehensive platform designed with a goal to enable digital transformation of agriculture in Serbia. It allows farmers to monitor crop conditions and plan activities based on the data collected from satellites, drones, robots, different sensors and meteo stations using only mobile phone or computer. Up to date, it gathered more than 10 000 users and the service is free of charge.

In March 2018, the first Digital Farm in Serbia was launched. Foreseen as an open-air show-room, Digital Farm is a unique facility that allows farmers to see, test and assess the latest AgTech solutions in real-world settings - at the production farm. Digital Farm Open Days as well as the AgroSense training sessions are held once a month.

With support of DG GROWTH, BioSense Institute has recently become the official Sentinel Data Hub, allowing full, free and open access to Copernicus Earth observation data for various Serbian and regional public institutions, private enterprises, academia, etc.
Our efforts were recognized at the international level. In April 2017, we won the first place at Syngenta Crop Challenge, outperforming some of the most prestigious universities from the US. Additionally, we received the Best Living Lab Projects 2016 Award in August 2017.

Over period of 15 months, BioSense Institute has achieved a reputation of a high-profile institution in Serbia and the region. Dozens of media reports were published about kickoff of the ANTARES project, dubbed as the biggest investment in Serbian science, as well as about the launch of the AgroSense platform and Digital Farm.

As of the reporting period, the conceptual design of the new building of BioSense was completed. The construction of the building is expected to start in Autumn 2018 and to last for one year.

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)

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 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 severe brain drain in our country, enable accumulation of a critical mass of researchers and consequently to 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 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.

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