As European farmers face increasing financial pressure, a continent-wide project named IOF2020 is aiming to use technology to explore opportunities in agriculture. In the Greek Peloponnese region, scientists are developing advanced methods to help olive oil farmers.
As European farmers face increasing financial pressure, a continent-wide project called Internet of Food and Farm 2020 (IOF2020) is aiming to explore the opportunities of the Internet of Things (IoT); that's the system of interrelated computing devices which are able to transfer data over a network, without requiring human-to-human or even human-to-computer interaction.
IOF2020's aim is to use Smart Farming to create a more robust and sustainable food value chain, reducing the need for pesticide and fertilisers, as more precise techniques are used and overall efficiency is improved.
In the Greek Peloponnese region, scientists are utilising advanced technologies such as drones and sensor equipment to help olive oil producers in an approach known as Precision Farming, or Smart Farming.
Dr Evangolos Antastasiou, an agricultural engineer and researcher at the Agricultural University of Athens, has been working for several years on IOF2020. He says significant progress has been made already:
"We have been using these devices for the past three years in the IOF2020 project. All the information that we collect, we provide it to the farmers so they can have a clearer insight about their fields.
"First, there is a soil electrical conductivity sensor. With this, we can map the whole field regarding the soil electrical conductivity. We can have data about the soil texture that different parts of the field has."
The drones carry a multispectral camera which Dr Antastasiou likens to "putting a microscope in the air - and then using it in order to see all the different trees simultaneously."
With these technologies, farmers can reduce their costs by spending less money on pesticides, fertilisers, or irrigation because the needs of each individual olive tree can be better focused. The environmental impact is also lessened. The precision will also increase the yield in terms of quantity and quality from their fields. So not only are results better, but the resources spent to achieve them are reduced.
Dr Antastasiou says the approach can be expanded much furthert:
"I think that there is going to be a strong collaboration with agronomists, who know how to use these technologies. Because these kind of technologies are too expensive for farmers to purchase them, so there will be synergies between farmers and agronomists in order to move to a more sustainable agriculture."