Monitoring reports containing a management report and a progress report prepared by the Lead Region(s) are available here:
- Monitoring report covering the period from July to December 2020
- Monitoring report covering the period from January to June 2020
About the partnership
The agri-food industry is taking its first steps towards Industry 4.0. Some frontrunner, often larger enterprises, with a broad network are up-to-date and aware of the most recent technological developments and its opportunities. However, all over Europe, the agri-food industry is typically a small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) driven sector. Many agri-food companies don’t have smart sensor installed in their production environment and still rely on manually registered data and data interpretation is done by a few personnel members with specific expertise. This specific expertise and knowledge, built up during years on the job, is in many cases not secured in systems or procedures.
Removing these bottlenecks involves the investment in smart sensor systems, ICT solutions as well as in data analysts that have an understanding of food-related issues e.g. food quality. The agri-food system also becomes more interconnected between different stakeholders. The need for more and improved tracking and tracing, higher quality standards, prevention of food losses and so on, increase the demand for smart sensor systems, data management systems, etc.
Focus and topics
The aim of our Thematic Smart Specialisation Partnership is to set-up a platform and supportive business ecosystem between agri-food clusters and clusters representing technology and/or digital solution providers, relevant RTOs and other stakeholders, to lower the barriers for agri-food companies to access and implement the newest smart sensor systems, make them acquainted with and train them in data management and mining, etc. and thus facilitate the Industry 4.0 transition of the agri-food industry.
Making the leap towards Industry 4.0 is the final step of a larger strategy and trajectory involving all aspects linked to the digitalization of the agri-food industry. The continuous collaboration between the clusters and RTOs will create a trust zone between the involved sectors, companies and also regions. Agri-food companies have specific requirements for these technologies and also expect the machine producers to integrate these sensors in their production lines. By creating this European smart sensor systems agri-food platform, the involved stakeholders will get a better understanding of each other’s capabilities/capacities and specific requirements for these technologies.
As backbone of our strategy we will set-up a network of shared, open access living labs, where smart sensor systems, related ICT solutions and other technologies can be demonstrated, tested and where related training sessions and workshops can be organised. These living labs provide a ‘safe’ environment for agri-food companies to get a first experience with these technologies. Starting from the specific needs and challenges of the agri-food SMEs, it is our strong believe that the living labs offer the ideal environment to get introduced to new technologies and experience first-hand the potential, opportunities and added value they have in store for specific applications.
The ecosystem is complex and includes multiple actors with different fields of expertise. We see the following relevant stakeholders in the Industry 4.0 value chain for the agri-food industry:
- Agri-food companies
- Technology providers: including smart sensor producers, etc.
- Digital solution providers
- Machine producers: producers of production machinery, producers of robots, etc.
- Integrators: can integrate the smart sensors in the production line of the agri-food companies
- Universities, RTOs can provide knowledge and guidance to introduce new technologies
A 5 step model was developed guiding the introduction of Industry 4.0 relevant technologies in the agri-food industry: creating awareness, building a trust zone, evaluation and validation, implementation and leverage creation. The technologies and digital solutions we consider are available at higher TRLs and ready for validation in an industrial environment.
Step 1: Creating awareness:
Creating awareness is a continuous process during the whole technology integration and implementation process. The key aspects in this process are:
- Identification of specialised clusters (other intermediary organisations) and convince them to join forces
- Identification of top players with support of the involved cluster organisations
- Frequent meetings and activities between the involved organisations to continuously adjust the Strategy and Implementation Roadmap, taking into account new developments and opportunities
Step 2: Building the trust zone between the involved sectors – community creation:
The objective of this trust zone and community building is to bring companies and RTOs together in a forum with focus on the digitalisation for the agri-food industry and in this way improve and increase the awareness. A trust zone will be built between the agri-food companies and the technology providers, so the agri-food companies know which support and solutions they can obtain and the technology and digital solution providers understand the needs of the agri-food companies. We want to facilitate this by creating a network of living labs, supported by a cross-sectorial and interregional team, supplemented with specialised and customised business support services for the agri-food SMEs.
Step 3: Evaluation and validation of new technologies and digital solutions
The process to get from awareness to validation is a collaborative work in which common goals between all partners should be reached: demonstrate/test/feasibility checks of new technologies and digital solutions towards concrete investment projects. The process of validation gives insight in the specifications needed for industrial applications. During validation, which can be partly organised in the living labs or on site in the agri-food companies, RTOs can bring technology to a level that technology providers and integrators can take further to implementation towards end users.
Step 4: Implementation of new technologies and digital solutions
Close collaboration between the agri-food companies and the technology and digital solution providers will result in concrete investment projects in the agri-food companies and collective large-scale SME group projects linked to the livings labs. When needed, additional partners such as integrators and machine developers will be involved to make the jump from a stand-alone, validated device (demonstrator) to full integration in the production plant.
Step 5 Leverage
Integration, investments and realizations in the agri-food industry create visibility for all stakeholders and will help to attract new partners for newly defined validation and implementation tracks and new technologies, which is a supporting evolution to reinforce the funnel. Therefore demonstrations, training programmes and study visits in the living labs, RTOs and frontrunner agri-food companies will be organised in collaboration with technology and digital providers. Furthermore, the activities, news, events, testimonials, success stories and concrete results will be distributed and disseminated via newsletters, presentations, etc. This will enable the cross-fertilisation and speed up the learning process.
The following projects were initiated by the S3 Partnership ‘Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food’ collaboration:
- Connsensys: ‘Connecting smart sensor systems for the food industry’
- COSME - 1/11/’18 – 31/10/’20 - ref. 822098
- S3FOOD: ‘Smart sensor systems for food safety, quality control and resource efficiency in the food processing industry’
- INNOSUP - 1/05/’19 – 30/04/’22 – ref. 824769
Contribution to SDGs:
- SDG 2. Zero hunger
- SDG 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
- SDG 12. Responsible consumption and production
List of regions participating
|Austria||Lower Austria (interested party)|
Smart Digital Farming
MeBioS - KU Leuven
|Spain||Galicia||Galicia Food Cluster
|Hungary||Central Transdanubian Region||Innoskart
|Italy||Lombardy (interested party)||AFIL (cluster)|
|Netherlands||North Brabant||AgriFood Capital|
|Germany||North-Rhine Westphalia||Food Processing Initiative
OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts
|Finland||Southern Ostrobothnia||SeAMK - Seinäjoen Ammattikorkeakoulu (RTO)|
Please mention here the following:
Flanders’ FOOD (lead agri-food cluster), Flanders, Belgium
- Veerle Rijckaert (Business Development & Internationalization Manager), Veerle.Rijckaert@flandersfood.com
Wagralim (co-lead agri-food cluster), Wallonia, Belgium
- Sophie Bourez (R&D Manager), Sophie.Bourez@wagralim.be
Chair and Vice-chair of ‘Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food’:
- Simon Maas (Project Manager; AgriFood Capital)
- Cécile Guyon (European Project Manager; Bretagne Développement Innovation)
Additional information and documents
- Scoping Note
- Governance Structure
- Implementation Roadmap
- 1st meeting of European Thematic Smart Specialisation Partnership ‘Smart Sensors 4 Agri-Food’
The ‘Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food’ partnership has signed the Partnership Agreement of which the Governance Structure, Strategy and Implementation Roadmap form an integral part.
We developed this Partnership Agreement to guarantee the long-term sustainability of our Partnership and to structure and divide the responsibilities.