Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food

The partnership aims at setting up a platform between agri-food electronic/IT cluster organisations and other stakeholders, to lower the barriers for agri-food companies to access and implement the newest smart electronic systems and to enable the IoT transition of the agri-food industry.

Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food

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.
The objective 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

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.

Current projects

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’ - end date 30/09/’22
  • 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 productio

List of regions involved

Organisations involved

Country Region Cluster organisation
Netherlands Gelderland Foodvalley NL and OnePlanet Research Center (RTO)
Lithuania Lithuania AgriFood Lithuania DIH and SMART Food Cluster
France Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes CIMES
Céréales Vallée
Végépolys Valley (cluster)
France Brittany Bretagne Développment Innovation
Images & Réseaux (cluster)
Valorial (cluster)
ACT FOOD Bretagne (RTO)
Photonics Bretagne (Cluster and RTO)
CEA Tech Quimper (RTO)
Belgium Flanders Clusters:
:Flanders’ FOOD
DSP Valley
Smart Digital Farming
Flanders Make
MeBioS - KU Leuven
Food Pilot
Spain Galicia Galicia Food Cluster
Hungary Central Transdanubian Region Innoskart
Campden BRI
Hungary Central Transdanubian region Central Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency
Spain Navarra Ain
Netherlands North Brabant AgriFood Capital
Germany North-Rhine Westphalia Food Processing Initiative
OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Belgium Wallonia Wagralim
Slovenia Slovenia CCIS-CAFÉ
Finland Southern Ostrobothnia   SeAMK - Seinäjoen Ammattikorkeakoulu (RTO)
France Nouvelle-Aquitaine CIMES and Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation
France Occitanie Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation
France Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Innov’Alliance

Contacts details of the leading regions

Veerle De Graef

Program Manager,  Flanders’ FOOD (lead agri-food cluster), Flanders, Belgium

Sophie Bourez 

R&D Manager, Wagralim (co-lead agri-food cluster), Wallonia, Belgium

Contact details of DG REGIO

Related documents

Monitoring reports containing a management report and a progress report prepared by the lead regions are available here:
(369 KB - PDF)
Other relevant documents:
1802 Smart Sensors S3P scoping paper.pdf
(1.6 MB - PDF)
Annex 1_Governance Structure.pdf
(289 KB - PDF)
Implementation road map
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. This Partnership Agreement was developed to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the partnership and to structure and divide the responsibilities.