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.