Although research and innovation in ICT play the crucial role in the agri-food sector today, BioSense is the only institution in the region focused on this topic. BioSense advances and integrates all that ICT can offer today – nanomaterials, low-cost miniature sensors, satellite imaging, robotics, big data analytics – to provide as much information as possible to the agricultural sector.
The final goal of BioSense is to incorporate all efforts and results of various research groups into a unique BioSense integrated system for agricultural monitoring. This system will provide necessary data sets and create breakthroughs in the agrifood sector, not only in terms of increased efficiency, reduced pollution and monetary savings, but also in the way that farming is perceived and performed, making agriculture acceptable as a career choice to younger generations of farmers.
The proposed agro-meteo-pheno network of sensors distributed throughout an area will generate big sets of extremely valuable real-time data, which were so far absolutely unavailable. This data will be fused with data coming from the Collaborative SENTINEL ground station (also foreseen at BioSense), and then processed to generate useful information for farmers, farms, extension services, companies and finally government and decision makers. The final information will be tailored to the needs of the end-user and range from e.g. instructions for optimal fertigation or planning of crops (for farmers), to national and local yield and price estimates, or indices for subsidies (for the government).
Collaborative SENTINEL ground station foreseen at BioSense will directly provide to Serbia benefits of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) satellite programme SENTINEL. Namely, SENTINEL provides free high-resolution satellite images very much needed for optimization of agriculture. However, to access and use these images in near-to-real time, ESA requires that collaborative ground stations are created, equipped with ICT equipment able to receive, analyze and store SENTINEL data. BioSense provides added value to SENTINEL data in the form of products based on novel processing algorithms and services custom-tailored to the specific needs of the region and the field of application (agriculture).
The development of the BioSense integrated system for agricultural monitoring can bring many benefits to various stakeholders in the agri-food sector:
- Establishment of virtual cooperatives
- Access to contractors
- Access to extention services and consultancy
- Access to market with less intermediary steps
- Access to agri service on a mobile device:
- Commodity Forecasting with futures pricing
- Weather Tracking & Trends
- Farm Field Mapping
To Extention services:
- Easy communication with farmers
- Immediate access to all relevant data
- Competitive environment with other agronomists
- Visibility to a large number of farmers
- Competitive environment
- Electronic contracting and reporting
- Electronic farm record (dossies)
- Land stock market
- Crop structure forecasting
To Chemicals vendors:
- Information on plant health status
- Biophysical parameters indicating the needs of inputs
- Crop structure forecasting
- Access to large number of agronomists and extention service
- Strategic information for evidence-based decision and policy making
- Contribution to Land Parceling Identification System (LPIS)
- Contribution to the National geodethic authority
To Innovative SMEs:
- Access to a technological framework on which to develop value-added services
- BioSense accelerator
The Serbian Situation
According to the data from 2012, there are over 3.4 million hectares of land processed in Serbia (www.europa.rs) and 631.552 farms. The average land size per farm is quite small, with the most of the farms in the range from 2 to 5 ha.
The vast majority of the holdings are the family holdings. Being small participants on the market, family holdings are forced to purchase materials (seed, fertilizers, etc.) in smaller quantities, which results in higher prices. Selling of their products is also an issue, as it is either individual (where transportation and personal effort significantly affect the profit), or to the retailers (where the price is dictated by big companies, and the potential quality of goods are hardly valorized). Although in 2011 there were around 1500 agricultural cooperatives in Serbia, which could help solve the issues identified above, they were non-functional. So, the profit of the small farms is still at a very low and non-sustainable level. By delivering innovative solutions that are accessible by all farmers, regardless of the size of their holdings, BioSense envisions to provide small farmers of the region with affordable enabling technologies, that will allow them to become sustainable in the global competitive environment.