We know that the Internet of Things can relieve many difficulties that are faced throughout the whole food chain. Two of our use cases are for example researching the possible applications of IoT in the fresh table grape chain, and the olive chain. This potentially offers solutions to the challenges that are faced in both chains, for instance because grapes as well as olives are vulnerable fruits. They have a short shelf-life, they can be easily damaged in the different steps of the supply chain, and they are very vulnerable to pests. Weather conditions can also affect the growth of table grapes and olives a lot, since it is open field agriculture. Weather conditions make it difficult to ensure a high-quality and quantity produce of table grapes.
Based on this vulnerability of the products, the grape and olive supply chains are therefore examples in which IoT can play a large role in optimisation of the process. And with process, we mean the entire process from farm to fork, as using IoT can also help decreasing the time between harvest of the produce and arrival at the shop, thus reducing spoilage of the product.
The main aim of the use cases Fresh Table Grapes Chain and Automated Olive Chain is to prove the added value of IoT systems in small farmers. At field level, the use cases have deployed a number of advanced IoT technologies. These include soil moisture sensors, soil temperature, electrical conductivity measurements, and weather stations. A decision support system will be developed that combines weather data with the data from aforementioned soil sensors. IoT technologies can therefore help on a plant level to lower the use of water and crop protection products. All the data that the sensors collect, will be available in the cloud through the SynField platform. On the field level, the optimisation of the water application on table grapes can increase water use efficiency. Indirectly, this leads to lower energy consumption and greenhouse gases production, which will lead to a more sustainable future for table grapes.
This year, a prolonged period of precipitation occurred. This helped to show that new technologies could help table grape farmers to optimise their production. The grape growers faced more infections from crop diseases, which caused a lower production of table grapes. The usual spraying operations could not be performed on time. A solution for the future could be to conduct more research in the use of ground robots for spraying operations. This use case also discovered that the successful farmers of the future should be able to produce more with less. Adapting to new tools and technologies will be easier for young farmers, thus a synergy between older and younger farmers and local crop consultants is necessary, in order to reach the whole European farming sector.