Major Horizon 2020 project aims to transform the agri-food sector

TSSG at WIT is leading a project aiming to transform Europe’s agri-food sector through the rapid adoption of advanced Internet of Things technologies, data science and smart farming.

Kevin Doolin, TSSG Director of Innovation, WIT

The European Union has identified smart farming as a key component in supporting sustainable agriculture and food production, protecting natural resources and boosting food safety. At the heart of this is the need for new technology and standards to achieve full supply chain interoperability.   

This is the subject of Demeter, a large-scale, €17.7m Horizon 2020 project involving 60 partners across 18 countries, 6,000 farmers and 38,000 devices.  The project aims to transform Europe’s agri-food sector through the rapid adoption of advanced Internet of Things technologies, data science and smart farming. Demeter is one of the largest Horizon 2020 projects coordinated by an Irish entity and is expected to have significant impact across the agri-tech sector in Europe, and beyond.   

At the helm of Demeter is Kevin Doolin, Director of Innovation at Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG), an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation and part of the Waterford Institute of Technology. 

“Horizon 2020 enables us to engage in large-scale work with a substantial group of partners from across the agri supply chain. We have access to technology providers, research and academic experts, real works users and policy makers.” 

“The situation now is that you have various different elements in the agri supply chain – machinery, warehouses, trucks, sensors and so on – but none of these systems talk to each other so it’s impossible to get a holistic view from farm to fork,” explains Doolin.  “With Demeter we’re trying to connect those elements, so we’re developing new industry standards, writing software for platforms and building interfaces.”  

Demeter’s goal is nothing less than the digital transformation of Europe’s agri-food sector and it includes a series of 20 pilot programmes that aim to demonstrate the impact of the technology.  

A key deliverable is the Demeter Dashboard. “This will give farmers an instant update on the status of their farm. It’s a precision support system that provides information to assist decision making, and increase productivity and efficiency,” says Doolin.  

Within the Demeter project €1m of funding has been reserved to be given out to new partners who want to join the programme.  “We’ll be issuing our own mini-calls for proposals inviting SMEs and farmers and so on to come up with a small project idea that will test elements of Demeter in different scenarios. 

“These open call projects are something that I think industry in Ireland needs to take advantage of. It’s a really good way for companies to get into Horizon 2020 and get quite a bit of funding to do just one trial of the technology.”