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S4A: a brief description in English

Space4Agri (S4A) is a research project referring to Lombardy Region (Italy) but its topics concern international research standards. The project received expressions of interest from several European Regions (such as the Doris_Net Consortium) since the relevance and interest of its study issues and the methodologies implemented. The S4A website is available in Italian but we report herewith a short description in English in order to provide information on the project’s framework and objectives to an international audience.

                  

The project Space4Agri, “Innovative Methodologies of Earth Observation supporting the Agricultural sector in Lombardy” finds its justification in two different but somehow complementary fields. On one hand, it aims to meet the challenge of Aerospace Earth Observation (EO) for the development of downstream services that, according to the directions provided within the European program GMES - Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (now Copernicus), bring added economic value to business and benefits for public administrations and citizens. This is also in agreement with Horizon 2020 in which the EU seeks to promote research that will result in innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and improve the lives of citizens.

On the other hand, the proposal stems from the recognition of the need expressed in different contexts by DG Agricoltura di Regione Lombardia (e.g. during the Workshop “Agrispazio Space Application Contest 2012”, Milan 29 November 2012) and shared by ARPA Lombardia to develop a framework of common knowledge to support planning and management in the Agrifood sector of Lombardy for a sustainable development. The project aims at also coping with challenges brought by globalization and European policies that specifically mention food security and sustainable agriculture among their strategic issues. Finally, the project’s activities are aligned with the core theme of the International Exposition 2015 (EXPO 2015) to be held in Milan (Italy): “Feeding the Planet, Energy for life”.

 OBJECTIVES

The purpose of Space4Agri is to take advantage in an innovative way of the advances in the following sectors:

  • aerospace technologies for Earth Observation (EO), making available a large amount of satellite data with different spatial and temporal resolutions, that will be even greater with the advent of ESA Sentinel missions
  • frontier aeronautic technologies such as Unmanned Airmobile Vehicle (UAV)
  • the pervasive availability of sensor observations and smart technologies that involve citizens in the data-information-service flow.

The general aim of the project is to address the demand of consistent and up to date information from the agricultural sector in Lombardy. Indeed, this sector faced unexpected critical situation in 2012 causing the decrease in maize production (- 20% with respect to 2011) with significant impacts on the entire agro-livestock chain of the Po Valley.                    

The expected results of the project are intended to identify and fix the weaknesses of the data-information-service chain through innovative solutions, and can be referred to three specific areas for Earth Observation: SPACE, AERO and IN SITU.

SPACE: i) Development of methodologies for the creation of early season crop maps by integrating optical and radar satellite data;  ii) Production of indicators of crop status and development as well as the estimation of phenological stages at regional scale through the analysis of satellite data time series; iii) Evaluation of indicators of crop water stress through joint analysis of satellite data in the reflection and thermal wavelengths range.

AERO: i) Development of digital augmented reality environments to provide information not readily available to support UAV mission operator; ii) Definition of protocols to integrate information stemming from different virtual environment instrumented systems; iii) Testing of prototypes for re-planning in real time the UAV mission by acquiring experimental data in case studies of interest for the agricultural sector.

IN SITU: i) Design and demonstration of a data infrastructure for managing and sharing instrumented sensors measurements (Sensor Enablement) and agronomic existing database; ii) Development of smart technologies for the acquisition of in situ observations by operators of the agricultural sector; iii) Development of smart technologies to feed back information to regional and local agriculture specialists/ users.

USERS

Lombardy Region and ARPA Lombardia are the major Space4Agri users. Other public and private bodies such as entrepreneurs, farmers, media, general public, institutions, researchers, technicians, will be involved during the project's development.  Other bodies interested in becoming a new S4A user, or in being informed can contact the S4A staff.

ECONOMICAL IMPACT

The project results are expected to have a positive impact over Lombardy Region, both in terms of direct employment (40% of the total cost of the project is devoted to the activation of contracts for young researchers and graduates) and in terms of the positive effects expected in the medium and long term for the public bodies and the private sector. This activity will allow the development of highly qualified personnel in high-tech sectors such as aerospace Earth Observation, as well as in information, communication and smart technologies.
An economical assessment of the project, at regional level, will be carried out in the WP6 specifically devoted to economical impacts identification in Lombardy region; the results of this study will be available at the end of the project.

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