The #DigitAg Institute for the Convergence of Digital Agriculture

By focusing the skills of 25 research units and their partners on a multidisciplinary approach and by proposing a research-training-transfer continuum, the #DigitAg Institute for the Convergence of Digital Agriculture, based in Montpellier, aims to become a reference centre for the development of digital agriculture and companies working in this area.

agriculture numérique, Big Data,. © INRA
Updated on 06/06/2017
Published on 03/24/2017

#DigitAg was one of the five winners of the first call for "Convergence Institute" projects by the ANR (Investments for the Future (PIA) programme). INRA is closely involved in the assembly and organisation of this Institute, led by IRSTEA, and is thus contributing 36% of the project's total workforce. In response to practical needs, #DigitAg is grouping more than 85% of its activities in Montpellier, where it will benefit from a buoyant environment.

An interdisciplinary approach for a dynamic to drive new questions

Convergence Institutes are trying to break down the barriers between disciplines, enabling a global approach that will ensure the emergence of new fields in response to major challenges. The aim of #DigitAg, which is to develop digital agriculture, responds to one of the orientations contained in the "Innovation agriculture 2025 report.
Development of the digital sector has caused profound changes and raised numerous questions regarding schemes for new types of farming.  Through the growth of agroecology, these systems are becoming more sustainable and efficient, and the collection and processing of data are playing a central role; management of these complex systems requires that account be taken not only of physical and biological components but also of their organisation.
New technologies are accelerating data processing methods; thus a tool such as a robotic milking system can play a double role of automating a function and storing measurement data. This is revolutionising the work of livestock farmers, who are developing new relationships with their stock. The generation of data from sensors poses questions as to their quality and interoperability and then their processing, with information being collected at different scales and time steps.

Organisation around major socioeconomic challenges

To take account of this broad range of issues, the organisational structure of #DigitAg focuses on socioeconomic challenges on the one hand, and scientific issues on the other.
The project can be broken down into two principal themes:

  • Agricultural production - optimisation of production using limited resources, restriction of environmental impacts, product traceability, etc.  This theme covers four main challenges: the development of agroecology, the adaptation of plant genotypes to environments and markets, crop protection and livestock systems.
  • The integration of digital agriculture throughout society. This concerns new types of advice and services for farmers, interactions between agriculture and territories, the positioning of agriculture in the value chain and the development of these technologies in southern countries.

A seven-year initiation project involving a research-training-transfer continuum

#DigitAg is based on strong cross-disciplinarity between agronomy, engineering sciences (informatics, mathematics, electronics, physics, etc.), social sciences and management (economics, sociology, management). Its ambition is to work with these interdisciplinary research fields to develop high-quality and innovative courses at the Master's and PhD levels for both initial and continuing training. These courses will be managed by the higher education establishments which are partners in the project (AgroParisTech,  Montpellier SupAgro, Université de Montpellier). The partnership also includes ACTA, SATT AxLR and an initial circle of companies covering different aspects of digital agriculture, so as to ensure a continuum downstream.

The inauguration of #DigitAg, open to all actors in the sector, is scheduled for 30 June 2017 in Montpellier.

For more information on #DigitAg

#DigitAg involves 25 research units focused on eight societal challenges faced by agriculture and six research areas:

  1. Impact of information and communication technologies on rural communities,
  2. Innovation in digital agriculture,
  3. Sensors and acquisition/data management,
  4. Information systems, data storage and transfer,
  5. Structuring of big agricultural data and datamining,
  6. Modelling and simulation (agricultural production systems).

Project partners:

  • Research and higher education: AgroParisTech, CIRAD, INRA, INRIA, IRSTEA, Montpellier SupAgro, Université de Montpellier
  • Agricultural Technical Centre: ACTA
  • Technology Transfer company: SATT AxLR
  • Companies: Agriscope, Idate, Fruition Sciences, ITK, Pera-Pellenc, Smag , Terranis, Vivelys .

ANR funding: €9.9 million
Duration: 7 years (2017-2023)
Location: Montpellier (85% of staff), Rennes and Toulouse

Anticipated project outcomes

Research: 150 Master's attachments (45 of them funded by industry), 56 PhD projects funded and 50 PhD projects accredited, the equivalent of 17 years of postdoctoral research (jointly funded with the Agro LabEx) and 72 months hosting of top-level scientists.
Teaching: 20 Master's training courses, including four new curricula and a digital agriculture observatory.
Transfer: involvement of eight companies in teaching for Master's courses and the funding of one Master's attachment each year, 120 man-months of computer science development for demonstrators resulting from thesis projects, maturation of research projects through funding by the SATT AxLR, digital agriculture observatory, support from Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole (French Tech), accreditation of the #Digitag project by the Qualiméditerranée competitiveness cluster.

Contacts

www.hdigitag.fr
Twitter: @DigitAgLab (for a clickable link: https://twitter.com/digitaglab)
Director: Véronique Bellon (Irstea) contact@hdigitag.fr
Deputy Director: Frederick Garcia (Inra)  frederick.garcia@inra.fr