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Product Watch Report: Photonics technology for high intensity farming

In December 2020, the Advanced Technology for Industry project (ATI) published its Product Watch report titled “Photonics technology for high intensity farming”. The objective of the report is the map the key players in photonics for the intensive farming value chain and to zoom in on the use of photonics technologies for intensive farming by:

  1. Providing an overview of the context;
  2. An in-depth analysis into value chain structure, its key actors and the linkages between stakeholders;
  3. Relevant European stakeholders, along with their corresponding strengths and weaknesses in relation to global competition and
  4. Future outlook and the impact of COVID-19 on the agri-food sector.

The agri-food industry is under considerable strain to produce sufficient food for a growing population and to accommodate the changing demands and needs of consumers. In the past two decades, global food consumption has increased at a higher rate than global population growth, which can be attributed to income growth and higher consumption at a global scale. For example, on average, the share of expenditure on food and drink products is reported to comprise roughly 14% for EU households, totalling to €1.5b.

A solution to address this challenge is photonics technologies. Photonics has a long track record in applications for sensors in the agriculture sector, such as detecting gases in soils. Since then, photonics has evolved to be used for other applications, such as smart farming or precision agriculture techniques for soil and crop analysis, to determine if fertilisers need to be used, and forecasting harvest time. Another example of how photonics can be used in the sector is by combining it with artificial intelligence to sort crops and plants using camera screening techniques.

However, even though photonics technologies are being increasingly used along the value chain, farmers are still struggling to adopt the photonics technologies that are suitable for their specific practices. This is often due to high investment cost – financially and in terms of needed skills. Nevertheless, the technology has great potential in the agri-food industry to reduce food loss with early detection of problems and proactive control measures along the value chain. Due to this potential, it is gaining interest worldwide.

The Product Watch reports analyse novel products that are based on advanced technologies for the development of goods and services - enhancing their overall commercial and social value. For more information about this report and other Product Watch reports written by the ATI project, consult the dedicated section on the ATI website.