AGROS: evolution to sustainable AGRicultural Operation Systems

The AGROS programme is a collaboration between Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and 26 private partners, with funding provided by two of the government’s ‘Top Sectors’ programmes: Agri & Food and Horticulture & Starting Materials.AGROS’ stands for ‘Evolution to sustainable AGRicultural Operation Systems’. The main goal is to develop tools that can support production that is based on natural biological and ecological processes and thereby steer production towards sustainable use of inputs like energy, water, plant protection products and labour. The knowledge learned from the research and experiments and the professional guidance provided will benefit the participating arable and dairy farmers, horticulturalists and technology companies.

Greenhouse horticulture
 Today, there is a continuous demand for fresh and healthy products of constant high quality, regardless of the season. Limiting factor is the availability of sufficiently qualified personnel who have knowledge of all aspects of efficient cultivation. AGROS will develop knowledge to make an autonomous greenhouse possible in which the knowledge a grower currently carries around in their head is replaced by artificial intelligence. With new model-based control algorithms, the conditions in the greenhouse can be autonomously adjusted to achieve the cultivation goals.

Arable farming
 Arable businesses are faced with the challenge of converting to an environmentally friendly and circular production system with more biodiversity. To meet these demands the technique of intercropping (mixed cultivation) looks promising. Using the intercropping method, crops are no longer grown on large fields in monocultures, but instead multiple crops are grown next to each other in alternating rows, which enables more efficient utilisation of light, water and minerals. Together with the latest disease and pest control solutions, this leads to higher yields and less damage to the environment. These mixed cultivation systems are complex to manage and incompatible with the current large-scale mechanisation systems. The goal of this project is to explore, develop and test new solutions for the complex management of mixed cropping systems.

Dairy farming
The dairy farming industry is under close scrutiny due to its impact on the environment and the consumption / use of natural resources. The key to sustainable dairy farming is to decrease the carbon footprint of dairy products. One of the elements of this carbon footprint is the methane emissions of cows, and the Dutch dairy farming sector is faced with the challenge of substantially reducing these emissions. The currently available technologies and solutions are not sufficient to meet the national targets. AGROS will use fundamental knowledge to develop sensors that can measure the inputs (feed, water) and outputs (methane, urine, manure, milk) of individual cows and provide decision support.Over the next four years, the business community and the government will invest more than €6.5 million in this program.