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The increasing potential of data-driven precision agriculture

APOLLO aims to bring the benefits of precision agriculture to farmers through affordable information services, making extensive use of free and open Earth Observation data.

APOLLO is an EU project aiming to develop agricultural advisory services targeting primarily, but not exclusively, smallholder farmers. The project aims at introducing the benefits of precision agriculture to farmers through affordable information services, making extensive use of free and open Earth Observation data, such as these provided by the EU’s Copernicus programme. APOLLO services will monitor the growth and health of crops and will offer to the farmers a set of farm advices with information on when to irrigate and till their fields, as well as estimation on the size of their harvest. APOLLO will help farmers with decision making and ultimately these interventions should lead to less waste, higher yields – and therefore increased profitability and competitiveness.

The APOLLO project brings together nine partners from five European countries (Greece, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Serbia), and combines expertise in agronomy, agricultural services, soil science, numerical weather prediction, remote sensing and Earth Observation. The consortium is proud to include two farmers’ associations – the Agricultural Cooperative of Pella in Greece, and the Association of Farmers of the Municipality of Ruma in Serbia, who will pilot and test the early versions of the services. A third pilot will be carried out in Spain.

APOLLO responds to a series of challenges facing the agricultural sector as a whole, and smallholder farmers in particular. Global population growth means that farmers will need to grow twice as much as they do today in order to feed the planet’s 9 billion inhabitants. At the same time, there is less land available for agricultural production, thanks to the expanding population, soil erosion and water scarcity. Finally, there are social and regulatory pressures on farmers to reduce their environmental impact: in other words, to use less pesticides, fertilizer, water and fuel.

Precision agriculture can help to address these challenges. Detailed information about the state and health of crops allows farmers to apply chemicals and water in the precise quantities required, where and when they are needed. This approach is extensively used by large-scale farm managers, but is still relatively new to small-scale farmers, who often cannot afford heavy investments in new technologies. APOLLO aims to open up the precision agriculture market by making affordable and easy-to-use agricultural advisory services available to farmers, farmer associations and agricultural consultants.

APOLLO is one of the two strategic earth observation projects that DRAXIS Environmental coordinates, and through these the company is aiming to make the big step from providing geospatial services for the environmental sector, to providing earth observation services for the precision agriculture sector.