The State is releasing 65 million euros to put digital technology at the service of the agroecological transition
The priority research program and equipment (PEPR) “Agroecology and digital” was born. This PEPR, presented in more detail on Friday, January 6, 2023, is led by Inrae and Inria. These institutions were selected following the publication of the white paper “Agriculture and digital technology: opportunities, risks and lines of thought for responsible digital agriculture” presented at the 2022 International Agricultural Show.
65 million euros over 8 years
“This PEPR is granted 65 million euros over 8 years to support, develop and integrate research in agroecology and digital technology”, simply explained by Philippe Mauguin, president of Inrae. The funding was released within the framework of France 2030. The program aims to position itself as an important element of the entire research and innovation strategy around sustainable agriculture. This more global approach consists of other elements such as a priority program “cultivation and protection in other ways” launched in 2022 that focuses on alternatives to phytosanitary products; or another PEPR soon to be launched in advanced varietal selection.
The “Agroecology and Digital” PEPR, which aims to position itself as an important element, wants to be highly inclusive by seeking to include all organizations and research institutes in its design and implementation. The idea is both to strengthen and develop skills around research and innovation, but also to involve farmers in this transition. The field of human and social sciences is therefore at the heart of its work.
13 projects have been started
Part of these PEPR credits are already allocated to Inrae and Inria co-design projects as the aim is to start quickly. Those are “10 research projects and 3 infrastructure projects funded with almost 26 million euros, or about 40% of the funds”, explained Philippe Mauguin.
Among which AgroDIV which focuses on describing the genetic diversity of animal and plant species in France. About 20,000 plants and 8,000 animals will be studied. The objective is to reduce inputs by selecting varieties and breeds adapted to constraints, by linking varieties at the plot level or by making species associations. All while preserving biodiversity.
The Ninja Project, meanwhile, aims to develop elementary mobile robots at low cost and with environmental action capabilities. They will also coordinate these robots and see if they can coordinate to perform certain tasks and adapt. The Pl@ntAgroEco project It aims to improve the PlantNet plant identification application, resulting in particular from the Inria laboratories. The researchers want to go further in the aspect of agroecology by developing, for example, a solution for identifying plant diseases.
Upcoming calls for projects
The remaining amount allocated to the PEPR should benefit the national community: two calls for projects will be opened for a total of 32 million euros. The first should be launched at the end of the year for the start in 2024. The second will open in about two years so that the project leaders can possibly rely on the first research results. At the same time, other annual calls for projects will be used in particular to finance doctoral and postdoctoral contracts.
“PEPR will be complemented by a major challenge in robotics, which is part of the same acceleration strategy”, adds Philippe Mauguin. It has been granted funding of 20 million euros, in addition to PEPR, and is co-manager in the RobAgri association. The goal is to go further in the application of intelligent robotic solutions for agroecological transition.
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