The first edition of the Master’s in Digital Agriculture and Agri-food Innovation from the University of Seville (Spain) is being closely followed by the Sparkle project and a large part of Europe for its training in digital transformation in agriculture. From the beginning of the design of this master, it was clear that needed to involve leading companies in the agri-food sector to training our students. The idea behind this relationship between the university and companies is, first of all, to provide students with the skills that are really in demand in the sector. On the other hand, the aim is for students to have first-hand knowledge of the real challenges faced by the sector every day, and to be able to develop their own solutions using new technologies.
In this sense, the students have started an activity called “Innovation Challenges” that will lead them to develop and present their own solution to five problems raised by five major agri-food companies: BASF, Corteva Agriscience, Agrosap, Tepro Consultores and Irriplant. Using agile innovation methodologies such as Lean Startup or Design Thinking, they are analysing the “points of interest” indicated by these companies and are beginning to design solutions that can drive real improvements for agricultural professionals. The students are facing this task in working groups of four or five members, each assigned to a specific challenge. This is an activity that will extend throughout the duration of the Master and is focused in a very special way to provide them with competences for the implementation of profitable, viable and market-oriented digital transformation projects. In order to achieve the objectives of the activity, the students have an interlocutor in each of the collaborating companies, who is in constant contact with them to guide them and provide them with information and advice based on their work experience.
The challenges set out in this first edition are as follows:
– BASF Challenge. Reduction of the impact on the worker and operator of a greenhouse, which would imply the use of closed system (e.g. reduction of worker’s exposure to phytosanitary products in greenhouses). The group assigned to this challenge has presented an initial proposal based on the use of an intelligent package capable of monitoring and collecting data on the use of the products and which is also compatible with future autonomous application systems and with the use of application robots in greenhouses.
– Corteva Agriscience Challenge. Satellite crop monitoring service: valuation, fit and future. The students launched a battery of ideas related to the integration of new sensors and remote sensing systems to this service. They were also concerned about the value of this service for farmers.
- Agrosap Challenge (DronSap). Optimize workflow with drones in precision farming and first steps in an effective business model. The students agreed on the difficulty of this challenge, but indicated that the creation and use of input prescription maps for farms could be a good option. Do not give the farmer a drone map but a nitrogen fertilizer map to be applied in the field.
– Tepro Consultores Challenge. Management of extensive cattle without shepherd (ePastor). The students have proposed semi-automatic systems of opening and closing fences for the passage of livestock depending on the use of different areas, remotely monitor the health, physical and reproductive status of livestock (pregnant, empty and farrowing, detection of births …).
– Irriplant Challenge. Web solution for precision irrigation and preventive maintenance of hydraulic installations. The first steps have been taken for the design and configuration of the web monitoring in real time and sending irrigation orders both in frequency and quantity of water to pivots.
It is expected that at the end of the Master the students will be able to present a definitive proposal in which their adaptation to the needs of the users to whom it is addressed, their economic viability and the innovative character of their idea will be especially valued.