APOLLO services will be piloted during the project in three countries of continental Europe: Greece, Serbia and Spain. The pilots will be user-driven, and implemented with the direct participation of two farmers’ associations – the Agricultural Cooperative of Pella (ACP) in Greece and the Association of Farmers of the Municipality of Ruma (UPOR) in Serbia – and an SME providing farm management services (Agrisat in Spain) . The pilots will provide an opportunity to validate the APOLLO service platform and business case, and pave the way for future deployment in other European countries.
The fertile Giannitsa valley in Pella Municipality, Central Macedonia Prefecture in northern Greece, is the largest in the region.
The Ruma region in Vojvodina province, northern Serbia, relies heavily on its agricultural sector, thanks in part to its fertile soil and acquiescent topography.
The Mancha Oriental area is a large, flat semi-arid area South-East of the Iberian Peninsula containing 500K ha of agricultural land.
The fertile Giannitsa valley in Pella Municipality, Central Macedonia Prefecture in northern Greece, is the largest in the region. ACP is established in the city of Giannitsa, a few kilometres from ancient Pella, Alexander the Great’s birthplace. The Giannitsa region has a transitional climate zone that is characterised by cold winters and hot and dry summers. Giannitsa valley receives high precipitation during winter but less during summer. Its fertile land is cultivated with a variety of crops such as cotton, maize, wheat, peaches, apricots, cherries and others, and a significant proportion of Giannitsa’s population is occupied with agricultural activities. Farm and field sizes in the region are small, with fields spanning 1-2 ha on average and total farm size ranging between 10 and 30 ha.
The Greek APOLLO pilot in Pella will be carried out with the support of the Agricultural Cooperative of Pella (ACP) and the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA). ACP has over 10.000 active members growing a variety of crops, including cotton, cereals and orchards, over a total area of 60.000 hectares. The cooperative has an active history in using Geographic Information Systems and Earth Observation tools. It was the first cooperative in Greece to use Earth Observation tools for crop identification and area estimation.
APOLLO services will be tested on irrigated cotton and rain-fed durum wheat fields in the pilot area. For cotton cultivation, services will be tested and validated during the whole production process, from soil preparation to cotton harvest. The total arable land dedicated to cotton-growing in the ACP pilot is 13.000 hectares. For durum wheat, all APOLLO services except the Irrigation Scheduling service will be used, as it is a rain-fed crop. The total arable land dedicated to durum wheat production in ACP is 8.500 hectares. Agricultural consultants collaborating with the ACP will also take part in the pilot.
The Ruma region in Vojvodina province, northern Serbia, relies heavily on its agricultural sector, thanks in part to its fertile soil and acquiescent topography. The Municipality of Ruma has 54,339 citizens. 11,302 persons are employed in agriculture and of them 11,007 at family holdings. There are 5,579 agricultural holdings in the Municipality of Ruma and the total Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA) is 41,336 ha. Average UAA per holding in the Municipality is 7.41 ha. The relative area of the crops (sowing structure) is: 50% maize, 20% wheat, 8% soya, 6% vegetables, 5% fodder crops, 3% sunflower, 2.6% sugar beet, 2% permanent crops, 1% tobacco and 1% barley. The average UAA per holding is 33 ha, but there are 170 members with holding area less than 20 ha. The Association of farmers of the Municipality of Ruma, Vojvodina, will implement the pilot case in Serbia.
The Association represents a significant number of small farmers (330) who are willing to improve their agricultural practices and adopt new technologies. Despite Ruma’s thriving agricultural sector, neither small farmers nor local agricultural consultants have access to, or make use of advanced agricultural information. Small farmers and agricultural consultants (members or affiliates of the Association) will be directly involved in the pilot testing and implementation.
The pilot case will cover the entire crop production cycle for a variety of different crops namely maize, wheat, soya, vegetables, and fodder crops. The consultants involved in the pilot will incorporate the information provided on the test parcels into their advisory practice.
La Mancha Oriental, Spain
The La Mancha Oriental area is characterised by having a relatively flat surface with an average height of 650m. It is located in the South-East of the Iberian Peninsula, at 39.7N-38.6N and 2.53W-0.9W, in the Jucar River Basin. It occupies about 10.000 km² of which more than 500.000 ha are devoted to agriculture. The area has a semi-arid climate with annual precipitation below 350 mm and evapotranspiration above 1200 mm. Its main characteristic is a high variation between seasons and between years, according to the Mediterranean-Continental type. The averages temperatures vary between 5 ºC on January to 24 ºC during July. The oscillation between dry and wet years ranges from 124 mm to 750 mm. The total population is close to 400.000 and the biggest settlements are Albacete (170.000 inhabitants) and La Roda (16.000 inhabitants).
The soil is shallow with a limestone bedrock. It is highly variable with sandy loam, loam and clay loam texture, often stony but easy to cultivate and quite fertile under appropriate agronomic management. The area features mainly medium to large farms with 70% of the farms being larger than 100 ha. Around 10% of the farms practice organic agriculture and 7,5% conservation agriculture. Dominant crops in the region are: wheat, Barley, Vines, Alfalfa, Onion, Garlic, Poppy and Legumes.
The water for irrigation is mainly supplied by groundwater (93%). Agriculture is the largest water consumer amounting to 95% of the water demand, with 89% of the supplied water being used by individual farmers and 6% by water user associations. Regarding irrigation technology, only pressurised systems are used: in annual crops: central pivot (75%) and other sprinkler systems (25%), in woody crops: drip irrigation (100%).
The Mancha Oriental Aquifer is a large groundwater body that is connected to the Jucar River in terms of drainage and recharge. The groundwater level lies at a depth of 60-200 m. The aquifers is threatened by over-extraction and does not currently qualify for “good status” as defined in the EU Water Framework Directive. The largest part of the area is a designated Nitrogen Vulnerable Zone, in which the amount of applied nitrogen is restricted.
AgriSat will be responsible for the implementation of the APOLLO pilot in Spain. AgriSat is an SME with a long-standing experience in delivering high-technology farm management solutions, as well as in the development of a range of holistic and innovative participatory validation approaches. The pilot in Spain will take place in selected farmlands irrigated by the La-Mancha Oriental Aquifer Management Board, an area of 100.000 hectares, containing large farm holdings along with associations of small farm groupings, such as SORETA.