Smart Farming

In 2017, ISA Lille was awarded an Erasmus+ Key Action 02 grant for a project on Smart Farming (Precision Agriculture) and new technologies. This three-year program (2017-2020) focuses on cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices at the European level. 

What is Smart Farming?

Smart Farming, or Precision agriculture (PA), is a way to “apply the right treatment at the right place at the right time” (Gebbers and Adamchuk, 2010). It can be defined as the use of sensing technology in order to optimize farms and agricultural activities, in crops or livestock, through the wide analysis and capitalization of collected data. The main goal of this technique is to rationalize the use of inputs (phytopharmaceuticals, fertilizers, petrol,…) thanks to sensors or analysis of data such as weather data, soil-mapping or crop yields, and by relying on the precision of modern and highly efficient position systems (GPS, RTK,…) and the modularity of today’s agricultural tools. 


Smart Farming, or Precision Agriculture, meets today’s need of reducing production cost (viability) and environmental impact: produce more in a more sustainable way, at a lesser cost, with an improved efficiency of input. We are today at the crossroad of agricultural techniques and mechatronics technologies that have to be combined on the field and in the student’s training to ensure future professionals in the sector.

“The main challenge for EU agriculture will be its ability to ensure a high level of production while improving the protection of natural resources” (European Parliament’s study P/B/AGRI/IC/2013_153).

Decisions on pesticides, such as the directive 2009/128/EC or the last changes in the CAP Greening resolutions show the will of the European Community to change for a more environment-friendly agriculture, while keeping high levels of production. PA can answer these two issues by providing a way to reduce the use of agricultural inputs: a competitiveness gain (less inputs for the same production level) and an environmental gain (less fuel and crop protection agents).

Our program aims at answering these issues, through the following specific objectives by:

  • developing a high-quality European teaching network on the subject 
  • establishing perennial European partnerships between higher education institutions, public contracting authorities and businesses for the improvement of European higher education that is more in tune with the labour market 
  • training three very specific student cohorts over the program and by providing them new skills, in a transdisciplinary field: agronomy, robotics, data analysis, GIS, etc. 
  • participating in the training of many other students and professionals by making all of the courses completed during the program available via free public access (open on-line) 
  • cultivating research partnerships between higher education institutions and the professional agricultural organizations for the marketing of innovative and sustainable technologies, in order to best accompany the sector’s development as well as their actors (farmers, agricultural organizations, etc.).

Subject Areas

Our Smart Farming program is focused on using new technology in Crop Production. The purpose of this project is to raising students’ awareness of new technologies and teach them how to use them in order to meet industry need for these skills. Going from sensors to robotics by way of information processing, we aim to help students develop the transdisciplinary skills needed to work in Precision Agriculture.

In this project, we have tried to identify complementary expertise, at each partner institution, to cover the different key points of PA. Each partner will therefore bring its very specific knowledge and experience in a specialization useful for this project: teledetection, GIS, robotics, mechatronics, plant science, etc. Each partner has been identified for its particular expertise and the added-value that he/she would bring to the project and its content:

  • UTAD Portugal is a specialist in GIS, Teledetection and e-learning. Their principal studies deal with southern crops (viticulture).
  • NMBU Norway focuses particularly on robotics and their application in crops.
  • SLU Sweden deals with sensors and image analysis, particularly on northern crop systems.
  • University of Helsinki, Finland, focuses on the automation, systems technology and modelling, applied to northern crop systems.
  • University of Liège – Gembloux Agrobiotech, Belgium will offer a broad range of skills with modelling and geo-statistics, mechatronics and remote sensing. They are specialists on Central Europe crop systems.
  • Perrotis College, Greece deals with remote sensing and computerized farm machinery applied to southern crops such as viticulture and olive trees.
  • ISA Lille – Yncréa Hauts-de-France has expertise in crop systems, robotics and GIS. It also has a solid experience in innovative teaching methods (co-design projects and active learning).


The principle teaching modalities are: 

  • E-learning (Refresher Course) 
  • Group projects 
  • Intensive program in Sweden including practicals and field visits 
  • Internship in a partner company 

Students will be evaluated through their project work. 

The principle objectives and subject areas are: 

Sensor technologies 

What kind of sensors are used and will be used in the future in Precision Agriculture? 

Leader: SLU Sweden; Members: Perrotis College, U. Helsinki Finland 

Keywords: sensors (weather, image, sound, motion data acquisition), internet of things, sensors connection, wireless sensor networks 

Data analysis and modelling 

What can be done with data coming from these sensors? 

Leader: Gembloux AgroBioTech; Members: ISA Lille – Yncréa HDF, Perrotis College 

Keywords: data storage, data analysis, image processing, programming, data manageent, big data, statistics, modeling 

Geomatics and remote sensing 

How to analyze and interpret spatial data? 

Leader: Perrotis College; Members: UTAD, SLU 

Keywords: Geographical Information System (GIS), Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) 

Automation and Mechanics 

How to use collected and analyzed data as input for automated tools and machines? 

Leader: University of Helsinki; Members: Gembloux AgroBioTech, NMBU 


What are the role of robots in agriculture? 

Leader: NMBU; Members: ISA Lille – Yncréa HDF, UTAD 

Results and Impact 

This section will be updated throughout the project, so check back often for the latest information. 

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