AgroTechnoPôle Auvergne Rhône-Alpes: the creation of an unprecedented structure for innovation in Europe

A news release from the project backers

Creation of AgroTechnoPôle for innovation in agriculture: an ambitious European center focusing on mobility, robotics, safety, inputs and digital technology

At COP21 last December, all countries came to an agreement on the state of affairs and on clear and challenging environmental goals in which agriculture must play its part, particularly with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. The global outlook on water resources demands that we quickly change our practices and work toward advancing the agroecological transition. The area of land available for farming continues to decrease [1]. And yet, even in this increasingly restrictive environment, agriculture must pursue the goal of feeding 9 billion people in 2050, which would lead to an increase in agricultural production from 40% to 70%.

To address this challenge, agriculture must successfully manage the necessary changes, i.e., rethink its practices through the incorporation of innovative technological solutions, develop the corresponding skills and facilitate their dissemination. In this spirit of reform and enterprise, stakeholders in research, innovation and agriculture in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region have rallied around AgroTechnoPôle's European project, and Irstea is no exception.

AgroTechnoPôle

Backed by higher education and research (Irstea, Blaise Pascal University, Laboratory of Excellence IMobS3, Institut Pascal, LIMOS, VetAgroSup) and the ViaMéca competitiveness cluster and encouraged by industrial partners (Michelin, Limagrain), AgroTechnoPôle wants to create an ecosystem of innovation for agricultural machinery and digital agriculture. By building bridges between national and international stakeholders, AgroTechnoPôle aims to speed up and successfully manage innovations by fostering creativity and ensuring innovations are consistent with productivity goals and comply with social and environmental requirements.

AgroTechnoPôle meets identified, recently underlined needs:

  • The need for a structure to coordinate and bring together analysis, expertise and research in agricultural machinery [2]
  • The need for transformation in robotics and digital agricultural machinery for agroecological transition [3]
  • The need for places where researchers, innovative businesses and equipment manufacturers can come together to respond collectively to the challenges faced with the implementation of new agricultural technology and thus enable innovation.

Concretely, the AgroTechnoPôle project will consist of:

  1. A European research center focusing on first-rate themes: mobility, robotics, safety, inputs (fertilizers/seeds) and digital agriculture. Coordinated by Irstea, in collaboration with close academic partners: Institut Pascal, LIMOS especially within the framework of the Laboratory of Excellence IMobS3.
  2. A PRINSYP (Production and Integration of Intelligent and Powerful Systems) innovation platform, a ViaMéca initiative supported by the region. By mobilizing synergies between the research laboratories and innovative companies, this innovation platform (test, prototype) will participate in the accelerated development of new engineering solutions and products for the European industrial sector. It will also allow for the testing of robotized and computerized solutions under real and reproducible field conditions. It could be extended to vehicles used in other sectors for transport in unstructured environments (especially forestry and industrial machines and civil defense vehicles). PRINSYP will also actively work towards European standardization.
  3. An AgroTechnoCampus including the creation of a set of original initial training modules to meet new needs in the area of agricultural technology. Backed by the Clermont-Ferrand Academy (secondary and higher education) and stakeholders in agricultural education (agricultural schools, engineering schools), this will include setting up international curricula in line with European partners (Germany, Italy and Spain).

At the heart of a network of innovation

As the center of a network of innovation in the agricultural machinery sector, AgroTechnoPôle will bring its knowledge and equipment, renowned in Europe, to future regional experimental and demonstration platforms in France. It will also be able to support living labs (Territorial Innovation Laboratories on agricultural systems) currently under construction, integrating farmers and all interested parties.
Resources for the 5 million euro project will come from the contract to revitalize the Varennes-sur-Allier military site, the region's smart specialization strategy, Investments for the Future programs (especially the I-Site CAP2025 project, which will be filed again next September by the University of Clermont Auvergne, its academic and economic partners), and scientific projects backed by AgroTechnoPôle itself.

A scheme unique in Europe, AgroTechnoPôle relies on a collective of 150 people, researchers, teachers/researchers, engineers and technicians from the different partner organizations who are ready to start developing the projects today.

Development agenda

2016

  • Creation of a new PRINSYP platform for innovation with the launching of new infrastructures on the Montoldre site (Allier) in order to test the performance of robotic systems.
  • Establishment of the continuing training program with the provision of original initial modules.

2017

  • Development of basic training with the creation of "Multicomponent" interinstitutional courses. Original curricula such as "Mechatronics & Agronomy" will be offered in partnership with Clermont-Ferrand engineering schools. This training will be open to students from engineering science courses such as agronomy.
  • Inauguration of AgroTechnoPôle and the PRINSYP platform

By creating a European AgroTechnoPôle in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, stakeholders in research, innovation and agriculture provide a solid structural basis to fulfill the French ambition of leading Europe in the agriculture of tomorrow.

Signatories:

Jean-Marc Bournigal, President, Irstea
Marie-Danièle Campion, Rector, Clermont-Ferrand Academy
Gilles Pélurson, Regional Director of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes
Emmanuel Ladent, Agricultural Product Line Director, Michelin
Jean-Yves Foucault, President, Limagrain and Céréales Vallée     
Pierre-Michel Destret, President, ViaMéca
Mathias Bernard, President, Blaise Pascal University
Alain Eschalier, President, Council of Institutions Associated with Clermont Auvergne University & Associates
Stéphane Martinot, Director General, VetAgroSup 
Michel Dhome, Director of the Laboratory of Excellence IMobS3 and Institut Pascal   
Farouk Toumani, Director, LIMOS

For more information

[1] France loses the equivalent of a department in farmland every ten years
[2] Agricultural machinery task force (Report by Bournigal) submitted in 2014 to the Ministries of Agriculture, Industry and Research.

[3] Agriculture Innovation 2025 task force (report by Bournigal, Houllier, Lecouvey, Pringuet) submitted in 2015 to the Ministries of Agriculture, Higher Education and Research, and Digital Technology.