FIGARO, (Flexible and Precision Irrigation Platform to Improve Farm Scale Water Productivity) is a European wide research project, which aims to increase water productivity in major water-demanding crops and develop a cost-effective precision irrigation platform. FIGARO focuses on significantly reducing the use of fresh water on farm level through developing a cost-effective, precision irrigation management platform. The European-wide consortium developed a holistic and structured precision irrigation platform, which offers farmers flexible, crop oriented management tool with DSS (Decision Supporting System) module to optimize irrigation and fertilizers dosing. Moreover, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations promotes sustainable agriculture ensures maximum reach of dissemination and exploitation activities on a pan European level and worldwide.
The project also contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and adaptation of agriculture to climate change.
FIGARO is co-funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development.
“Reducing fresh water use in irrigated agriculture to contribute to the environment sustainability and adaptation of agriculture to climate change”.
The efficient and effective use of water in irrigation systems is of critical importance for sustainable agricultural development and overall economic growth. This is particularly true in light of global population growth, the decreased availability of freshwater, increased energy costs, global climate change and consequently environmental and agricultural policy reforms. The risk is not associated only with water consumption, but involves significant energy consumption with economic and environmental consequences that entails.
The concept of precision irrigation is a new frontier for optimizing the use of water resources. FIGARO wishes to introduce a system that supports growers in making irrigation decisions aimed at reducing the use of water, energy and fertilizer, while crop productivity is maximized. Precision irrigation brings a promising innovation to irrigated agriculture because it facilitates the accomplishment of current policy.
The objective of the FIGARO project is to significantly reduce the use of fresh water on farm level through developing a cost-effective, precision irrigation management platform. The FIGARO platform collects real-time data captured by sensors installed in farmers’ fields, by remote satellite meteorological data from weather forecast stations. It utilizes in addition simulations models calibrated for various crops, soils and climate. The data is fed into state-of-the-art agronomic models in order to provide accurate, precise and reliable recommendations for how and when farmers should irrigate and in this way make the best farm operation decisions.
The platform also enables reduction of fertilizer use, further supporting sustainable use of natural resources and adaption of agricultural practice to climate change.
The major beneficiaries of the FIGARO platform include:
- The environment -overall reduction in use of fresh water for irrigation and the consequent reduction in the water footprint.
- Individual farmers - by employing the platform, farmers fulfill their obligation to save water in compliance to the growing trend of European regulation forcing the use of managed irrigation.
- The food industry- companies buying agricultural products grown with the FIGARO Platform will benefit twice. First, by better compliance with regulation forcing them to lower the environmental impact of their businesses. Second, by promoting themselves as environmentally friendly business by achieving the label “environmentally friendly farming practices used in our products lowered water footprint.”
- Policy and Decision makers - will gain tools for monitoring and management of agricultural practices including irrigation, fertigation, and use of saline/brackish water. With the use of the FIGARO Platform, they will be able to administer more effectively and accurately natural resources, such as water and energy.
- Consumers of Europe and beyond- will benefit from healthier and higher quality food products, which have been produced with more sustainable practices e.g. use of less fertilizers and using minimal amount of water.
The FIGARO Consortium is industry driven. It is coordinated by Netafim, a large multinational company specializing in irrigation technology. FIGARO includes an additional six businesses with proven expertise in precise irrigation related technologies and eight academic institutions. The partners contributes collectively their vast experience and expertise.
The Consortium includes also the Regional Union of Municipalities of Eastern Macedonia – Thrace, a government body, which represents an end user, which would be implementing policy instruments related to irrigation management. Another partner, research institute CER, acts as the main water stakeholder and scientific point of reference for the Emilia Romagna regional government, Institutional Water Stakeholders.