OccitANum: the Living Lab on Digital Agroecology in Occitanie, winner of the French “Territoires d’innovation” action

The Living Lab “OccitANum –Digital Agroecology in Occitanie” is the winner of the call for projects “Territoires d’Innovation” managed by Caisse des Dépôts through the Banque des Territoires for the French state in the framework of the major investment plan (PIA). In total, the project involves 49 partners around the nine project leaders, including regional authorities (the Occitanie Region), development and regional stakeholders (the regional Chamber of Agriculture and the Occitanie departmental chambers, the Coop de France Occitanie confederation), AgTech companies and several cooperatives, as well as research and training stakeholders led by#DigitAg. More specifically, the #DigitAg Convergence Lab will mobilise teams from IRSTEA, INRA and Montpellier SupAgro to build action research in order to understand and optimise the living lab, to study the impact of existing and emerging innovations, and to create knowledge through the data and information collected in an observatory..

 

Agriculture is the most important economic sector in Occitanie. The goal of OccitANum is to mobilise digital technologies to accelerate the implementation of the agriculture and food of tomorrow in Occitanie, in support of the regional pact for agriculture and food (PACTE). The OccitANum project was submitted last April in response to the call for projects “Territoires d’innovation” under the Investissements d’Avenir programme launched in November 2018 by the Secrétariat Général pour l’Investissement and the Banque des Territoires. Through a regional alliance strategy, the goal of this call is to propose new models that specifically address the challenges of the ecological, energy, digital, demographic and social transitions. Innovative, experimental services that can be replicated need to be implemented, especially for the “digital transition” and “agricultural sector transformation, including agroecology” areas. These IT projects (e.g. TIGA) must associate public and private stakeholders, communities and users, academia and research.

Project partners

OccitANum, a living lab deployed in agricultural territories in the Occitanie region

A living lab is an open innovation laboratory. In this innovation system, the users are no longer simply end-users, but become actors and collaborators. Authorities, public and private stakeholders, companies and users all cooperate around a common objective: “full-scale” testing of new services, tools and uses. This is a new action research mechanism that takes research and development outside of laboratories and brings innovations face-to-face with real life situations in order to assess their use values.

In the case of OccitANum, both farmers and consumers are placed at the centre of the mechanism to test and develop innovative tools that meet their requirements. The mechanism will be deployed in an “archipelago” of pilot areas, known as “Open Labs”, across the whole region with the CORE as the “nerve centre” for coordination, support actions and shared resources.

For both of these areas, the approach will be progressively rolled out across the whole region.

 

Open innovation to accelerate the transformation of regional agriculture through digital technologies

The goal of the project is to build on digital technologies and open innovation to accelerate the transformation of agriculture while meeting the demands of society: reducing the environmental impact of agriculture (agroecology), more effectively capturing added value, restoring agriculture to a prominent position in society (inclusion of farmers), and producing healthy local food. The Occitanie region, which has made these challenges central to its regional policy, can be a leader in this field.

The challenges

  • increasing farmers’ income by 30 %, engaging 50 % of farmers in the agro-ecological transition;
  • selling 50 % of regional production in short supply chains, ensuring 30 % local supplies in mass catering;
  • rebuilding the linkage between agriculture and society;
  • increasing the activity of regional AgTech companies by 20 %;
  • contributing to the regional renewable energy strategy with 160 MW peak of agri-voltaics by 2027.

L’objectif du projet est de s’appuyer sur les technologies numériques et l’innovation ouverte pour accélérer la transformation de l’agriculture tout en répondant à la demande sociétale : réduire l’impact environnemental de l’agriculture (agro-écologie), mieux capter la valeur ajoutée, lui redonner une place de choix dans la société (inclusion des agriculteurs) et produire une alimentation saine et locale. L’Occitanie, qui a posé des 2 enjeux au coeur de la politique régionale, peut être leader en la matière.

 

An archipelago living lab: Open labs, pilot areas (Viticulture / Field crops / Arboriculture / Livestock / Apiculture / Peri-urban market gardening / Local food) + the CORE, the centre for the promotion and perpetuation of the project. Open-labs <> CORE; Exchange of resources: knowledge, data, etc.

Actions tested within pilot production areas

OccitANum proposes implementing actions organised around three areas. The experiments conducted in the pilot areas will eventually be rolled out across the whole region.

  • for the agro-ecological, economic and social transitions in agriculture:
    • developing digital tools for agroecology: monitoring crops through remote sensing, reducing inputs with decision support tools, tracing and promoting grass-fed livestock practices;
    • developing digital tools for farmers’ income: renting agricultural material, monitoring apiculture and biodiversity, dynamic agri-voltaics (improving production and generating energy in a context of climate change);
    • supporting changes in agriculture and food through experimental open labs set up in areas where viticulture, field crops, fruit trees, and livestock systems are predominant, and maintaining biodiversity through apiculture.
  • In order to deploy local food supplies: increasing peri-urban market gardening, facilitating the implementation of local supply chains and sustainable short supply chain logistics, establishing a “product passport” to guarantee the transparency of product information.
  • In order to capitalise on, coordinate and promote the mechanism, the OccitANum CORE will establish an agricultural data portal, as well as training courses to raise awareness about digital technologies, but also to replicate experiments conducted at the regional level. It will ensure the transfer of knowledge to farmers and implement research actions to exploit the data and information collected.

 

Contact : Véronique Bellon-Maurel – veronique.bellon [AT] irstea.fr