The European Commission DG CNECT (unit AI, robotics) organised a workshop on 21 June in relation to the set-up of large Testing and Experimentation Facilities (TEFs) for Agri-Food. The main focus is on the deployment of Artificial Intelligence due to its ability for autonomous behaviour, and especially advanced AI technologies like robotics. Testing facilities should be close to users in order to make it user driven. 

Therefore, TEFs could provide certification or validation of AI technologies in order to create trust in the agricultural sector on the use of these new technologies and provide means for AI developers, which could be SMEs but also large companies, to learn quicker and to use facilities that are difficult to develop on their own. The idea is to develop a stronger link between TEFs and Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) and that per sector a selected number of TEFs are created.

For agriculture a budget of €30M is foreseen and €5M will come as European support. This will allow the development of 6 TEFs that will be set up under co-funding (50%) rules. Therefore partners in a consortium must be allocated national funding. 

Building on experiences

Dr Stefan Stiene from DFKI in Osnabrück  explained the experiences they build on testing facilities in large farms to accommodate for the many different operations, crops and field conditions. While Kees Lockhorst (WUR), speaking for AgROBOfood stressed that existing DiHs like Wageningen University and Research already cover many subsectors in agriculture and could be used to develop TEFs by specialisation, cooperation and dedicated business models. 

The call for consortia is expected to be launched by the end of 2021.