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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-09-01 - 2025-08-31

Large areas of agricultural land in W. and N. Africa are heavily degraded, with water scarcity, low soil fertility and poor plant health, due to use of unsuitable agronomic systems and inappropriate management. In W. Africa, poor water, organic matter and nutrient retention limit food productivity, whilst in N. Africa, salinisation, wind erosion, formation of crusts and compaction threaten rainfed cropland and silvopasture. The low food productivity, poor resilience and unsustainability of current approaches have severe socioeconomic and environmental consequences. The overall goal of SustInAfrica is to empower smallholder farmers, small and medium enterprises and various government and non-governmental organisations in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Egypt and Tunisia to successfully intensify food production and deliver ecosystem services in a sustainable and resilient manner. This will be achieved through: A) comprehensive analysis of i) local/regional target ecosystems; ii) currently applied and potential landscape, soil, water and plant health management strategies and agronomic systems; iii) relevant actors across supply/value chains; iv) business models and policies; v) challenges and threats to production; B) development of technologies, including a smart platform supporting farmers in decision-making, concerning factors assessed in A); C) implementation of field trials at target sites, combining traditional knowledge, sustainable strategies and systems (agroecology, agroforestry, organic farming) and modern technologies (developed apps/platform); D) communication/dissemination/education/training to inform stakeholders/consumers and empower smallholders (especially women/youths); E) exploiting/continuing approaches/technologies for improved productivity/ecosystem services, long-term self-sufficiency beyond the project, reduced hunger/poverty and gender/wealth disparity, reduced environmental impact, long-term local food sectors growth/increased economic benefit.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-10-01 - 2025-09-30

FRAMEwork is constructed around the “Farmer Cluster” approach that is bottom-up, farmer- led and has been successfully implemented in the UK on over quarter of a million hectares. FRAMEWORK will enrich and innovate existing Farmer Clusters by liaising with local and (inter)national stakeholder groups, and set up new, multi-actor, Farmer Clusters in different cropping systems in Europe, based on existing collaborations. The Farmer Clusters will be united in a European-wide self-sustaining network, the Citizen Observatory and Information Hub that will facilitate farmer and citizen-based collection and sharing of harmonised, high-quality information on biodiversity and farming, and develop engaging online and offline activities to amplify awareness and understanding of biodiversity and BSF across different stakeholders in Europe. The scientific contribution to these citizen-based activities will deliver the following outcomes: 1) Advanced ecological understanding of the drivers of biodiversity change in agricultural landscapes¸2) a Decision Support Tool (DST) for the selection of biodiversity-sensitive management by farmers based on their local requirement; 3) a DST to support biodiversity targeting, monitoring and evaluation and 4) private and public incentives to foster biodiversity-sensitive farming as a public good. Furthermore, FRAMEwork will assess the effectiveness of the Farmer Cluster approach to develop and implement place and system-specific biodiversity-sensitive farming practices and evaluate the economic and environmental performance, delivering a permanent on-line evaluation tool on the Citizen Observatory and Information Hub. The TRL of the DSTs ranges from 3-5, where improvements are foreseen for the TRL5 DST, while the ones at TRL3 will be brought to TRL4-5 through testing and improvements in the Farmers Clusters. FRAMEwork will be innovative in the way in which it will implement EU ethics, data protection and gender regulations.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-03-01 - 2022-08-31

For decades farming decisions have been made without considering the consequences on soil and humus, and, thus on societal costs due to erosion and ground water pollution. The most important resource for agriculture is the soil, its fertility and its interdependen-cies with greenhouse gas emissions. Austria with its world leading position in organic farming requires new concepts to address climate change and climate variability to sup-port its farmers and society. AI4CROPR represents unique research in Austria on an international level and offers high potential for the development of an innovative product. The project targets famers, agri-cultural companies, municipalities and cities, and decision makers in the agricultural sec-tor. AI4CROPR will i) develop assessment methods and approaches for an economic valuation of selected soil system services of crops and crop rotations (e.g., for society), (e.g., allowing to identify crop rotations based on CO2 limitations ), ii) use Explainable AI to get more insight into explaining how a specific deci-sion was made, iii) build up on hybrid learning to combine the heterogonous data sources, identify specific features and deal with limited number of training samples, iv) detect divergent behaviour over time due to data drift or adversarial input data attacks, and v) include the new models in a usable discussion support system prototype working together with stakeholders from practice to ensure validation and verification of the sys-tem under real-world conditions. AI4CROPR develops methods to support stakeholders in achieving their legal obligations related to greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. set by the Kyoto protocol, the Europe 2020 targets, the 2030 Energy Strategy, etc.) and raise awareness for the ambitious climate goals by showing them the consequences of decisions (on soil, emissions, income, etc.) in agriculture.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations