The integrated R&D project SNAP is centered on research excellence in the fields of expertise of CMUP (http://cmup.fc.up.pt), Green UPorto (http://.pt), ICT (http://.pt), and SYSTEC (http://systec.fe.up.pt), in order to develop the scientific and technological knowledge of selected agro processes targeting the ability of their sustainable management and control in various contexts, including the multiple types of the so called Plant Factories or Vertical Farms.
The relevance of SNAP is huge since feeding large urban centers by timely supplying food, as well as a variety of medicinal or cosmetic products of vegetal origin produced in locations close to them entails substantial cuts in food costs and anthropogenic footprint, due to the significant decrease in environmental pressure in rural environments, in transportation, distribution, storage, and conservation. Moreover, the envisaged capability of controlling plant growth in a strongly controlled, and minimally intrusive context promotes not only a whole new level of food security, but also practically minimize the different market supply and consumer acquisition times which strongly mitigates the loss of perishable foods.
The added value to the state-of-the-art consists in showing the – still, currently elusive - economic sustainability by the multidisciplinary integration of knowledge from biology, agricultural processes, mathematical modelling of complex systems – notably distributed systems – control and optimization techniques to synthesize the best management and control strategies, as well as novel automation approaches to deploy them, and novel resources and production management frameworks – some of which, adapted from the industrial contexts – in order to decrease production costs by consuming less resources, such as, water, and electrical power.
Thus the goal is to generate know-how able to sustain a rapid transition of R&D results to disruptive innovations transformational for the sustainable management and control of Agriculture Production Systems, which is a major goal of RIS agenda of the Região NORTE of Portugal.
a) Extraction of scientific and technological objectives and requirements. These objectives are beyond the current state-of-the-art in order to target the incorporation of “intelligence” or “smartness” into agro-production systems, and processes in order to achieve more environmentally sustainable and economically competitive governance of agricultural systems.
b) Development of specific pertinent R&D activities in the consortium fields of expertise - notably, Biological processes , modelling and simulation , Control, Optimization, Computation, Estimation, Identification, Forecasting, Energy, Automation, Production management, Simulation, and Process Systems Engineering - in order to shape engineering design frameworks (system concept proving, prototyping, testing and validation) that will ensure the guarantees of the superior competitiveness, and, even the disruptive nature, of functionalities while satisfying more sophisticated requirements.
c) Design of relevant simulation scenarii prototypes of advanced controlled agro production systems satisfying the requirements and enabling to target the objectives specified a) by using the specific know how targeted in b).
d) Design, implementation, testing and validation of the optimal management and control schemes ensuring sustainability relying on the results obtained in b) in the concrete application scenarii selected in c). These encompass the design and operational testing of decision support and control systems reconciling the economic competitiveness the agro production system with the competitive market requirements, and the strict sustainable environmental goals.
The governance of the project will see that the extraction of scientific and technological objectives directly from the context of specified challenges, and takes advantage of the extremely rich dynamics inherent to the exogenous sources of innovation, and, thus, maximizes the disruptive potential of the obtained results. This effort encompasses not only the internationalization dimension which is critical to the truly beyond the state-of-the-art nature of the research results, but also, to an intimate strategic bidirectional interaction with enterprises, and other organizations both in the context of stakeholders and users. Moreover, the usage of the project resources and the research cooperative praxis will be such that new research contracts will be generated in order to amplify the resources available to pursue and evolve the project long term goals for the benefit of the Região NORTE of Portugal.