The Agriponic project was born in a logic of sharing experiences in Siciliy and Tunisia for the promotion of innovative crops oriented to the main guidelines at European level in terms of sustainability and technological innovation.The search path is based on soilless techniques of agricultural production without substrate in closed loop. The project led to the creation of an aeroponic greenhouse with experimental cultivations of aromatic plants, vegetables and herbs, placed on special conduits with perforated bases that support plant and roots. Such aeroponic greenhouses grow in harsh environments and obtained excellent results in terms of product's quantity, quality and environmental respect. Through the aeroponic technology the productivity grows 50 times if compared to the traditional methods, it is guaranteed the healthiness of products that do not contain any pesticides and the consumption of energy, water, fertilizers and nutrients is reduced to the essentials.
Municipality of Ragusa - ItalyLead applicant
The city of Ragusa with about 70.000 inhabitants and chief town of the homonym province, is situated in the extreme south-oriental part of Sicily. The city of Ragusa is divided in two main separate parts, the inferior and more ancient one, "Ragusa Ibla", declared Patrimony of the humanity by the UNESCO for its monuments of Baroque epoch and the superior part, built on the highland after the 1693 disastrous earthquake that razed to the ground almost all the oriental places of Sicily. The landscape of Ragusa is one of the most interesting and varied places and it is characterized by caves, really deep canyons dug by the courses of water that host and guard an immense patrimony of biodiversity where rocky sites that belong to the first human installations of the neolithic period can be found. Ragusa was recognized patrimony of the humanity in the 2002 and it is one of the most important art cities of Italy. Ragusa is defined by literates and economists as "The island in the island" thanks to its history and to a different social and economic context from the rest of the island. The agricultural sector, especially the fruit and vegetables and the greenhouse ones, have a great importance in terms of occupation, with a share of agricultural enterprises that amounts to 36,2% (the double compared to the Italian average) and in terms of export.
Regional Commissary for Agricultural Development - Manouba - TunisiaInitiative partner
CRDA is the sole representative and integral part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries at the regional level, provides: - human potential (474 employees) with a number of engineers and technicians from all specialties within the agricultural sector, - A broad and successful experience in the development, implementation and monitoring of agricultural development projects most of which are financed by international donors - A strong network of extension in ongoing contact with producers and managing problems daily. - Therefore, the CRDA is rapidly able to contribute effectively to the success of the project and its full integration into the surrounding environment while playing a major role in the popularization of agricultural technology. - In addition, it is essential to note that the CRDA oversees the implementation of the objectives defined by national policy on agriculture and rural development.
SVI. MED. Euro-Mediterranean Centre for the sustainable development - ItalyInitiative partner
SVIMED is a non profit association working on European project managing since 10 years and is participating in projects that refer mainly to environmental sustainability, such as, waste management, water management, sustainable agriculture, water and energy efficiency etc. Svimed is part of Agende 21 Locali network, ACR+ network and is collaborating with them in the Working Group on Circular Economy Planning that supports local and regional authorities in being ambitious on circular economy and will therefore support and help them to adopt aspiring circular economy strategies. We are setting up a partnership at international level with the aim to capitalize past project results, products and experiences about environmental sustainability, with a focus on Circular economy and waste prevention.
Provincial Union of Farmers - Ragusa - ItalyInitiative partner
UPA Ragusa is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of companies in the sector of agriculture. Its main activity is focused on technological innovation and quality. It is a professional association of operators of agriculture representing agricultural businesses in internationalization with institutional bodies, ministries and coordinate and disseminate information on the activities of internationalization of companies and other organizations and institutions (participation in fairs and events , etc.). UPA focuses its efforts on specific projects aimed, first, at encouraging the promotion of Italian agricultural and agro-food export, encouraging farmers wishing to invest directly abroad. His experience is useful as a reference center for the development, implementation of agricultural seminars and disseminate results among participants.
Regional Union of Agriculture and Fishing - Manouba - TunisiaInitiative partner
URAP Manouba is the regional branch of UTAP (Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries), the only national professional organization. With a union and development (3000 farmer members including plus de 1000 women and 26 innovation and development companies). URAP Manouba contributes as an active member of civil society in the development and implementation of major decisions and major guidelines set by the Presidential Programs and Plans for Economic and Social Development. URAP Manouba plays a supervisory role and clustering, and works to increase revenues from its members, to defend their interests and intervention of all public bodies and regional authorities for the promotion of agricultural and agro-food sectors. Similarly, URAP Manouba, has a representative tissue rather intensified by the existence of 8 Local Unions and 28 sectoral base unions and therefore it is well represented in the eligible project area.
Implementation of an integrated soil less green-house system, in the Mediterranean area, for food production in harsh environment, ECOFRIENDLY, energy and water saving, ensuring products traceability and healthiness and greater productivity per acreage
Through the aeroponic cultivation there is the creation of a protected environment where the plant has no exposition to pests and pathogens, with an increase in the level of oxygenation of the root system, the speeding up the phenological stages of plant development and with no risks for the development of fungal groups and the formation of algae.
Main project result is the knowledge transfer about innovative soilles techniques in the Mediterranean area, where the practice of traditional agriculture in greenhouses goes towards an integrated soilless agricultural and high-tech production process, powered by green energy and without any kind of non reusable waste. Such techniques grow in eco-friendly greenhouses that guarantees: water savings efficiency; absence of contamination of aquifers; traceability and safety of the products; compression of emissions; drastic reduction of energy consumption; increase in quantity and quality of production; healthy products. www.agriponic.eu.
Through ENPI IT- TN cooperation program, partners have promoted the need to spread the knowledge transfer of new cultivation techniques that minimize the use of water resources, grow without fertile soils, ensure quality and safety for consumers health and contribute to give requested food quantities by global population.
The project starts within similar geographic and socio-economic contexts where the importance of horticulture in greenhouses is relevant both for Sicilian and Tunisian economy; traditional cultivation techniques have a strong environmental impact due to the use of fertilizers and pesticides; moreover the quantity of products doesn’t meet markets and mass retails needs. Those factors led to promote sustainable agriculture, suitable for harsh environments (arid, semi-arid, rugged). So, the new approach was born to contribute to the creation of new jobs through the involvement of young people who invest in new eco-friendly and high-tech farming techniques.
Broad participation of the agricultural enterprises in the events organized by the project and great interest for the expected results of pilot greenhouse in Tunisia. Involvement of other public institutions to the training and information seminars as the Regional Department of Agricultural Resources in Sicily that gave feedbacks for the involvement of enterprises for next funding program for regional development funds 2014-2020.
Collaboration with secondary schools in Ragusa and University in Manouba which led to the launch of apprenticeships and internships for students in farms.
Great stimulus to research and experimentation was given for the Institutes involved to perform a demo production of the aeroponic technology in sicilian farms.
Active involvement of enterprises for on-site technical visits to farms in Ragusa with experiences on soilless substrate crops that have interacted with the engineers and experts of the project.
The project seeks to find solutions to different needs and therefore beneficiaries:
- The worldwide crisis facing the mediterranean farms that failing to cooperate and can't survive in competition with large industrial companies. In addition, those small farms that have weak links with the Research and University and don't guarantee definite results in certain times.
- Aeroponic technique gives the consumers the opportunity to find in the market, in every period of the year, health and traceability products.
- Aeroponics respond to the needs of the environment, consumers, the market and the need for highly productive techniques whose aim is to feed the world. In relation with the possibility to support regional financial investments, the benefits led the partners to spread the knowledge transfer of those technologies, which should be more accessible and feasible, as it requires know-how and technology investments, above all for high vocational training needs in Sicily and Tunisia.
At partner level about 25 persons were involved, plus 30 external experts and technicians, direct involved in activities.
Representatives of project partners:
Mr S. Distefano Project Director Municipality of Ragusa
Mr G. Iacono, president Svimed Ragusa, Hydraulic Engineer and expert in soilles cultivation
Mr J. Abidi, Head of CRDA
Mr S. Meghirbi, engineer and expert of soilles crops, from URAP
Mr S. Gambuzza, degree in economics, entrepreneur in agrofood company, president UPA Ragusa.
Significant contribution came from:
Prof. S. Leoni speaker in 2 training seminars, professor in the University of Sassari
Prof. F. Giuffrida, expert in horticulture and flowers, from University of Catania, Agricultural products and food Department
Mr A. Pezzolli, commercial manager at Aeroponica Industriale srl, Design and construction of aeroponic crops and agri-food biomass
Mr A. Curcio, Lead partner project manager
Mrs E. Arrabito, director Svimed Ragusa, project manager fortheProject
Partners had to overcome different kind of difficulties and problems to reach good results.
The major obstacle was the difficulty in finding professional suppliers at european level for the construction of the pilot greenhouse and related logistic, financial and cultural issues.
Partners had to promote and disseminate through their internet website the search of the best company to build the pilot greenhouse. In the first public call for tender anyone presented a good technical offer. After the second call URAP found a supplier with wide experience in the aeroponic and in soilless cultivations, however afterwards the administrative and financial issues took over and for a while the project was almost stationary. The strict cooperation and dialogue between Svimed, through Mr Iacono, URAP, through Mr Meghirbi, l’Aeroponica Industriale and the Lead partner project manager, Alfio Curcio, was necessary to overcome such kind of complications.
The aeroponic technology does not use the land and does not require cycles of rest or land rotation, even forced, against the emergence of pathogens related to crops repetitive. Even the preventive treatments of fumigation against pest aphids on the land is no longer needed, especially treatments based on methyl bromide (BM), now banned by the European standards.
The plant, which grows in sanitized environment, requires no antifungal treatments or pesticides, thereby overcoming the constraints introduced by the EU regulations.
The plant has the characteristics of overall quality, being able to control the climate external indicators not only in the surface but also in the roots.
No residues of fertilization are dispersed in the environment, nor is the problem of the recovery of substrate; water and nutrients are reduced to the necessary, through nebulization and even not released into the environment, but are recovered in conduit.
The collaboration with the Technical and Agrarian Secondary Institutes in Ragusa allowed to form long-lasting partnerships between the partners and the Institutes involved with the successful submission of a stage for 6 students involved in the project for a work experience at the offices of Svimed in September and October 2014.
Partners has established strong partnerships with the University of Sassari and University of Catania and CSEI for the data monitoring in the pilot greenhouse in Tunisia and to develop such experimentation in Ragusa too, since farmers and professionnels are interested in the economic and environmental benefit of aeroponic technology.
Several factors suggest that in the future a substantial development of soilless cultivation isnce lands are stressed due to excessive crops intensification and desertification. In Belarus it seems to be the only technique able to decouple the radioactive contamination of the soil, allowing the production of “clean” crops.
The communication strategy of the project turned around the website: www.agriponic.eu and the informative and formative seminars to involve students, technicians, experts and farmers.
Main communication tools:
n. 3 Newsletters in Italian and French sent to all the participants of the seminars, implemented by Svimed
n. 2 Press Conferences in Sicily, Ragusa and in Tunisia, Manouba
n. 1 Video describing the aeroponic process and technology of 8 minutes, implemented by Confagricoltura Ragusa, and showed during the Fairs in 2013 in Tunis and in Ragusa.
n. 1 Brochure in Italian and French produced by the Municipality of Ragusa
publication of 1 study on the state of he art of the sericulture in the region of Sicily and Manouba produced by Svimed
Creation of the Infopoint for Agriponic project in the public hall of the Department of Economic Development in the Municipality of Ragusa
Creation of the demonstration room in the offices of IPA with plastic scale pilot project.