In this blog post we talk to Cristina Cionga from the Romanian Maize Growers Association, who recently organised their annual Maize Day event. This event showcases digital technologies and included the IoT Corn Decision Support Platform currently being used in one of the DEMETER pilots.
Can you tell us about yourself and the APPR?
The Romanian Maize Growers Association (APPR) was established in 2012 to represent and defend the interests of the maize chain in Romania: corn, maize silage, and maize seed, in the civil dialogue with the national and European authorities. APPR’s activity involves a technical component, dedicated to field testing of various technologies in field conditions, as well as a lobbying and communication component, resulting in legislative proposals and position documents. APPR is a member to the European Maize Growers Confederation CEPM, as well as to the umbrella-organization of the European farmers, Copa-Cogeca.
Myself, I joined APPR in 2018 as European Affairs Director, with a demonstrated history of working in the farming industry, both in the private and public sector.
What is the Maize Day event and what are its main objectives?
The Maize Day is an outdoor farmer event held every year in early September in a farm from the Baragan Plain, Romania’s major cereal-growing region. For 12 years, the event has connected farmers from across Romania with top developers of technologies in maize cropping, from advanced hybrids and advanced plant protection products to foliar enhancers and digital solutions. The open-air exhibition gathers every year about 2000 visitors: farmers, industry experts, local and national authorities, researchers, journalists.
How did DEMETER get involved in the event?
The Maize Day was the ideal platform to present DEMETER and specifically the work of APPR and Simavi, aimed to develop and implement an IoT Corn Decision Support Platform, designed to facilitate growers’ decisions that maximize crop output and quality while applying sustainable agricultural practices. The idea was received with high interest by farmers, as the Romanian pilot entails various aspects of maize farming, from smart irrigation to variable rate fertilizer application and integrated pest management practices in order to minimize the environmental footprint.
The DEMETER presentation is available at https://youtu.be/IE1q54I7L7c
In your opinion, what are the biggest drivers in encouraging farmers to adopt digital technologies?
Farmers are highly interested in adopting more sustainable, greener technologies, that would allow them to reduce production costs as well as the impact of their activity over environment. With the new farming practices required by the CAP support measures, as well as the incentives provided to the digital transformation of agriculture, access to IT solutions become increasingly accessible. At the same time, farmers’ attention is drawn by the possibility to make quick and informed decisions, including in terms of assessing the condition and needs of their crops, receiving real time alerts, etc.
Equally, what are farmers’ biggest concerns when adopting digital technologies?
The implementation of digital technology involves relatively high costs and requires qualified personnel to handle those tools. For this, the IoT Corn Decision Support Platform we are developing in Romania is designed to be accessed by anyone without involving high implementation costs.
How can DEMETER consider and leverage farmers needs and concerns going forward?
Farmers’ concerns will always be to reduce operational costs and maximize profits, and this goal requires a careful and accurate monitoring of their fields. A new dimension incurred is the reduction of the impact of agricultural activities over environment, that ultimately can be rewarded via different support instruments of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The tools developed within DEMETER come to aid maize growers who want to assess their crop’s condition and development timely and thoroughly. The fast and smart monitoring solution developed within DEMETER involves corroborating the data received from the IoT sensors installed in the field with high resolution satellite images and agronomic algorithms. Thus, an overview of the entire crop will be obtained and can be easily interpreted due to the legend that accompanies it.