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"Flemish grower cannot escape AI within the ten years"

It has not escaped the notice of the gentlemen politicians in the Flemish parliament that artificial intelligence is on the rise. Growers are already working with it, or will all be doing so within now and ten years. That is the expectation. The Flemish government is willing to help financially, and is already doing so, according to answers given by Flemish minister Jo Brouns to questions by Stijn de Roo of Christen-Democratisch & Vlaams on 26 April. Brouns shows himself to be "a believer" of AI in agriculture and horticulture.

In the debate, several sides stressed the importance of data, and sharing data to make the deployment of AI better and more efficient. AI is already being deployed, including in greenhouses where detection cameras help detect pests. The minister speaks of "smaller actions" here. He does not yet see really big investments in AI, at least not from CMO. The minister points out that there are more support possibilities, also within the CMO for deployment of AI for smart climate control.

The Flemish government has already given VLIF support for investments in drones for agricultural applications since 2016. Applications followed, but it has not yet led to 'actual realisations'.

Grant options
As part of the new common agricultural policy (CAP), it was therefore opted to support AI-related applications, whether or not in combination with drones for agricultural applications, through the VLIF project support for innovative investments. Within this, support of 50 per cent and even 65 and 80 per cent is now possible for measurements and their processing. An 80 per cent support rate is reserved for environmental and climate parameters.

At a later stage, drones could be applied for, the minister expects. This can be done through VLIF support for productive investments. "Such investments may be less feasible for an individual farmer. We have today, as probably known, DronePort in Brustem, where there is a commitment to drone technology that is already applied in the agricultural sector today." VLIF support will also support projects where AI is deployed in sorting machines.

1 million a year from EU project
Besides the agricultural projects of the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), within which up to ninety per cent financial support for innovation is possible, and support through the CAP, Flanders has also entered an EU partnership under Horizon Europe specifically in 'Agriculture of data'. According to the minister, this is a seven-year partnership between participating EU member states to accelerate the implementation and processing of that data in agriculture, horticulture and the food chain. 1 million euros per year will be allocated for this purpose between 2023 and 2030, with the European Commission contributing 30 per cent. The Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO) is involved in the preparation and follow-up of this partnership.

Source: Flemish Parliament