In the last week of November, two events concerning the European Copernicus programme, both addressed to the operators of the agri-food sector. This circumstance offers the opportunity to take up the subject of digital skills in the context of Geospatial Revolution and training courses to increase the geo-digital skills, taking care to contribute to the program of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and its objectives (Sustainable Development Goals, SDG) to be achieved by 2030, specifically in terms of education (SDG # 4), as prefigured in the previous article "Digital Geographic Data and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” of October 2016.
Technologies dedicated to Earth Observation (EOT) are among the most promising to support sustainable development policies of territories, thanks to the dissemination of innovative products and services, with systemic impact on the economy, the environment and society .
On the other hand, the European Copernicus programme represents for Italy the reference context for seizing the opportunity represented by this technological progress. In fact, our country is among the main Member States that express the leadership of this European initiative, given the excellent position of national research and industry in this sector - a role exercised also through a significant financial commitment in support of this programme.
On Tuesday 27 November, the Copernicus Info Session “Copernicus for agriculture. Information and training session”, organized by European Commission, from the National Forum of Copernicus Users and, for Italy, from ISPRA, Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research. In the days immediately following, from 28 to 30 November, the first edition of the "Copernicus School 2018" was held - again in Bari - dedicated to the theme "Remote Sensing for Agriculture 4.0”, an itinerant training initiative organized by the Agriculture Table of the National Forum of Copernicus Users coordinated by Department of European and International Policies and Rural Development(DIPEISR) of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies (MIPAAFT), in collaboration with States General of Innovation, AM/FM GIS Italy, Planetek Italy And ISPRA.
In general, the purpose of both initiatives concerns the promotion of the multiple uses of the services and products provided by the European Earth Observation Program in agriculture, with special attention to the needs and interests of local user communities, both commercial and institutional. .
During the work of the InfoSession data access mechanisms have been illustrated Copernicus, the financing methods available and numerous application cases. Scrolling the plan and consulting the rich documentation relating to the various reports presented, it is possible to acquire a broad overview – certainly not exhaustive – on the use of satellite images in the agricultural field.
As also highlighted on the occasion of this information day, the European Commission intends to achieve – quickly – the full exploitation of the potential offered by solutions based on Earth Observation Technologies and thus enhance the huge investments assigned to the Copernicus Program over the years. To achieve this result, it considered it of fundamental importance to relate the space sector with other policies and economic areas, adopting a strategy aimed at supporting the ecosystem of service providers (downstream services) that transform data from Copernicus services (mainstream services) in the products requested by end users – while also urging the Member States to commit themselves to this mission.
The project idea adopted to define the "Scuola Copernicus 2018" training initiative, which took place in the following days, is linked to this strategic context. In particular, it focused attention on the need to create favorable conditions for put the end users and technology experts of the Earth Observation in the best conditions to work together, conversing proficiently. In other words, the communication – methods and tools, with different degrees of user involvement according to his own background – was deemed the common file to follow along the training activity of the School, due to the numerous relevant topics that allow EOTs - integrated with other technologies and geospatial data - to solve a wide range of life problems - "Society 5.0".
The educational solution identified was inspired by the experience gained during courses open to citizens for the development of geographical and territorial knowledge, also and above all through the use of innovative tools, methods and applications, such asOpenGeoData School, a training initiative described in the 2016 article mentioned in the introduction.
Following this approach, the didactic activity aimed at professionals and operators in the agri-food sector therefore envisaged, together with the training relating to applications for using satellite data, contributions aimed at framing the potential of the products and services offered by the Copernicus Program within the themes of Geospatial Revolution – in which the recent developments of Earth Observation Technologies will play a prominent role – proposing to create the conditions so that professionals who acquire knowledge to use satellite images also become alfieri on the Net of the culture of digital geographythrough their mobile devices. Desired condition to encourage communication and dialogue between EOT specialists and end users (often clients of the professional) and facilitate the emergence of the latter's needs.
In addition, the first day's program was also designed to encourage the presence of consumer representatives, increasingly attentive to the problems of correct land management and the cultivation of agricultural products, organized in Solidarity Purchase Groups (GAS) or united in partnerships such as, for example, the Italian Association of Organic Agriculture (AIAB) and the Consumers' Association (ACU). This category of citizens is assuming a proactive role ("consumer-actors") within the process of cultural change with regard to the way of producing in agriculture, in line with the application of the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . A consumer aware of the enormous potential given by the exploitation - in a positive sense - of the data coming from the satellites of the European Copernicus Program in support of precision agriculture will thus be able, also by interacting with farmers sensitive to the issues of sustainability, health and food quality, of communicate your needs and requirements to the experts of this technology precisely as a representative of the consumers, so that they take charge of it and develop the services that are actually useful to them.
The challenging phase of the “Copernicus School 2018” now concerns the creation of the online communities made up of both course participants and professionals whose enrollment could not be confirmed due to the exhaustion of available places, assisted by the teachers and trainers involved in the course, who are available to continue the training course started online.
A community that will unite with the network generated by OpenGeoData School, still operating with its own information / training initiatives in the area between Langhe-Roero and Monferrato (UNESCO Heritage) - but not only -, almost two years after its birth. In fact, the goal is to make it work online also as permanent laboratory for the dissemination of geospatial skills - to which specific skills regarding remote sensing technologies can now be added - in the territories where the participants in these training initiatives live and work.
The authoritative national and European experts present at the round table which concluded the Copernicus Info Session underlined that the work of this day demonstrated how important the point of view of those who use the technology is, how the components of an agri-food chain can come together to discuss how to improve its processes, reduce the environmental impact, increase wealth and above all also address problems that have not only a local but also a global scale.
Taking a cue from this synthesis of the results achieved in the context of this conference, we would like to express the hope that the training proposal developed in the following days, thanks also to the growth of the community online which is being established and begins to operate on the Net, contributes to demonstrating how much it is the involvement of subjects who would like to use this technology is important And of others – still unaware of the potential offered by the Copernicus Program and by other initiatives, including private ones, available in the near future (think of the development of satellite missions and constellations of low-cost satellites, V. micro and nano-satellites) – who could access it, once informed and consciously participating, involved in lifelong learning processes, respectful of the objectives of sustainable development for the planet, to which agriculture will have to give an important answer on the subject not only of food, but also of water and power.
Perspective – it should be remembered – that due to forecasts of the development of the Earth Observation Technologies marketit will favor the labor market, also with the birth of new professions.
With reference to Europe, the EOTs market is expected to grow from €8.32 billion in 2017 to €13.25 billion in 2020 (European Geospatial Business Outlook 2018, Geospatial Media Communication Report).