Clusters, Living Lab, and Experimental connected farms

What are clusters ?

Clusters, Living Lab, and Experimental connected farms
What are clusters ?

A cluster is the basic organizational structure of the COCORAI consortium. It is built around an experimental connected farm, one or many research groups/centers located in the same country/region, and a wide range of agro-industry companies including ICT companies developing solutions for digital agriculture. Besides the connected experimental farm, another core component of the cluster is a group of researchers whose research expertise and interests are applied either to a common area (here digital agriculture), field, or theme, or who are involved in a collaborative research project or set of related projects, either they are local/regional or international. Collectively, the quality-assured research publications of the cluster involved should constitute a substantial body of knowledge in ICT application in farms and agriculture. Clusters make that the research record of each individual member of a specific cluster will equip him or her to provide research-informed expert supervision to postgraduate students writing theses in the field of interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of ICT disciplines, agriculture, and sustainability development.

Clusters work together so that they can be viewed as a single ecosystem for academic research, software development, and agricultural innovation. Unlike grid computers, clusters have each node set to perform the same research experiments under different conditions and in different countries. Research Clusters exist to:

  • Bring together and provide a supportive and stimulating collegial context for researchers, postgraduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from the different clusters working on topics of common or related interest, with the aim of increasing the research outputs of the Division. 
  • Attract national, regional, and international research funding for collaborative research, with the aim of being upgraded to a Research Theme or a Research Centre in a University/School of ICT and/or agricultural sciences. 
  • Generate, and promote awareness of, research opportunities and ICT applications in agriculture for potential postgraduate students, and for research collaborations with staff and students in other clusters.

Clusters are usually established to support long-term international research projects while typically being much more cost effective than a single isolated research group/center. All together clusters are seen as a living lab for creating innovative solutions that can be world-wide validated and getting engaged farmers and academic researchers. While connecting the cluster’s equipment and infrastructure, the living lab provides all the necessary tools and basic facilities to students and researchers for their digital agriculture research activities, especially in remote sensing, big data, machine learning, and crop simulation modeling. The lab also facilitates the sharing via projects of costly high-end workstations, smart agricultural sensors, and meetings and video conferencing facilities. This lab also helps in conducting practical sessions via the living lab or the connected experimental farms for ongoing courses, such as data analytics in precision agriculture, applications of remote sensing and GIS in agriculture, and smart Irrigation systems using AI, among others. The lab will provide facilities for training and extension activities in precision farming, agricultural mechanization, applications of agricultural drones and remote sensing technologies, climate-smart agriculture, and big data analysis.

Currently, the consortium includes 15 clusters, some are under approval while others are established, meaning they have already successfully launched an experimental connected farm:

  • Algeria
  • Benin
  • France
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • Portugal
  • Senegal
  • Thailand
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan