Consortium partners visiting DIMITRA. Photo: REVOLVE

Case Study Field Visit

Peach Value Chain

9 May 2024 – Kozani, Greece

Consortium members visited the city of Kozani and the facilities of Agricultural Cooperative DIMITRA to see the progress, data collection and monitoring related to the peach & nectarine value chain case study of the BBTWINS, Horizon EU-funded project. Partners took a tour of the peach and nectarine orchards located between the Pierian Mountains and Lake Polyfyto, which serves as a water reservoir as well as a facility to generate hydroelectricity.

Agricultural Cooperative Fruit (ACF) Velventos DIMITRA has over 130 active members who produce a large variety of fruits including 4000 tonnes of peaches and over 2000 tonnes of nectarines annually. This case study aims to demonstrate, through research, data collection, and the implementation of digital innovations developed by the BBTWINS project, that these processes can become more efficient. This would lead to reduced carbon emissions and resources, thereby addressing challenges in making the agri-food industry’s value chains across Europe more sustainable.

BBTWINS focuses on bio-based value chains that bring a set of requirements that is not as predictable as in industrial processes such as the seasonality of crops or the influence of external variables. This makes data collection and monitoring particularly challenging. By applying machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, crop yields can be predicted with greater accuracy along with optimised resource allocation, and minimised waste. Additionally, integrating all these technologies in a single platform can improve the comprehensibility of the innovation system by providing a virtual replica of the physical processes with the implementation of the digital twin technology.

Nectarines at Dimitra Cooperative on 9 May, 2024 in Velventos, Western Macedonia, Greece. Photo: REVOLVE

Enhancing Efficiency Through Digital Technologies in the Orchards

At the beginning of the BBTWINS project, the needs of DIMITRA were examined and paired with the potential that the project could offer. Reaching the end of the third year of the project, BBTWINS partners visited the case study site to take a look at some of the technologies in action.

In the orchards, the use of artificial vision was presented by PANOimagen. Sensorisation and collection of data is the beginning of optimisation of this case study that requires the setting of storylines of the peaches to forecast the quality and volume of harvest. Sensors applied in the orchards can measure humidity, temperature, and certain soil characteristics, broader application of which would significantly help prediction and volume of resources needed to cover harvest and distribution of the produce. This on-site monitoring and data collection sets the base for the application of further technologies. Furthermore, the software gathers images that automatically sum up the number of flowers, predicting the amount of excess fruit that should be removed, also known as fruit thinning. This is particularly important considering that an overabundance of flowers leads to smaller fruits due to the limited nutrient potential in the rooting depth of soils.

Another partner, StelvioTech, developed a blockchain platform to enhance the traceability of resources within the stone fruit supply chain, aiming to reduce resource use and carbon footprint. The presented simulations can record detailed information about each product’s production cycle and resource origin which consumers could access by scanning a QR code, providing them with greater transparency.

The digital twin allows for experimentation in the digital world without disturbing real-world activities. In this case study, it is crucial to consider the seasonal peaks of the harvest and the perishability of the product if not harvested, transported, stored, and distributed at its optimum. The platform developed by Soltec Ingenieros allows the integration of the abovementioned innovations as well as life cycle assessments and analysis of waste valorisation into a single platform. This complex simulation allows DIMITRA to implement innovations in a sector of the economy that is generally considered more traditional and risk-averse.

Overall, the digital twin concept and technology enable the cooperative to identify areas for process improvement, aiming to boost efficiency, reduce waste, and elevate environmental standards. This includes precisely analysing the quality of the harvest, transport logistics, and valorisation of product side streams such as pruning, and juicing. Considering that the cooperative is sorting and packing 20 different varieties of peaches and 18 varieties of nectarines along with apples, cherries, apricots and lotuses each year, there should be no time left to waste.

DIMITRA’s case serves as a promising example in the agri-food industry that is undergoing a digital transformation. As summoned by Yannis Fallas, who was present on behalf of Cluster of Bioeconomy and Environment of West Macedonia (CluBE), co-organising partner of the technical meeting:

By working with several stakeholders along the supply chain as well as with other industries that can introduce new opportunities for agri-food businesses, the concept of circular economy becomes more tangible for agricultural producers.

Photo gallery of peach field visit

On 9 May 2024, BBTWINS brought together Partners from Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Poland to visit the Dimitra Cooperative in Velventos, Western Macedonia, Greece. Partners explored the peach and nectarine farms and learned about the AI technologies and sensory videos being used to track growth and production.