AI4Soilhealth is an EU-funded project that aims to accelerate the collection and use of soil information using AI technology in support of the Soil Deal for Europe and the EU Soil Observatory. Its ultimate goal is to help future farmers and land managers discover and adopt innovative agricultural techniques and practices by providing new tools to measure soil health without the need for laboratories. By using AI technology, farmers and land managers will be able to monitor and predict the soil health of their territories across Europe.
*The project is funded by the Horizon Europe programme as part of the EU’s Soil Health Mission for 2030.
AI4SoilHealth is powered by the consideration that we all depend on good soils. Indeed, healthy soils can absorb carbon, improve yields, reduce flooding and increase biodiversity. Today, it is estimated that between 60% and 70% of the EU’s soils are unhealthy.
Soils are under pressure from current agricultural practices and the growing demand for food production. The consequences of these practices include the loss of organic matter, biodiversity, and soil itself through compaction by heavy machinery and erosion.
To reverse the trend, AI4SoilHealth aims to understand which practices work and which do not, starting with mapping changes into the future to make the right plan for the right landscape. Developing an effective measurement tool is crucial for land managers and policy makers to gain confidence in making changes to their farming practices that improve soil health and resilience. That is why AI4SoilHealth will develop a free app that combines artificial intelligence and the latest soil health measurement techniques to help farmers and growers across Europe change their management practices for the better.
The 28 partners in 11 EU countries will spend the next 3 years collecting data from farms and pilot sites across Europe to build a working model. The challenge includes sharing lessons learned from the regions, educating people on the latest soil health measurement techniques, and sharing stories from the European soil practitioner community.
AI4SoilHealth has 8 objectives:
- reduce land desertification;
- conserve soil organic carbon stocks;
- halt soil sealing and increase reuse of urban soils;
- reduce soil pollution and improve soil remediation;
- prevent soil erosion;
- improve soil structure to enhance soil biodiversity;
- reduce the EU’s global soil footprint;
- improve soil literacy in society;
- as part of this work, develop 100 living labs and lighthouses to carry out practical on-the-ground experiments and showcase regenerative practices. AI 4 Soil Health will work with these projects to ensure that good measurement tools are at the heart of soil restoration.
AI4Soilhealth will also use relationships and networks from existing projects and programmes to bring together a wide range of stakeholders ‘on the ground’ in 11 countries (covering 11 of the 13 pedoclimatic regions in Europe). The pilot sites are expected to be involved in:
- multi-stakeholder involvement and engagement: universities, researchers, SMEs / NGOs, farmers and growers, landowners, foresters, etc;
- using existing and new datasets to test AI4SoilHealth predictions, different soil health topics;
- accessing existing national datasets, including LUCAS sampling sites;
- engaging with existing networks; soil managers, soil user communities for co-design of AI4SoilHealth tools;
- employing resources for data collection and accessing laboratories for analysis;
ISINNOVA is involved in the science-policy engagement and stakeholder dialogue.
Among the activities led by ISINNOVA are the:
- analysis of data gaps and policy needs for Soil Health (via desk review, semi-structured interviews with EU officials/stakeholders and a consolidation workshop);
- Synchronisation of EU policies and AI4SoilHealth through an assessment of innovative policies, land management practices and economic incentives (eco-schemes and carbon farming) able to promote integrated soil heath strategies and allow for the application of current and future soil-related policies. This will include the organisation of a series of EU (European Commission DGs) workshops.
ISINNOVA | Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology (Project Partner lead) | Soil Association | Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute | Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) | Roma Tre University | RegenEarth BV (former Sustinn) | University of Basel, Environmental Geoscience department | University of Aberdeen | Stockholm University | NEIKER – Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development | University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture (UniZgFAZ) | Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry | Digit Soil | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis | ETH Zurich – Physics of Soils and Terrestrial Ecosystems | UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology | Planet Labs (covers Planet Labs Germany GmbH and its affiliated entity Vandersat B.V.) | MultiOne | OpenGeoHub Foundation | The Centre for Agricultural Research (ATK) | Aalborg University (AAU), Department of the Built Environment, Soil Technology Research Group | Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) | Sorbonne University | Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH), School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) | Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Laboratory of Remote Sensing, Spectroscopy and GIS