The FOTOAGRI project was launched on the 18th of February 2013 as a 30-month project (2013-2015), funded by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies (MIPAAF), aimed at technological innovation in the design and rehabilitation of greenhouses through the use of photovoltaic panels and the development of a new commercial production model for the floriculture sector.
The project aims to verify how to improve the integration of photovoltaic solar energy with the cultivation of flower species in protected environments (both newly built and already used for cultivation) and to what extent this technology can contribute to increasing the income of agricultural businesses, without penalizing production quality.
The activities, coordinated by the Regional Institute for Floriculture (IRF) in Sanremo, as an instrumental body of the Liguria Region, also involved the Regional Agricultural Experimentation and Support Centre (CeRSAA) in Albenga, and the Interdepartmental Renewable Energy Research and Dissemination Centre (CIRDER) of Tuscia University in Viterbo.
The project envisages experimental tests on pilot facilities to understand to what extent it is possible to reduce radiation entering the protected areas and, therefore, increase the production of energy without compromising agricultural production quality and quantity. These tests will be set up at both the IRF and CeRSAA, in collaboration with CIRDER.
In particular, the IRF, in addition to coordinating the progress of project activities, will identify the ornamental plants of potential interest both from an agronomic point of view, in relation to various levels of brightness, and from a commercial point of view, in terms of real interest from the market, so as not to sacrifice cultivation profitability. For such purposes, the IRF will make it facilities available for agronomic tests that simulate the cultivation in already existing greenhouses and set-ups, as a business model for floriculture in Western Liguria. In collaboration with the other partners, interactions will also be sought with companies from Ligurian and national territories that have already installed photovoltaic solar panels at their facilities, in order to develop case studies of crops during the initial pre-competitive phase.
The project envisages a series of actions to tackle issues deriving from the multiple variables that the integration of photovoltaic technology in floriculture sector may entail.
In particular, planned actions include:
Development of an integrated project (DEV) involving greenhouse manufacturers, modelling experts and photovoltaic module manufacturers;
Design and construction of photovoltaic greenhouse prototypes (PROT) that can satisfy the requirements of the maximum incentive level;
Testing (TEST) of innovative photovoltaic products on a pre-commercial scale, and development of a document correlating the behaviour of the floriculture species of interest with changes in environmental conditions, and light in particular, following the installation of the photovoltaic systems; Development and testing of sustainable production rehabilitation (REHAB) models for existing greenhouses, with a specific approach involving public administrations and all those engaged in the agricultural photovoltaic supply chain and the floriculture sector;
Verification of the potential to network photovoltaic greenhouses in a Smart Grid (SMGR), and development of best practices for future activities;
Definition of a technical and methodological approach document to support project and financial due diligence (DUED) activities and photovoltaic developers, and aimed at defining pre and post implementation evaluation criteria for the integration of agricultural production and photovoltaic energy production;
Realization of a census (CENS) of existing photovoltaic greenhouses in Italy, aimed at statistically evaluating the sector and the distribution, numbers and types of installations, with a particular focus on agronomic aspects;
Dissemination (DIS) of the results achieved, through publications, workshops, relations with participating organizations and companies, and other effective and widespread forms of communication, including television media; Final Day event to present the results of the project.
Regional Institute for Floriculture (IRF):
Agricultural Experimentation and Support Centre (CeRSAA)
Interdepartmental Renewable Energy Research and Dissemination Centre (CIRDER-UNITUS)