Top-level research in Europe

Agriculture faces enormous challenges in water shortages, intensive use of fertilisers, and rising CO2 and methane emissions. Scientists from the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (h_da) are participating in the European Horizon Europe project FARMWISE, developing innovative AI systems to address these problems. The systems are intended to help farmers and political and civil society groups make sound decisions based on scientific data. The research project involves 20 partners from twelve European countries. The EU is providing €6 million in funding for three years, of which the h_da will receive around €600,000.

By Canan Topçu, 4 March 2024

Professor Kawa Nazemi, a renowned expert in human-computer interaction and visual analytics, has a crucial role in the large research project intended to provide farmers and politicians with a system to support their decisions. “We aim to apply artificial intelligence in the preparation of relevant information and to use visual analytics to visualise it so that it can be understood and used by a range of target groups,” explains Nazemi, who teaches and researches at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.

The research group, “Human-Computer Interaction and Visual Analytics”, at the h_da, headed by Prof. Nazemi, focuses on developing AI-based visual analytics systems. They integrate AI-based analyses with user-friendly interactive visualisations to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of agricultural systems and their interactions with environmental factors. This enables farmers and decision-makers to evaluate sustainable measures and to model future scenarios.

The involvement of the h_da in the FARMWISE project is reinforced by the active participation of Professor Nicole Saenger, Vice President for Research, Transfer and Sustainable Development, on the project’s Advisory Board. This ensures close dovetailing between the University’s strategic research goals and the ambitious objectives of FARMWISE – which confirms h_da's importance as a research institution.

Focus on sustainability-oriented decision-making

The FARMWISE project, whose title clearly indicates its agricultural focus, primarily pursues the objective of supplying farms and political, business and civil society actors in agriculture with sound findings based on scientific data, Professor Nazemi explains. This knowledge should enable the various groups to make informed decisions. To achieve this, it is crucial to collate and present information about aquifers, soil quality and nutrient cycles in a manner appropriate to the target groups. This means the data must be specifically adapted for farmers, political decision-makers and civil society organisations to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the topics. The aim is to provide all the stakeholders with innovative systems to help them arrive at decisions that promise short-term success and promote long-term sustainability in the agricultural sector.

Professor Nazemi gives an example to illustrate the interdisciplinary cooperation within the FARMWISE consortium: a farm is thinking of starting intensive cultivation of avocados in the dry region of southern Spain. This generates numerous questions that the participating experts from the water sector, agricultural science, climate research, and AI investigate. Does it make sense to cultivate fruit requiring large-scale irrigation in a region where water is in short supply? How will this affect the soil quality, and what impacts will result from using fertilisers? The experts examine both short and long-term views, taking environmental, economic and social aspects into account, to assess whether an investment in avocado cultivation is sustainable and worth political support.

The consortium is dedicated to collecting and analysing extensive data to create a detailed picture of the current situation and map out possible future scenarios. This information is important for farming and political and civil society stakeholders, who must understand the ecological impacts of their decisions. Furthermore, economic factors are investigated to avoid potential dependence on imported avocados. The results of these analyses are prepared for the specific target groups so that the data can be visualised clearly and comprehensibly. In this way, FARMWISE helps ensure that all the stakeholders can make decisions based on reliable information, contributing to sustainable development in the agricultural sector.

Visualising forecasts for specific target groups

In the FARMWISE project, Professor Nazemi and his team are responsible for the key areas of visual preparation and presentation of data-based analyses and forecasting using artificial intelligence and Visual Analytics. “This is not just about providing information. It's also about how this information is prepared and presented to each target group to support their decision-making,” explains Nazemi, whose expertise lies in data analysis, information visualisation and AI. He gained broad experience in this field before joining the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. For nine years, he headed research groups at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research (IGD) in Darmstadt, with projects at the interface between visualisation techniques and artificial intelligence.

Nazemi stresses that as a research scientist, he finds it hugely important that the results of scientific work be transparent and comprehensible to the users. He sees his task as using responsible research and clear communication to enhance decision-making processes. “It’s essential for us as scientists and as academic institutions to inform groups in society about scientific findings and topics such as climate change in a way they can understand,” Nazemi says.

The FARMWISE project is characterised by its international and transdisciplinary cooperation between partners from Germany, Italy, Ireland, France, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Ukraine. It is managed by Lund University in Sweden. The researchers work together in multi-country task-force groups to collect data from various sources, analyse it using AI technologies, and prepare assessments. The aim is to develop an innovative decision support system for tackling water pollution and climate change challenges. Ideally, the project should produce reliable results that will form the basis for sustainable changes in addressing these global problems.

Implementing political guidelines from the European Commission

The research project has a term of three years. The European Union is providing a budget of more than €6 million, around €600,000 of which will go to the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. The funding comes from the research programme “Horizon Europe – Zero Pollution”, which has been initiated by the EU to establish a knowledge and innovation-supported society and a competitive economy while at the same time encouraging sustainable development. Horizon Europe should help implement the European Commission's political guidelines and promote the “digital and green transformation”.


Christina Janssen
Scientific editor
Press department
Tel.: +49 6151 533-60112

Translation: Elizabeth Hicks

In 2015, the Member States of the United Nations agreed on 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone. This project contributes to the following SDGs:

This project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101135533. This publication reflects only the author's view, and the European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.