Agricultural University of Athens (AUA)

AUA (Agricultural University of Athens), represented by Professor Dimitrios Savvas, is the Coordinator of the ECONUTRI Project. The coordinator will represent the consortium to REA, promote and supervise the overall technical and scientific progress of the project, and ensure networking links with other relevant projects.

AUA participates in all 7 Work Packages. These are:

  • WP1: Communication, dissemination, and exploitation activities,
  • WP2: Innovative technologies reducing nutrient pollution from manure and other organic matrices,
  • WP3: Innovative cropping technologies reducing nutrient pollution in soil and water by optimizing fertilizer use,
  • WP4: Nature-based technologies reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and NH3 emissions,
  • WP5: Environmental impacts, life cycle analysis & socioeconomic aspects,
  • WP6: Data management and system-level analysis and
  • WP7: Project Management and Coordination in which AUA is the leader.

The role of AUA in each WP is described below.

WP1: Communication, dissemination, and exploitation activities

In WP1 all AUA partners, through various activities, will participate to the communication, dissemination, and exploitation of the project.  Activities such as scientific publications, participation in conferences/workshops, project newsletter, dissemination to the public through publicity online and at local media, contacts with industrial stakeholders, videos, and strong presence in social media will be drivers to achieve the objectives. Furthermore, AUA will scale up the exploitation of the DSS NUTRISENSE in both versions, particularly the one used for soil-grown crops and the second one used in soilless crops with emphasis on the support of drainwater recycling.

WP2: Innovative technologies reducing nutrient pollution from manure and other organic matrices

In WP1 AUA (Laboratory of Farm Machine Systems) will contribute to Task 2.2 titled: “Optimizing technologies for calibration and application of the derived products”. AUA will optimize and demonstrate technologies for balancing N & P content of manure and slurry, adapt nutrient content for plant needs and adjust pH for reduction of N losses by 20% during storage and application. The contribution of AUA will mainly include the development, validation and demonstration of a smart controller for site-specific application of slurry injection in the field, based on precision estimation of soil nutrients.

WP3: Innovative cropping technologies reducing nutrient pollution in soil and water by optimizing fertilizer use

In WP3, AUA will contribute to four different tasks.

In Task 3.1, titled “Innovative models and technologies to control N/P emissions from field crops”, AUA (Laboratory of Farm Machine Systems) will optimize, validate and demonstrate a novel technology based on precision fertilisation in open-field crops to optimise the amounts of nutrients applied, thus reducing the nutrient loss to water and air. While many studies have worked on precision fertilisation, there are no accurate models used in commercial fields, that are based on vegetation indexes (VIs) obtained from spectral images. For the selected crops (winter wheat and potato), a development study will firstly be carried out in a commercial field, examining strip plots with different fertiliser rates, which will be validated using drone images with a hyperspectral camera (AUA) and with AUGMENTA’s unique, tractor-mounted, smart camera ( that measures VIs and other crop parameters. Based on these measurements, a nutrient model will be created to match the VIs to crop nutrient status. The model will be subsequently used in combination with sensing on five commercial fields per crop; fertiliser use, and yield will be measured.

In Task 3.2, titled “Innovative models/ technologies to control N/P emissions from soil-grown vegetable crops” AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) will validate and demonstrate a DSS obtained by further developing the software NUTRISENSE ( used by soilless growers. The expanded NUTRISENSE (SOIL NUTRISENSE) will precisely calculate fertiliser requirements for basal dressing and fertigation of diverse crop species, mostly open-field and greenhouse vegetables, considering season, irrigation water quality, and soil analysis. The software will be tested and validated by stakeholders in a Mediterranean environment (Greece), who will receive full access and support by ECONUTRI.

Furthermore, in Task 3.2, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) will apply a properly designed irrigation system using suitable mini sprinklers around each plant to constantly/alternatively moisten a large/different part of the soil. Thus, the root system will expand to parts of the soil that are not irrigated when standard drip irrigation systems are used. Extending the soil aliquot that is regularly moistened through a novel design of the irrigation system allows for developing of a more extensive root system that utilizes the organic mass from a larger soil volume, thereby increasing the nutrient use efficiency and restricting nitrate leaching. As a result, the soil N reserves utilized by plants will be substantially extended, thereby minimizing the need for additional fertilizer application during the cropping period and restricting nitrate losses through leaching after the end of the cropping period.

In Task 3.3, titled “Innovations to maximise nutrient recycling and improve NUE in soilless cropping systems”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) will further develop, validate and demonstrate a novel fertigation system (FS) to optimise recycling of the fertigation effluents in closed soilless cropping. This FS is connected with ion selective electrodes (ISEs) developed by CG and controlled by the software NUTRISENSE developed by AUA. The use of ISEs with a user-friendly software provides a tool to monitor in real time the nutrient concentrations in fertigation effluents, thereby enabling optimal supplementary fertiliser application to maintain the desired nutrient concentrations in the supplied nutrient solution. Thus, growers will be encouraged to switch to recycling of the fertigation effluents in soilless greenhouse crops as the uncertainty in nutrient supply that discourages them from adopting closed soilless systems will be lifted.

In Task 3.4, titled “Innovative plant physiological approaches and fertilizers to improve NUE”, AUA (Laboratory of Plant Breeding) will use small RNAs (miRNAs and lncRNAs) to control selected genes involved in NUE (i.e. N and P) via the exploitation of the endogenous RNAi machinery in tomato to enhance NUE. AUA has already studied and utilized small RNAs to control gene expression, especially for the management of plant viruses. Small RNAs are known to regulate plant gene expression; micro RNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) (function also as efficient miRNA sponges) have been implemented in controlling gene expression of genes involved in NUE (e.g. NLP, NRT, PHO2). Exogenous application/uptake (via leaf or root uptake) of miRNAs and lncRNAs could affect gene expression via the sequence-specific RNA silencing, designated as RNAi, and thus the plant phenotype. The effect of these small RNAs will be studied in tomato.

WP4: Nature-based technologies reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and NH3 emissions

In WP4, AUA will contribute to three different tasks.

In Task 4.1, titled “Reducing GHG and NH3 emissions from barns”, AUA (Laboratory of Farm Structures) will design feed compositions and precise feeding methods for poultry while measuring their impact on GHG and NH3 on the barn scale. The activity will built upon the results and activities of the H2020 RES4LIVE project which was aiming to bring into the market integrated cost effective and case sensitive Renewable Energy Sources (RES) solutions towards achieving fossil free livestock farming. In the ECONUTRI project the installation and use of PV systems in AUA’s poultry facility will be evaluated in terms of GHG emissions reduction and cost efficiency.

In Task 4.3, titled “Emission reduction from fields”, AUA (Laboratory of Viticulture) will validate and demonstrate three alternative organic farming practices capable of reducing GHG emissions in vineyards based on: (i) cultivation of winter legumes as green manure, (ii) mowing of natural groundcover, or (iii) use of wood residues and grape marcs. This work will be conducted in cooperation with JHI, which will contribute to the GHG measurements. These technologies, which are anticipated to reduce N2O emission by 20-25% compared to conventional inorganic N fertilisers, will be demonstrated in two commercial vineyards.

In Task 4.4, titled “Emission reduction through monitoring feedback”, AUA (Laboratory of Farm Structures) will validate and demonstrate the utility of commercially available emission/concentration monitoring tools in reducing GHG and NH3 emissions.

WP5: Environmental impacts, life cycle analysis & socioeconomic aspects

In WP5, AUA will contribute to two different tasks.

In Task 5.2, titled “Life cycle assessment”, AUA AUA (Laboratory of Farm Structures) will contribute, in cooperation with IGZ, to environmental assessments by employing life cycle assessment (LCA), focusing on the environmental effects on three scales: local, regional, and global. Data sets produced from simulations in Task 5.1 will be used as input to the LCA analysis. Results from simulations in Task 5.1 will feed in data needs associated with inventory of inputs and outputs along the life cycle stages in focus. The task will contain goal and scope, inventory analysis, and environmental impacts assessment.

In Task 5.3, titled “Socioeconomic assessment”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) will support the work conducted by ESSRG, JHI and UTH in socioeconomic studies focusing on consumers’ understanding of the socioeconomic sustainability of the three representative innovations Tested in Task 5.2 to explore the consumer readiness to accept food from sustainable agricultural production.

WP6: Data management and system-level analysis

In WP6, AUA will contribute to two different tasks.

In Task 6.1, titled “Data management and field-/farm-scale NBS assessments”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) will support JHI in designing a detailed Data Management Plan to ensure best practices for data management.

In Task 6.3, titled “Policy-mapping, -codesign, & -recommendations”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production), together with JHI and ESSRG, will support SPI to the compilation of four Policy Briefs which shall define transformation pathways in simple terms for decision-makers concerning implementation of NBS for sustainable nutrient management.

WP7: Project Management and Coordination in which AUA is the leader

In WP7, AUA is the WP Leader, contributing to all four tasks.

In Task 7.1, titled “Project coordination” AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) as Task Leader will undertake all actions needed for successful management of the project, both administratively and financially, ensuring that its objectives are achieved, and the impact of the obtained results is maximised. The coordinating team will ensure a smooth coordination between WPs and timely submission of deliverables and milestones.

In Task 7.2, titled “Administrative and financial management” and coordinated by METEC, AUA will contribute to: (i) continual and efficient administrative and financial management; ii) support and assistance to individual project partners on administrative and financial issues, (iii) six-monthly cost monitoring to ensure that the expenses are in line with the grant agreement and the EC guidelines; (iv) contract management, including amendments to the grant and consortium agreements, if needed; (v) coordinate production and timely submission of the project reports. (vi) financial reporting to the funding body.

In Task 7.3, titled “Monitoring and evaluation”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) as Task Leader will (i) design project monitoring tools aimed at providing efficient means for facilitating the project coordination, ii) monitor the progress concerning project implementation and use of financial resources; (iii) monitor the submission of deliverables and the achievement of milestones; iv) establish an External Advisory Board which will be invited to attend two internal evaluation workshops organised in M18 and M32, and provide two external monitoring reports with suggestions and critics on the work done up to M18 and 32, respectively.

In Task 7.4, titled “Quality assurance and risk management”, AUA (Laboratory of Vegetable Production) as Task Leader will establish a systematic recording and evaluation mechanism to keep track and monitor the project-related work, and manage activities towards quality assurance and control. Furthermore, AUA will compile and implement an appropriate risk management plan to continuously monitor the progress of the individual tasks and WPs, and take measures in time to address potential risks, thereby ensuring achievement of the project objectives.