Aerial view of Tractor mowing green field in Finland.

Designing 21st century sustainable agriculture

Agriculture and Agribusiness

It is not possible to conceive the world without food production and it is undeniable that agriculture and livestock are essential activities for the survival of the human being.

Sustainability: the Earth Overshoot day challenge

The concept of sustainable development emerged in the 1960s, when it became apparent that environmental problems could be caused by the development of the economy and industry. In 1972, the Club of Rome (NGO) presented its first report, known as the Meadows Report, at the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.

The report argued that non-growth in developing countries was a response to environmental deterioration and the scarcity of planetary resources, drawing particular attention to the “attack” on the capitalist system. For their part, economists claimed that capitalism could not survive without unlimited development, criticizing the report. Due to criticism, the Club of Rome issued a second report in 1974 advocating organic development, i.e. with limited growth intrinsic to all living organisms.

Since the publication of the book The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972), a considerable number of concepts were developed, integrating ecological and economic concerns that were not consensual until 1987. That year, the Brundtland Report was published, which defined “sustainable development” as one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Later, in 1997, Wackernagel and others popularized the term “ecological footprint” for the Earth Council. The authors determined the land needed to provide the natural resources consumed by the global population and the absorption of their waste. As a result, the term was adopted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which provides ecological footprint data from more than 150 nations listed in the Living Planet Report.

Earth overshoot day

It is on the basis of this concept that the growing interest arises in quantifying the number of Earth planets we need to provide the resources needed for the use of humanity and to “absorb” emissions. Similarly, and because needs are already exceeding our planet’s capabilities, the concept of Earth Overshoot Day (EOD), the day of the year on which our planet’s capabilities are surpassed, has also been defined.

In 2019, the number of planets was already 1.75 and the EOD, or Earth Overload Day, was July 29, and action is urgently needed to address this global problem.

Feeding the world in today’s context

At the same time, agricultural, livestock and forestry systems have never faced such a wide range of complex challenges:

  • double food production by 2050 to face exponential population growth
  • increase the yield of crops without increase the production area.
  • reduce water and energy consumption.
  • reduce production costs and environmental impact promoting biodiversity.
  • addressing the impact of climate change.
  • ensuring food safety for a growing population.

In addition, agricultural systems face the challenges posed by digital transformation. Decision-making technology and tools, based on new information and communication technologies related to precision agriculture, increasingly play an important role in addressing these challenges.

accelerating the digital transition in the agricultural sector will enable improved productivity as well as increased environmental performance, contributing to sustainable and efficient resource management.

agriculture drone sprayed fertilizer
Designing 21st century sustainable agriculture 1

ISQ operates throughout the value chain of the primary sector, providing integrated services and innovative technological solutions that allow to increase the competitiveness, sustainability and productivity of agro-industrial systems

ISQ’s role in this sector

Being a large Technological Interface Center, ISQ is a unique entity that brings together four complementary valences:

  • As a Technological Interface Center, links higher education institutions and companies, for the enhancement of products and services and the transfer of technology.
  • The business side of the group, with a group of affiliated companies that are specialists and leaders in their areas of activity, which makes it possible to benefit from the most recent trends, challenges and opportunities, whether nationally or in the different geographies in which ISQ is positioned
  • The set of accredited fixed and mobile laboratories in the most varied areas and sectors
  • Participation in regulatory and standard-setting bodies, with an active role in defining norms and standards

This allows ISQ not only to promote technology transfer and innovation in companies, through certification processes, improvement of quality and efficiency in production, support for innovation activities, access to technologies under development and training of human resources, but also to provide high quality and recognized services, in accordance with the most rigorous standards and applicable norms.

ISQ’s services for the agro-industry of the future, already today

Our regulatory and technological solutions and services for the agro-industrial sector contribute to achieving this vision and addressing the new challenges of a more global and competitive market.

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Designing 21st century sustainable agriculture 2

QFA – the Unit for Chemistry, Pharmaceuticals and Agri-Food

ISQ has decided to combine the various valences it already has in the chemical, pharmaceutical and agri-food sectors with regard to analyses and trials, and has created a highly specialized unit called FFQ (Chemistry, Pharmaceutical and AgroAlimentar), dedicated to providing analysis services to various sectors of activity.

These are areas of activity with a high technological and scientific component, based on the accumulated experience of laboratory activity of the ISQ Group.

1) Soil, plant matter and water

Agricultural Analyses

The services provided by the Chemistry Laboratory of ISQ (LABQUI), cover a very wide range of tests ranging from Chemical Analyses to Environmental and Food Control.

Analytical services in the agricultural field have a strong impact on the safety of the sector, promoting not only the optimization of cultivation, fertilisation, harvesting and distribution processes as well as the promotion of safe agricultural production and protection of society in general through chemical and microbiological analysis of food.

The client enjoys a service of high professionalism, high quality standards, total exemption and impartiality in issuing results and technical opinions. You can also enjoy solutions tailored to your needs due to the laboratory’s capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Labqui, in partnership with the Center for Operational and Irrigation Technologies (COTR), develops an integrated Agricultural Analysis service whose evaluation of the results gives rise to the issuance of recommendations / technical reports in order to meet the needs of plants, through a rigorous application of macro and micronutrients.

The recommendations/technical reports fall within the requirements of farmers’ field notebooks covered by certification standards such as Integrated Production, Organic Production, GLOBALGAP, BRC and Vulnerable Areas:

  • Agricultural soils.
  • Plant matter.
  • Watering waters.

2) Food safety

Labiagro is a Chemical and Microbiological Laboratory of the ISQ group, dedicated to quality control and food safety. Endowed with a team of excellence with high training and experience and a unique laboratory structure, it has the most advanced technology and offers a set of differentiating services that are an integral and indispensable part for ensuring food safety and quality, contributing to a more conscious society.

Labiagro provides services to all food chain operators, including producers, industry, distributors, storers, from various sectors of activity. It provides knowledge as a complement in decision-making and presents specialized services and integrated solutions that result in a significant improvement in the performance levels of organizations involved in the food chain, improvement of their processes and consequently in safeguarding the health and well-being of consumers, thus contributing to the minimization of risks to public health.

The services are based on 3 main themes:

  • Analytical Services: Chemical and Microbiological Analyses
  • Consulting and Technical Support, Technical Solutions.
  • Training

3) Transport and food contact packaging

Tests on packaging, materials, high consumption products and food contact

Through the National Packaging Center (CNE), ISQ Group Laboratory specialized in tests on packaging, materials, products of great consumption and food contact. The CNE develops tailored tests in several areas, in order to evaluate the performance of the products taking into account the purpose for which they are intended. Among the laboratory activity, we highlight the ability to evaluate materials and packaging through the following services:

  • Evaluation of mechanical/physical properties, with tensile, compression, bending, among others.
  • Climate tests: accelerated aging, temperature and humidity control, life cycle analyses.
  • Product performance: leak assessment, integrity, impact, etc.
  • Transport simulation, evaluation of packaging behavior: vibration, compression, falls, etc.
  • Food contact, verification of compliance with European legislation, FDA, Council of Europe: global migration, specific migration, residual quantity, etc.
  • Assessment of the suitability of the packaging to the product (protection, storage and distribution requirements).
  • Optimization of packaging against your product.
  • Evaluation and preparation of technical data sheets / declarations of conformity, and other supporting documents.
  • Support services in the evaluation of documentation, tailored training actions, and conducting audits to suppliers.

4) Resources and waste

Resource efficiency (water, energy and raw materials) is an essential component for more competitive and sustainable agriculture and agro-industries both at the environmental and economic level.

In this context, in the field of energy, ISQ carries out:

  • Energy audits and energy rationalization plans. We analyze the various types of energy consumed and propose improvement measures with estimated implementation costs and return on investment period.
  • Energy management plans. We support in the definition of indicators, data collection and training of energy management teams.
  • Evaluation of the potential for the implementation of renewable energies and preparation of specifications and consultations with the market, in the area of photovoltaic production for self-consumption.
  • Evaluation and refrigeration systems with verification of efficiency associated with the energy consumption of the equipment.
  • Projects and energy efficiency (PEE). The implementation of a PEE begins with an energy assessment to energy-consumer systems, a study of how to provide the capital needed to implement measures and improve, implement the project and deliver results. The investment is amortized through the energy savings generated by the implementation of the project.

In the field of water, ISQ operates both at the level of the facilities and in the level of irrigation:

  • Water audits and plans to rationalize water use. We analyze the inflow and outflow of water and propose improvement measures with estimated implementation costs and return on investment period. Improvement measures include ways to reuse the water outflows from the farm or facility.
  • Analysis of the potential for reuse of water from ETARs.
  • Efficiency of pumping systems and energy evaluation.
  • Support in decision support in the management of water supply and treatment systems.

In the context of the recovery of waste or by-products from the agricultural sector, ISQ operates in the following services:

  • Laboratory analysis of waste from the agricultural sector with the objective of its recovery.
  • Evaluation of opportunities for agricultural and industrial symbiosis. With study of the potential mutually beneficial relationships between companies that are part of an agricultural or industrial ecosystem (residue of an industry used as a raw material in another in order to “close the cycle”).
  • Evaluation of the potential for recovery of waste from farms and manufacturing and food industries.
workers of vertical farm examining leaves of lettuce

innovation in production fostering the circular economy

5) Systems and processes

The calibration of measuring equipment and instruments associated with production control is intrinsically associated with the quality of agricultural processes or agro-industrial products. Evaluating the performance of measurement equipment over time is critical to the reliability of measurement results. Any deviation can condition the correct decision making and affect the quality of processes and products.

ISQ scope:

  • Calibration of insensitizers for animal slaughter.
  • Thermometers, temperature loggers, humidity probes, PH.
  • Hygrometers and thermohygrometers, manovacuometers, pyrometers.
  • Scales, ballasts, pasta.
  • Pressure gauges, transducers and pressure transmitters.
  • Greenhouses, ovens and climatic chambers.
  • Flow counters.
  • Gas meter and gas analyzers.
  • Autoclaves and baths.

All calibrations are performed by Laboratory with the Quality System implemented in accordance with NP EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and accredited by IPAC.

The importance of rationalizing the use of water for irrigation is undeniable to raise the sustainability standards of crops. However, if irrigation equipment does not work effectively and efficiently, this action alone does not guarantee this objective.

Although many new equipment may have been installed in accordance with the applicable standards, after being installed, its operation may suffer anomalies that need to be identified and corrected. Located in Beja, the laboratory of testing of irrigation equipment, which results from the partnership of ISQ-COTR puts at the disposal of farmers an infrastructure capable of testing, with guarantee, the various equipment according to the Standards applicable to it. The following services stand out:

  • Ensure the correct operation and performance of the water counters, according to the manufacturer’s requirements.
  • Identify malfunctions and help resolve problems found in the field.
  • Determine the operating characteristics of the equipment supplied by the manufacturer, on the basis of which the installation project is carried out.
  • Track installed equipment to ensure its correct operation throughout its life cycle.
  • Support manufacturers of irrigation equipment in the development and manufacture of new technologies.

Periodic inspection of sprayers is reflected in more efficient and homogeneous applications, which use the correct doses, minimizing the waste of syrup and ensuring greater effectiveness of treatments.

Together with other good practices, the inspection of the equipment, allows to check and check the state of operation, contributing to the prolongation of the life of the sprayer. This scenario brings declared advantages to the applicator, consumer, environment and producer.

The ISQ was recognized and certified by the General Directorate of Veterinary Food (DGAV) as a Mandatory Periodic Inspection Center for Plant Protection Equipment and Application (Certificate 23/2017). It has a mobile inspection centre with all the appropriate equipment and duly certified to carry out the inspection and ready to go to meet the farmers.

Generally considered in agricultural value chains are software that can prove to be an important part in farm-specific data-based decision-making, improving productivity as well as environmental outcomes.

ISQ develops tailored tools to facilitate decision-making on farms and agro-industrial sectors.

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promoting sustainability and productive efficiency

6) Safety and environment

THE ISQ carries out the verification of the conformity of agricultural equipment and machinery in the sector of work in service, constituting this verification in an inspection of mechanical and electrical components with the execution of the applicable tests (functional tests, reliability of safety systems, electrical, load, etc.).

  • Support in the definition of technical solutions for the integration of safety in work equipment.
  • Support in the preparation of inspection and testing procedures.
  • Technical peritagens.
  • CE marking of machines:
  • Intervention as a Notified Body/Accredited Entity for the machines listed in Annex IV to the Machinery Directive.
  • Technical support to manufacturers in the integration of essential safety requirements in machinery with a view to CE marking.
  • Initial verification of compliance of safety requirements in the reception of equipment.
  • Risk analysis to machinery and equipment.
  • Support in the development of technical manufacturing processes.
  • Support in the preparation of technical documentation (e.g. manuals, procedures, etc.).

ISQ supports the promotion of safety and health at work and in the control and reduction of environmental impacts through multidisciplinary teams and the network of accredited laboratories, which ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. To this end, it elaborates:

  • Specific studies evaluating exposure to chemical (plant protection, dust, …), physical (thermal stress, lighting, optical radiation and electromagnetic fields) and biological (Fungi and Bacteria, of which Legionella stands out).
  • Specific studies of professional and technological risk assessment (PHA, HAZOP, JSA, …) and organises work safety services in the form of external services and support for internal services.
  • Specific studies and tests that ensure the implementation of legal and regulatory requirements for fire safety (MAP, Training and Simulacrum, technical audits and monitoring of tests to the systems of fire and extinguishing).
  • Specific studies that ensure the control of the risk of the formation of potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX) (cereal silos, forklift batteries, Natural Gas Networks, Biogas, …).
  • Soil contamination studies.
  • Due Environmental Dilligence.
  • Packaging waste management procedure and good practices.
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA).
  • Carbon footprint.
aerial view of tractor mowing green field in finland

ensure safety and environment

R&D+i and funding for 21st century agroindustry

ISQ is a percussor entity of technology and digitization in various sectors of the industry with extensive experience in national and international projects. In the R&D area related to agricultural systems, ISQ works on areas related to sustainability and resource efficiency in agriculture (water and energy) and animal farms, process digitization and digital decision support tools. The projects carried out include:

In addition to the R&D activity, ISQ also supports farmers and agro-industrialists in identifying funding opportunities in national and international programs.

Space satellite over the planet earth


Sustainable Agriculture through Earth Observation via Satellite and Data Science

The agricultural sector faces several challenges related to the increasing variability of climatic conditions, directly associated with the dynamics of crop growth, plant health, diseases and pest influxes.
InteliCROP (ESA SAMLL ARTES project) aims to provide technological decision support resources and services for sustainable agriculture, helping to develop preventive actions against phytosanitary problems or to improve crop management.
The solution developed by InteliCROP aims to improve the monitoring of agricultural variables, providing reliable information and forecasts on production, agricultural indicators, vegetation indices, or phytosanitary risks, with adequate advance notice to facilitate responses and contingency planning to better protect crops. .
The developed InteliCROP integrated platform leverages the capabilities of Earth observation methods and artificial intelligence methods to identify patterns and correlations in specific agro-climatic data for mapping occurrences in agriculture and promoting optimal decision-making.

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Digital platform for greenhouse monitoring

As part of the MaisTec project, an IoT device was developed, a digital platform for monitoring greenhouses, SmartGreenHouse. The objective focuses on the contribution of sustainable agriculture by increasing knowledge of the culture media and intervening variables.
The IoT device allows you to measure in real time various indicators, eg temperature, air humidity, light, soil moisture (culture in substrate), electroconductivity of the irrigation solution (culture in hydroponics), pH of the irrigation solution (culture in hydroponics) , CO2, O2, air quality.
The measured data are sent wirelessly to a database integrated into the digital platform. The developed platform allows you to view the data history, monitor the measured variables in real time, or implement advanced models for data processing and analysis. Thus, the results are available in a web interface, with the possibility of also being presented in an android application.


Internal Development Unit | ISQ Laboratories Management

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As a project initiated by ISQ, insight is open to contributions from everyone who wants to participate and who can bring their vision, scientific studies and reasoned opinion to enrich the themes and the debate.

If your activity is linked to research or the analysis and implementation of measures in the topics discussed here, please contact us using the form attached.