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Academic year 2023/2024
Master's Degree (MSc) on PRECISION AGRICULTURE

Coordinator Prof. Pietro Catania
Class of Master's Degree (MSc) on Agricultural sciences (LM-69)
2 years
PALERMO
Free access
Department of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Science
Course Code
2293

Course info
The Degree Course in Precision Agriculture deepens mainly the cultural, scientific and professional fields related to the application of precision agriculture technologies in agricultural and livestock companies, in order to optimize the use of production factors from the point of view of economic efficiency, profitability, sustainability and stability of agricultural systems, with reference to crops, livestock and forestry activities in different contexts. The course provides the study of the soil-plant-environment system in order to understand its spatial and temporal variability. The study of the variables through digital technologies, in fact, enables to monitor and optimize the management of the cultivation operations of agricultural and livestock production. In fact, rather than applying the same number of agronomic inputs on an entire cultivated field, or feeding a herd with homogeneous rations, the variables are first measured and then the optimal strategy adjusted to do the right thing at the right time. The project plans to provide advanced tools for the collection and processing of digital data by drawing on the agriculture 4.0 technologies and on artificial intelligence and machine learning methodologies with the aim of providing learners with the knowledge necessary to develop advanced tools for decision support to enhance production and make it more efficient. The course also provides knowledge of the methods to use and process satellite data, oriented towards final applications, as well as the knowledge and skills needed for the use of GPS and terrestrial and aerial photogrammetry. The scientific areas characterizing the training project are related to the disciplines of agronomy, herbaceous, horticultural and tree crops through precision technologies to improve the efficiency of the production process from an agronomic and environmental point of view. They also refer to the disciplines of defence through technologies applied to the management of phytophagous arthropods and the sustainable and precision defence against plant parasites. Agricultural Engineering subjects, such as Irrigation Systems with intelligent sensors and technologies and the use of drones and machines for precision agriculture, will contribute to provide the fundamental application tools for the design of sprinkler and drip irrigation systems, as well as the knowledge useful for the application of water balance at different spatial scales, supported by the monitoring of environmental forces and parameters of the soil-plant-atmosphere system, through intelligent sensors integrated with IoT solutions. The course also provides the knowledge of real-time monitoring of the water status of the soil-plant-atmosphere system (SPA) through the use of drones or remote sensing data using terrestrial platforms, with proximal sensors, and aerial platforms, with sensors on drones, for the construction of prescription maps aimed at the use of operating machines with isobus systems for cultivation and harvesting operations with spatially variable systems. The area of “precision Zootechnics" includes the teachings Animal nutrition and Technologies applied to animal husbandry. The "Precision Animal Feeding" module provides the notions related to the nutrition and feeding of livestock animals, with respect to the automatic techniques of food quality control, rationing and food distribution. The "Precision Technologies in Farms" module provides knowledge on the most recent technological developments in the animal production sector, the principles of precision zootechnics and its applications for the main ruminant and monogastric livestock species. Furthermore, knowledge will be transferred on the use of sensors for monitoring the environment and animals to optimize the livestock farm management, with a view to improving the well-being and health of animals, the efficiency and quality of their productions and the reduction of the environmental impact. . The Course is completed by the teaching "Smart Enterprise Planning and Economic Management", providing the knowledge and tools enabling to anticipate decisions related to the cultivation cycle through access to information deriving from specific technologies adopted throughout the production cycle of the various agricultural and livestock productions. The training project consists of three phases: 1) monitoring and recording of georeferenced data, 2) 2) analysis, processing and planning of cultivation operations in relation to the specific needs of the soil-plant-environment system 3) 3) application of smart technologies for site-specific management (fertilisation, irrigation, tillage, sowing, transplanting, phytosanitary defence treatments). The first phase includes the teachings Fundamentals of precision agriculture, Big Data Cloud and IoT in Agriculture and Remote Sensing and geographic information systems. The specific training objectives of this first learning phase are: The teaching Foundations of Precision Agriculture and GIS application is to provide the fundamental knowledge for the use of geospatial techniques and related instruments in agriculture, in order to plan precision agriculture strategies based on remote and proximal monitoring techniques and technologies for the distribution of spatially variable raw materials. The specific characteristics, the theoretical and methodological foundations, the modalities of use, the expected costs and benefits of each available technology will be analysed. The Big data, Cloud and IOT in agriculture course provides advanced tools for the collection and processing of digital data by drawing on the enabling technologies of agriculture 4.0 and on artificial intelligence and machine learning methodologies, providing students with the knowledge necessary to develop advanced tools for decision support to enhance production and make agro-industrial chains more efficient. The objective of the Remote sensing for precision agriculture teaching is to provide students with the methods of using and processing satellite data, oriented towards final applications, as well as the knowledge and skills necessary for the use of GPS and terrestrial and aerial photogrammetry. The second phase includes the teachings Agronomy, herbaceous crops and horticulture with precision technologies, Precision management of fruit tree species and Sustainable and precision phytosanitary defence. The specific training objectives of this second learning phase are reported below. The module of Agronomy, herbaceous crops and horticulture with precision technologies provides students with skills and competences in the use of tools and technologies to analyse and manage herbaceous crops by applying principles and techniques of precision agriculture to improve the efficiency of the production process from the agronomic and environmental point of view. In the first part of the module, the crop simulation models of agronomic interest will be illustrated. In the second part, the main agronomic techniques that lend themselves to interesting applications in precision agriculture will be examined: soil tillage, sowing, fertilization, irrigation, weed control. The final part of the teaching will be related to the analysis of case studies and the application of precision technologies to herbaceous crops. The Horticulture with Precision Technologies module aims to enable students to understand and analyse modern vegetable production by applying, through modelling, the principles of precision agriculture. The module introductory part is related to the structural characteristics of high-tech protective preparations and the equipment supporting the conduct of precision crop cycles. The module is divided into two main themes: precision agriculture applied to open field horticulture and precision agriculture applied to controlled environment horticulture. Issues related to precision agriculture applied to soilless crops will also be dealt with. The aim of the course Precision management of fruit tree species is to provide knowledge on the morpho-functional aspects of trees and the technical aspects of tree systems at the basis of crop management models for fruit species. The educational activity will be mainly focused on targeted and precise tree and orchard management techniques, aiming at improving production efficiency. Emphasis will be given to the relationship between genotype and environment and to the use of technology to improve the sustainability of the production cycle. The module Technologies applied to the management of phytophagous arthropods intends to transfer to students the critical ability to recognize the appropriate moment for the application of programs to control the populations of phytophagous insects, through the most appropriate techniques, namely those with low environmental impact. Also, students will be able to apply the decision support systems in modern integrated management with reference to the main Mediterranean crops using the recent sustainability indicators. The sustainable and precision defence against plant parasites module provides knowledge concerning the phytosanitary certification and development of defence strategies to be implemented in the various ecosystems, as well as at customs and in all access points of foodstuff and/or plants or parts of them and at the same time the development of integrated defence strategies through smart analyses. The training project is completed by the teachings: Irrigation systems with intelligent sensors and technologies, Smart Enterprise Planning and Economic Management, Precision Animal Husbandry and Use of Machines and Drones for Precision Agriculture. The teaching Irrigation Systems with Intelligent Sensors and Technologies provides students, who are about to enter the job market, with the essential application tools to design sprinkler and drip irrigation systems, suggesting their use according to careful management, even in conditions of limited water resources, increasingly frequent in the countries of the Mediterranean basin. The course also intends to provide the knowledge useful for the application of water balance models at different spatial scales supported by the monitoring of environmental forces and parameters of the soil-plant-atmosphere system, through intelligent sensors integrated with IoT solutions. The knowledge of real-time monitoring of the water status of the soil-plant-atmosphere system (SPA) through the use of drones or remote sensing data will also be provided. The Smart Enterprise Planning and Economic Management teaching provides students with the knowledge and tools to anticipate decisions concerning the cultivation cycle through access to information obtained through specific technologies adopted throughout the production cycle of the various agricultural productions. The Precision Animal Feeding module provides the notions related to the nutrition and feeding of livestock, regarding the automatic techniques of food quality control, rationing and food distribution. The module Precision livestock technologies provides students with knowledge of the most recent technological developments in the animal production sector, the principles of precision zootechnics and its applications for the main ruminant and monogastric livestock species. Aspects relating to the use of sensors for monitoring the environment and animals will be explored to optimize the management of the livestock farm, with a view to improving the well-being and health of the animals, to the efficiency and quality of their productions and the reduction of the environmental impact. Particular attention will be paid to the interpretation of information derived from the adopted precision technologies. The teaching Use of drones and machines for precision agriculture provides students with the fundamental knowledge for the use of precision technologies through terrestrial platforms, with proximal sensors, and aerial platforms, with sensors on drones, for the construction of prescription maps. The course also provides knowledge on the use of operating machines with Isobus systems for reading prescription maps to carry out cultivation and harvesting operations with spatially variable systems. The knowledge, skills and competences acquired enable students to develop self-learning and continuous updating skills through the consultation of scientific publications as well as to attend both second-level masters courses and doctoral courses. The educational path provides for a sequence of teachings providing students with a logical sequence of knowledge and skills acquisition. The two course years (consisting of two semesters each) fully respect the order of the three phases 1) monitoring and recording of georeferenced data, 2) analysis, processing and planning of cultivation operations in relation to the specific needs of the soil-plant system -environment 3) application of smart technologies for site-specific management (fertilisation, irrigation, tillage, sowing, transplanting, phytosanitary defence treatments). For all disciplines, the type of verification is oral, and the exam also includes the discussion of the exercises developed during and the course. The evaluation will consider the level of knowledge reached by students and their ability to apply the acquired knowledge. The evaluation is expressed out of thirty, with a minimum score of 18 as “pass” mark and a maximum of 30 cum laude.
Profile: Precision fruit growing technician Functions: The specialized precision fruit-growing technicians design the plants for vine, olive, citrus, peach, almond, pistachio and mango crops, and choose the agricultural equipment according to the specific company needs. They can install precision agriculture technologies and manage all cultivation operations in an intelligent way, analyse the spatial variability of orchards, process the data, and apply the machines for the spatially variable distribution of production factors. Skills: The precision fruit-growing technicians carry out planning, design, management, control, coordination, and training tasks in all the public and private facilities operating in the Mediterranean and tropical fruit growing sectors. Professional opportunities: Precision fruit growing technicians’ professional profile enable them to find a job placement, subject to public competition, in various public bodies such as the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies, the Provinces and Municipalities, as well as in Companies and organizations operating in the fruit growing sector (social wineries, consortia, etc.). Graduates of this Degree Course can also carry out freelance activity, as they may access the Professional Register of Doctors of Agronomy and Forestry. Profile: Precision herbaceous crop technician Functions: Precision herbaceous crop technicians design the systems for cereal, forage, horticultural and floral crops and choose the agricultural equipment according to the specific company needs, in the open field as well as in protected environments. They can install precision agriculture technologies and manage all cultivation operations in an intelligent way. They analyse the spatial variability of herbaceous crops, process the data, and apply the machines for the spatially variable distribution of the production factors. Skills: The precision herbaceous crop technicians can carry out planning, design, management, control, coordination and training tasks in all the public and private facilities operating in the cereal, forage, horticulture and floriculture sectors, in open field as well as in protected environments. Professional opportunities: The precision herbaceous crop technicians’ professional profile enable them to find a job placement, subject to public competition, in various public bodies such as the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies, the Provinces and Municipalities, as well as in Companies and organizations operating in the sectors of cereal growing, forage growing and horticulture in the open field and in protected environments (cooperatives, consortia, etc.). Graduates of this Degree Course can also carry out freelance activity, as they may access the Professional Register of Doctors of Agronomy and Forestry. Profile: Precision livestock technician Functions: The specialized Precision livestock technicians design the livestock farms and choose the zootechnical machines according to the specific company needs. They are able to install precision livestock technologies and manage livestock activities in an intelligent way. They analyse the animal variability of farms, process the data and apply the machines for the spatially variable distribution of feed. Skills: The Precision livestock technicians carry out planning, design, management, control, coordination and training tasks in all the public and private facilities operating in the animal husbandry sectors. Outlets: The Precision livestock technicians professional profile enable them to find a job placement, subject to public competition, in various public bodies such as the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies, the Provinces and Municipalities, as well as in Companies and organizations operating in the animal husbandry sectors (Cooperatives, Consortia, etc.). Graduates of this Degree Course can also carry out freelance activity, as they may access the Professional Register of Doctors of Agronomy and Forestry.
The final examination consists of the presentation of and original dissertation, prepared under the guidance of a supervising professor. The final dissertation must be original, and may be of experimental, theoretical, design type, or a short essay on a single or multi-disciplinary topic. In specific disciplines, the dissertation may also envisage a multimedia product. The dissertation may be written in a European Union language, other than Italian. The preparation for the final dissertation, or part of it, may be carried out at other Italian or foreign public and/or private institutions and companies, accredited by the University of Palermo.

course outline
Teachings first year
credits Term Val. Area Scientific sector
04677 - ENGLISH LANGUAGE 4.0 1 G F
11552 - REMOTE SENSING AND GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS Details PALMERI (RD) 6.0 1 V B AGR/10
22805 - BIG DATA, CLOUD AND IOT IN AGRICULTURE Details AIELLO (PA) 6.0 1 V C ING-IND/17
22806 - PRINCIPLES OF PRECISION AGRIICULTURE Details ORLANDO (PA) 6.0 1 V B AGR/09
22802 - AGRONOMY, HERBACEOUS CROPS AND HORTICULTURE WITH PRECISION TECHNOLOGIES Details LICATA (PA) 9.0 2 V
AGRONOMY AND HERB FARMING LICATA (PA) 6.0 B AGR/02
HORTICULTURE SABATINO (PA) 3.0 C AGR/04
22803 - SUSTAINABLE AND PRECISION PHYTOSANITARY DEEFENCE - INTEGRATED COURSE Details DAVINO (PO) 9.0 2 V
APPLIED TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF PHYTOPHAGOUS ARTHROPODS CUSUMANO (PA) 3.0 C AGR/11
SUSTAINABLE DEFENCE FROM VEGETABLE PARASITES DAVINO (PO) 6.0 B AGR/12
22804 - PRECISION MANAGEMENT OF FRUIT TREES Details LO BIANCO (PO) 6.0 2 V B AGR/03
Teachings second year
credits Term Val. Area Scientific sector
05917 - FINAL EXAMINATION 20.0 1 G E
14184 - INTERNSHIP 15.0 1 G S
22816 - PRECISION ZOOTECHNICS - INTEGRATED COURSE Details BONANNO (PO) 9.0 1 V
ANIMAL ALIMENTATION TODARO (PA) 3.0 C AGR/18
APPLIED TECHNOLOGIES IN ANIMAL HUSBANDRY BONANNO (PO) 6.0 B AGR/19
22910 - ECONOMIC PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT OF SMART COMPANIES Details BACARELLA (PA) 6.0 1 V B AGR/01
22911 - IRRIGATION SYSTEMS WITH SENSORS AND INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGIES Details IOVINO (PO) 6.0 1 V B AGR/08
22940 - USE OF DRONE AND MACHINES FOR PRECISION AGRICULTURE Details CATANIA (PO) 6.0 2 V B AGR/09
Free subjects (suggested) 12.0 D
Elective activities
Free subjects (suggested) credits Term Val. Area Scientific sector
21721 - AGRO-METEOROLOGY AD CLIMATOLOGY Details LETO (PO) 3.0 1 V D AGR/02
22815 - ROBOTICS IIN AGRICULTURE Details FAGIOLINI (PA) 3.0 1 V D ING-INF/04
22817 - STATISTICS WITH GEOSTATISTICS APPLICATIONS Details BARONE (PA) 3.0 1 V D SECS-S/02
22819 - SOIL CARTOGRAPHY FOR PRECISION AGRICULTURE Details LO PAPA (PA) 3.0 1 V D AGR/14
Explaination
Term Term/Semester
Val. Valutation: V = mark in 30/30, G = note
(*) Teaching attended in english
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