Could a trendy change of habits harness drone innovations in sustainable agriculture?

Contribution by: Viara Bojkova. (NSWR)


Consumer habits, beliefs and emotional needs continue to evolve and impact the local market status. Consumer companies conduct market-insight work focusing on how to identify changed behaviours and associated modified beliefs and customer motivation to obtain a comprehensive picture of the changing consumer decisions. In these circumstances, the qualitative research has an important role to play and complement the digital data-gathering and monitoring techniques that help companies understand emerging behaviours or new habits and adapt their product offerings. This short piece will illustrate such changes of habits or consumer diets that can alter trends and drive innovations in the agricultural sector.


For the last two decades, there has been a shift towards consumption of:

  • Organic food and beverages.
  • Bio-labelled food.
  • Science-based plant-extracted products (e.g., beta carotene, beet root powder, soyabean extract, sunflower seed protein).

Crop Monitoring Use Case- Spain

In Spain, the trend towards organic agriculture leads to the use of quality certifications, which is accompanied by a need for viable certified data. Naturally, organic farmers require more accurate crop monitoring and prediction methods and access to reliable environmental and climate prediction data as the risk of climate-induced crop failures is well noted amongst vintners and policy makers[4]. Accurate climate prediction data methods are actively being sought and selected by large farm-holders and managers. Tied to data procurement and crop monitoring markets is the need for attaining a mark of quality and accreditation. The importance of Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) status is pronounced, and these quality labels are recognized as a strong contributing factor to the success of regional wine products in international markets. Innovation in future accreditation systems, such as digital accreditation and labels, are accompanied with strict monitoring and control by various authorities in Spain.

The Crop Monitoring Use Case focuses on the crop UAV-monitoring techniques which will gradually become relevant in vineyards across the European Union. The EU is the world leader in wine production and represents 50% of the world vineyard area with 3.7 million hectares[5].

The capabilities of inferring plant vigor from RGB (Red Green Blue), multispectral, and hyperspectral images combined with autonomous navigation techniques, which utilise GPS, UWB (ultra-wide band), and computer vision, deliver a powerful tool capable of scaling in-field data collection at relatively low production and management cost.

In Spain, particularly in the region of Catalonia, the consumption of high-quality organic wine has increased while the consumption of house wine has decreased. According to Catalan media sources, the region has seen an exponential growth in proportion of vineyards dedicated to the production of organic wines[1]. In another segment, in France and widely in Europe, beef cattle production slightly decreased by (- 2.6%) of heads between 2016 – 2021 in EU-27[2]. Similarly, sheep production decreased by (- 5.5%) of heads between 2011 – 2021. The major European sheep producers experienced larger shocks: a decline of (-18.7%) in Spain, (-26.6%) in Greece, and (- 14.8%) in Italy for the same period. eo.

These identified and well-established trends in Europe are thoroughly discussed and statistically supported in the market research of ICAERUS Crop Monitoring Use Case and Livestock Monitoring Use Case [3], where the focus is on presenting market segmentations with recent changes of habits or consumer behaviours that lead to widely driven shifts in the European agricultural sector. Targeted customer groups, demand and supply forces are also specified to delineate the potential markets for these two cases.

Livestock Monitoring Use Case- France

The Livestock Monitoring Use Case in France focuses on cost-efficiency and the optimisation of livestock monitoring. As more animals are expected to be monitored by farm holders, the need for monitoring through UAVs or other digital solutions has increased. Drones for cattle monitoring is an emerging trend with a current low adoption rate but has the potential to increase due to the importance of grasslands-based livestock farming systems in Europe. However, it is essential to note that the maximum size of the market will stagnate for the next few years and no growth of animal production is expected. Some products are even forecasted to decline[6] as a result of changing consumer habits and behaviors’ as well as strategies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from ruminants.

Current research and innovation focus on the possibility of detecting animals, livestock and/or wildlife using UAVs and different sensors.

  • Thermal cameras have been used successfully for various detection algorithms.
  • The heat from an animal can be instantly detected with a thermal camera, requiring minimal processing.
  • A digital camera requires more advanced computer vision algorithms (deep learning). Accurate results have not been acquired yet in deep learning models.

By improving sensors (thermal cameras with higher resolution) and accuracy of deep learning algorithms for animal detection, more complex monitoring task will be possible in the Use Case and beyond.  

In conclusion, the two ICAERUS Use Cases ICAERUS provide examples of how changed consumer habits for food & beverage products can induce changes in sustainable agriculture and harness more innovation. Companies that can develop detailed understanding of modified beliefs and changed habits of their target consumer groups, and then adjust their products and marketing communications to improve customer experiences will be best positioned to create new innovative opportunities in the industries of the agri-food value chain.

[1] Catalonia’s organic wines are growing exponentially. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2022, from:
[2] Agreste (2022A), Synthèse conjoncturelle : production bovine en 2021, mai 2022, n°393. Available at: 
[3] More details are published in D1.1 European Landscape of Drone Innovations and Technologies, (2023)
[4] INCAVI, (2008)4 
[5] López-García, P., Intrigliolo, D., Moreno, M. A., Martínez-Moreno, A., Ortega, J. F., Pérez-Álvarez, E. P., & Ballesteros, R. (2022). Machine learning-based processing of multispectral and RGB UAV imagery for the multitemporal monitoring of Vineyard Water Status. Agronomy, 12(9), 2122. 
[6] Dumont, B., Dupraz, P., Aubin, J., Benoit, M., Bouamramechemache, Z., Chatellier, V., Delaby, L., Delfosse, C., Dourmad, J.Y., Duru, M., Frappier, l., Friant-perrot, M., Gaigné C., Girard A., Guichet J.L., Havlik, P., Hostiou, N., Huguenin-Elie, O., Klumpp, K., Langlais, A., Lemauviel-Lavenant, S., le Perchec, S., Lepiller, O., Méda, B., Ryschawy, J., Sabatier, R., Veissier, I., Verrier, E., Vollet, D., Savini, I., Hercule, J., Donnars, C. (2016) : rôles, impacts et services issus des élevages en europe. Synthèse de l’expertise scientifique collective, inra (france), 126 p.

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      Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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