REgional Clusters 

Taking stock

Ireland & UK

2 DIH nodes in Ireland & the UK: VistaMilk and AgriEpi.  We have grown our network expediently from 14 to over 100!


When SmartAgriHubs started, discussions about digital farming and new technologies had been ongoing for a while, nevertheless, many technologies themselves turned out not to be as mature as they should be for market entry.

Central Europe

National, European and International: the Central Europe research community and Industry can access a wide range of supports.

central europe

"Our approach changed completely when Innovation Portal and especially the Open Call funding opportunities were launched."


France has a vibrant agritech ecosystem, however, it is fragmented. Read more on how the Regional Clister France addressed this challenge.

"The work of SmartAgriHubs has helped develop new ideas and strategies of local SMEs and experts."

South-east europe

The Regional Cluster South-East covers a diverse range of territories: 9 countries, including the Balkans. Learn more about their approach & lessons learnt! 

South-east europe

National, European and International: the South-East Europe research community and Industry can access a wide range of supports.

south-east europe


Learn more from the Regional Cluster with the largest number of Flagship Innovation Experiments! 


"We are proud to have increased the number of agriDIHs in all the involved countries – from 1 to 5 in Finland."

North West Europe

This Regional Cluster is now supporting almost 100 Digital Innovation Hubs! 

In this article, you will learn about their strategies and what they foresee for the future of their network.


The Regional Cluster Iberia not only hosted the SmartAgriHubs Final event - but they also supported a dynamic network!

In this article, they share with us their achievements and lessons learnt.

italy & Malta

Re-watch the video message from Rita Gentili, and discover additional information about the growth of this Regional Cluster! 

On the first day of our Final Event, a session was dedicated to the 9 Regional Clusters of SmartAgriHubs. 

In this section, we look back at the achievements and lessons learnt in these regions. 

Regional cluster ireland & UK

Hazel Peavoy and Evi Arachoviti supported for the last 4 years the Regional Cluster Ireland & UK.

In this interview, they share their experience and feedback.

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

The network expansion of DIHs and CCs was hindered at an early stage, as the concept of the project was complex with differing understandings of what the project would deliver in the end. We have grown our network exponentially, disseminating information on the Smart Agri Hubs (SAH) project, portal and private room about the tangible benefits of getting all involved.  Encouraging and supporting our network to engage in the open calls, the digital exchange programmes, and the agricultural technology tool (ATN) while always placing the farming community at the heart of our (net)work.   

While we were growing our network of DIHs and CCs, we also wanted to develop, nurture and build strong relationships with the network which took time. 

We have found our network, energised by the project, and now see stakeholder groups forming and discussing the success and sustainability of the project/platform. While they are motivated, they too have identified the need for financial support to truly enable sustainability.  

We have identified 2 DIH Nodes, in Ireland and the UK (VistaMilk and AgriEpi). It would be important to give them more visibility on the SAH portal in order for them to become easily identifiable from a national and international perspective – it would also show what the national strategy was, given they are supported from a government level/perspective.  

We have established a very strong and robust relationship for our RC and organizations going forward and would like to see a plan put in place for the sustainability of the platform and the knowledge banks we have become.  

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

  • Private Room – Innovative idea is to create a room to allow the network the freedom to chat and collaborate on items that are only relevant to their network.  

  • Funding Roadmap -   was very successful as a signpost for CC and DIH to seek funding and to better understand the funding landscape.  
  • Collaboration between ‘proto Hubs’ and mature Hubs should be encouraged.  
  • DIH Nodes – we have 2 DIH Nodes, in Ireland and the UK (VistaMilk and AgriEpi) it would be great to give these nodes (or differentiate them) on the SAH portal, as they are of national importance and supported financially at a national level. It would be important to give them more visibility so that the depth and breadth of services offered are very obvious. It would also show what the national strategy was, given they are supported from a government level. (this could be said of the EDIHs involved in Agri as well).

What are you most proud of?

We have grown our network expediently from 14 to over 100, there are more to connect, however, while we were growing our network, we also wanted to develop, nurture and build strong relationships with the network which takes time.  

  • We engaged our network in the open calls, with success in the expand, engage and services calls.  

  • We promoted the ATN tool, and the digital exchange programme (DEP) again which our network was fully engaged.  

  • Our FIEs are completed, even with delays during the COVID period.  

  • We engaged and presented at over 50 events during the SAH project, both online and in person.  

  • We delivered a large number of items to the newsletter and blog post.  

  • We developed a training resource with SkillNets Ireland to enable farmers to adopt digital technologies, the training is called ‘Growing Digital Adoption’.  

Regional cluster central europe

For the past 4 years, a team of 7 Regional leads and co-leads supported SmartAgriHubs in Central Europe. 

Martin Hirt, Elena-Teodora Miron, Andrea Zetter, Karel Charvat, Petr Uhlíř, Sarka Horakova and Jiří Kvapil are looking forward to keeping it touch with the ecosystem. 

In this article, Martin Hirt shares his experience. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

When we started SmartAgriHubs in 2018, discussion about digital farming and new technologies had been ongoing for a while, nevertheless, many technologies themselves turned out to be not as mature as they should be for market entry. Many initiatives got started by this time aiming to shape the digital transformation in the agricultural sector, some dealing with further developing digital skills of farmers, some developing new technologies themselves and some setting the framework for broader usage in upcoming years (like legal conditions).

Due to the large diversity and variety of SmartAgriHubs members, it took a while until it turned out in which direction the activities of the network would go. Then we learned that the initial challenge of variety proved to be an advantage: SAH members and especially RC leads used their specific strengths to get in contact with actors outside the ecosystem and to extend the network. While farmer-oriented organizations brought mainly other agricultural associations, cooperatives and branch representations into the ecosystem, the more business-orientated SAH members looked out for acceleration hubs, business angels and chambers of commerce. Of course, also the connection to the meanwhile large European science community in digital technologies that was mainly built by our research partners has been a central success factor of SmartAgriHubs until today.

Dealing with this huge diversity in such a multi-actor project and the strategic utilization of these broad consortium capacities turned out to get one of the most exciting and fruitful benefits of the SmartAgriHubs approach and the overall project.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

In the first stage of the project, we focused on desk research aiming to identify innovative actors in our region to get in contact with. In many, many hours we spent in face-to-face meetings and online Telcos we tried to convince organizations and companies to cooperate with SmartAgriHubs and to join common activities. We learned quite soon that this had not been the most efficient way to extend the network. But due to a lack of materials and effective offerings we had not really have a lot of other choices than to try a very personal approach to connect with actors outside the project.

Our approach changed completely when Innovation Portal and especially the Open Call funding opportunities were launched. In addition, by this time our flagship Innovation experiments achieved their first results, and so we could achieve attention on a very different level: Through participation in conferences and a series of webinars we were then able to catch the attention of many innovation hubs inside and outside our region and to spread the message in a much more effective way.

We would summarize this experience with the following quote: “Never come empty-handed if you want someone to join your team!”

What are you most proud of?

As Regional Cluster leads and co-leads our main tasks have been to spread the message and the vision of SmartAgriHubs aiming to extend the network! In RC Central Europe we currently have more than 80 organizations at Innovation Portal connecting with each other aiming to start new projects, do technology and business development and find potential investors.

Especially the launch of the Open Call was a very exciting phase for us – we advised plenty of interested organizations in applying for funding which gave us incidentally also a very good insight into the ideas of many creative start-ups and DIHs. In the end, we have been quite happy that at least some applicants from our region were successful and could start their Innovation experiments.

A third point to mention is our RC CE webinar series as well as our hackathons: After the outbreak of the covid crisis, we relocated most of our activities into the digital sphere. Through our RC CE webinar series, we introduced pioneers and good practice examples of digital farming to an international audience while at the same time we could extend the reach of the SAH concept to a broader community. After every online event, we could clearly notice that new organizations registered on Innovation Portal and joined our common SmartAgriHubs ecosystem.

Regional cluster France

In France, the Regional Cluster was led by the Region Pays de la Loire and ACTA (French Agricultural Technical Institutes Network). 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

One of the biggest challenges was of course the COVID-19 crisis which slowed down our activity for a while. We had to invent new ways of working with partners and organising planned activities.

In the end, it was an interesting exercise that forced us to be creative and develop new approaches, such as dynamic webinars or matchmaking events online. If such a situation were to happen again, we would not be lost! However, the COVID crisis and the impossibility of organising physical events between the different clusters of the project may have been a barrier to the establishment of trans-regional collaborations.

One of the other challenges faced during the project was to succeed in mobilising the French DIH/CC network, despite the fact that the level of maturity of the territory was quite high overall. The calls for projects were an important lever in this mobilisation. We have also learned that it is important to organise regular physical or virtual events to enable network members to create human links, which are fundamental in establishing professional collaborations.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

A good practice we would like to share is the merging of different competencies and networks. Regional Cluster France is led by ACTA, an organisation that supports the technical institutes of agriculture in France, and by Pays de la Loire Region, a public authority as a regional government.

The strong relationship and complementary skills of both structures were essential for implementing SmartAgriHubs in France and bringing together a network of digital and agricultural stakeholders. We have learned that such a cluster of AgriTech players at the national level is of interest and value to organisations. We are looking for a suitable way to continue our collaboration and coordination of this network from which many synergies and joint projects can be derived.

What are you most proud of?

First, at the European level, we are proud of the SmartAgriHubs activities that are oriented on the big challenges of current European agriculture such as the focus on young farmers, agroecology or the place of women.

SAH considered digital innovation as a tool for achieving our common challenges and not as an end in itself. We feel flattered to have the chance to be part of it. Secondly, in France, we have many different structures working on innovation in agriculture with high levels of expertise.

However, we often find that many of them work independently rather than together. Therefore, we are proud of our active and diverse AgriTech community in France that we have succeeded in bringing together within the SmartAgriHubs project: around a hundred organizations, including 33 DIHs. In addition, we are happy and proud of the 6 projects funded under the open calls: four related to the call which focused on the organisation of hackathons concerning the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and two projects under the SERVICE open call, which aims at developing new services within DIHs. Finally, we are very proud of our 3 FIEs which have been developed with an awareness of the real needs of farmers and will continue their development after the end of the project.

thE Regional cluster South East europe

Members of the Regional Cluster South East Europe probably know very well the work of this 5-person powerhouse! 

Facilitated by the Agricultural University of Athens, ANAMOB/PROAGRO and Gradare, in this article they share with our community their proudest achievements and lessons learnt. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

More than 9 countries in South-East Europe, involving in the ecosystem of the Balkans. Many initiatives, a rich start-up ecosystem with various levels of digital maturity.

Our cluster was less mature at the initial stage of the SAH project, but during the project, the co-leadership paid a lot of attention and effort in disseminating technologies and initiating new DIH activities. Making local stakeholders familiar with the DIH term was challenging, also linking SMEs with regional DIHs and CCs. Additionally, during the COVID period, it was challenging to engage local actors in several virtual meetings and events. However, the cluster co-leadership managed to engage with regional stakeholders and strengthen the cluster’s ecosystem.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

The work of SAH has helped develop new ideas and strategies for local SMEs and experts. The RC co-leadership has incorporated SAH deliverables and results as a major basis to develop national strategies and plans for digital agriculture. We are sure that there is a need to continue and increase the intensity of awareness campaigns for the farmers towards their digital future, as well as SMEs and their interaction with support organisations such as DIH and CCs.

What are you most proud of?

If we could be proud of some outputs from our work in the cluster, these would be the following:

  • High participation of RC stakeholders in the Open Calls à 11 OC projects funded in the RC
  • Supporting local stakeholders in finding partners and setting up proposals but also other new collaborations in the context of new DIHs and CC activity.
  • Linking local stakeholders with other actors and experts from outside the RC. This is reflected in the large participation of the SEE actors in the new Horizon Europe submitted and approved projects, together with SAH colleagues from other RCs.

Regional cluster North-East europe

The Regional Cluster North East Europe is led by the ZSA, a Latvian farmers' union, and Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center. In this testimonial, they share their insights on their region. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

The regional approach in SmartAgriHubs allowed for better support and understanding of regional needs. However, it is a challenging task to be the mediator between farmers/end users, researchers and technology developers. Coordination should be supported by complementary organizations, with very good expertise in those areas. In our Regional Cluster, for example, the leader ZSA (a farmers' organization) and co-leader PSNC (ICT Research centre) complemented each other bringing together the necessary expertise.

Fostering the digital transformation for sustainable farming and food production is a challenging task. Farming structure in the region is quite diverse in structure – few very advanced farms and a large number of small/medium farms with a lack of knowledge and available technologies. This requires, among others, identifying, building and connecting a network of regional DIHs, CC and relevant stakeholders, supporting the sharing of knowledge among them, and helping them to find funding opportunities.

Another important challenge was the pandemic. This period was not the best to engage people – online zoom presentations with farmers and IT companies were difficult, so it required identifying other training methods. Useful methods included hackathons, pilot demonstrations; mentoring activities...
Some other challenges included: the language barrier; Internet coverage in some areas and difficulty to find and access relevant data.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

The COVID-19 pandemic time pushed the introduction of digital technologies, and new IT solutions were actively introduced into the market, however, the communication, contact making process for getting closer to the different target groups was more complicated. 

We believe that the message and information should be clear, understandable, and more practical (different 'language&term' for IT specialists- DH, CC- advisors/trainers, farmers Around so much information and really need to find the 'rosin' to attract people).

Regarding events, we would encourage bringing interesting speakers to the sessions to attract a wider audience (e.g., policymakers, related projects, etc.). Farmers are more willing to attend events in their own language, and they are more motivated by visual content.

We saw a lot of interest in the Open Calls, but the co-financing rate should be more attractive, e.g., it was sometimes difficult to find co-funding fitting the call format. 

Regarding the technologies used and developed in our Region, we see the need for data spaces facilitating data sharing and reuse and support the adoption of IoT, AI, and Big data, which is still not widely used in the region.

The Innovation Portal was a great way for us to keep informed, and rich in content. We are looking to seeing it maintained! 

What are you most proud of?

We are the Regional Cluster with the largest number of Flagship Innovation Experiments (FIEs), covering a wide range of technologies. In the past 4 years, we supported the development of the first FIEs dissemination videos with interviews with farmers, and with national policymakers. FIEs results are in operation and some have been integrated into national platforms where they are being sustained and developed further. Farmers have actually benefitted from FIEs results (e.g., drone services from FIE16 are being ordered by various small/medium farms in Poland already). We helped to link farmers and technology providers in the region, and engage stakeholders by promoting a multi-actor approach

We successfully organized 2 hackathons and 1 additional IE from Open Calls. Despite the pandemic, we were able to actively support and organize multistakeholder events. 

Regional cluster sCandinavia

Led by SEGES and the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke), the Regional Cluster Scandinavia tells you all in this article. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

Making a change in a complex system like farm information management requires a lot of discussion between parties, and time to adapt one's businesses, capabilities and processes according to the new target. Also, the concept of DIH seems to be a bit complex.

Prior to entering the project, most SMEs were in the middle of their development process, without having fully considered the implications of digitization for sales channels, pricing, operation, and further development of the solution. That is where our support was key. 

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

Clear communication between all stakeholders brings true understanding and helps adjust processes according to new targets. 

For us, the importance of data emerged - we have learned that there is a great need for increased development and utilization of data across the food cluster, to maintain and increase the competitiveness of the industry.

What are you most proud of?

We have learned a lot in the last 4 years.

We have worked closely together during the last 4 years on 3 joint FIEs, to which we added two more  Innovation Experiments (IEs) selected through the Open Calls. Our main focus has been on digitalization, the adoption of new technologies developed by SMEs to ultimately benefit the farmers. We also built and expanded digital hubs for the benefit of both the SMEs and the farmers.

In our region, the common understanding of the meaning of digitalization in agrifood has grown during this time, also increasing the need for information and services on this topic among the sector actors. We are proud to have increased the number of agriDIHs in all the involved countries – from 1 to 5 in Finland.

Regional cluster North-West europe

The Regional Cluster North-West Europe is sharing with us feedback from past achievements and future projects. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

SmartAgriHubs was a special project, because not only was there a focus on digital solutions, but it also aimed at building and expanding the network. At the beginning of the project, the term “DIH” was unknown to a lot of companies, although they were already performing DIH activities, without knowing it.

Reinforced through face-to-face contact, stakeholders were informed about SmartAgriHubs. We used one on one contact adapted to our audience (farmers, advisors, SMEs, and scientists…).

Supported by the findings of the Innovation Experiments and through the use of various SmartAgriHubs tools, specific digital solutions were elaborated to address a variety of challenges. The success of these activities can also be evaluated by a large number of successfully submitted proposals to the Open Calls and a significant increase in the number of DIHs and CCs in our Regional Cluster.

Because of the pandemic, we had to learn to circumvent all disadvantages in the entire food chain and tried to make the best of it.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

At the end of May and beginning of June, we as RC NWE organized two events - one in Belgium at ILVO and one in Germany- to showcase the results of the Innovation Experiments and other national digitalization projects in our region. They were a great success, with over 200 people attending.

During the Final Event in Lisbon, our cluster organized a workshop about digitization in pig farming & the impacts of digitalization by food chain actors. We were able to invite experts from across Europe who had not previously worked with SmartAgriHubs. We had very interesting presentations and very engaged discussions that continued even after the workshop. After the Final Event, we recruited "ambassadors" for SAH and extended the ecosystem.

We experienced that direct one-on-one contacts and network events work the best to inform companies and to convince them to become part of our network, but this asks a lot of effort and became very difficult in COVID times.

A lot of big companies in our region already have a very broad network, making it even more difficult to convince them to become part of this SmartAgriHubs network of DIHs and CCs and we missed some good selling points focused on these companies at the start.

What are you most proud of?

We managed to significantly increase the number of DIHs in our region and have now almost 100 hubs in our regional cluster, mainly through one-on-one contacts, and by organizing webinars and events.

We have also put a lot of effort into promoting the several open calls and supporting the companies and start-ups which has led to 24 extra funded innovation experiments in NWE.

# DIHs at the start: 39 à # DIHs at the end: 97

# CCs at the start: 12 à # CCs at the end: 42

Total F()IEs: 29

ILVO and MSG will support the sustainability of the SAH network and will remain active as the regional contact points.

Regional cluster IBERIA

The Regional Cluster Iberia is led by Consulai and CAPDER (Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development of Andalusia). In this article, they share the progress and achievements of their Regional Cluster.

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

In the last 4 years, SmartAgriHubs managed to have an impact on the Iberian innovation ecosystem, targeting the agrifood DIHs and directly impacting different stakeholders in those hubs, including farmers, associations, cooperatives, competence centres, public administrations, and others.

Creating, growing and maintaining the Iberian innovation ecosystem was not an easy feat to achieve. However, with the Regional Cluster (RC) approach we were able to connect the dots and engage with vibrant organizations that shared the same goal, to accelerate the digitalization of the agrifood sector.

In our opinion, the COVID pandemic and all its effects it had on our economy and our day-to-day was the main challenge. Our strategy of expanding our cluster was compromised and we had to adapt.

Looking back, we can see that we could adapt to the different challenges that came up and if the network members are motivated, great results can appear. The COVID crisis made us more aware of the importance of digitalization in the agri-food sector.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

For the Iberian reality, network creation and expansion must be face to face, preferably taking advantage of existing fairs and events that bring together different stakeholders in the agrifood innovation area.

However, maintaining the network is all about the content and the value added that the cluster and the SmartAgriHubs project bring to the table. We saw substantial interest in the Open Calls and that it really brought different DIHs to our network. In parallel, the online networking events facilitated by the RC gave a deeper knowledge of our RC members and promoted bilateral initiatives.

What are you most proud of?

Firstly, we are proud of our SmartAgriHubs project and network. After difficult times in the context of a pandemic crisis, we really think that our partners made the most out of that period. Looking at the results of each RC and the SAH project as a whole, we feel that a true impact was made.

We are also proud of our Iberian network, that after these 4 years of growing together we can see how far they have reached regarding Innovation Experiments, responding to the COVID crisis, and engaging in new innovative projects together.

We are proud and thankful to be part of the brilliant group of people that created, promoted, and executed our SmartAgriHubs overarching goals.

Regional cluster italy & Malta

This Regional Cluster led by Art-er and Coldiretti covered a variety of sectors, including aquaculture. 

In the past 4 years, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome? What did you learn from them?

One of the main challenges faced in our cluster has been to build a Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) culture: the concept itself was not (and it is not yet fully) clear, even more in the agricultural sector where even single digital solutions are still used by a marginalized number of farms. For this reason, we considered the Flagship Innovation Experiments particularly useful as they allowed us to showcase the DIH approach, explaining from practice its objectives, services, and working mechanism.

In this awareness campaign, it has been interesting explaining to some entities that they were a DIH, even if not formally recognized as such, as they were providing the same services attributable to a DIH. The capacity-building process could have been more impactful on our ecosystem if there had been a greater English proficiency, whose lack is still a critical barrier to accessing opportunities in the digital field for many actors of the agricultural sector.

What would be your lessons learnt and best practices for your region?

A key lesson learnt from the SmartAgriHubs experience and in particular by the FIE is that many farmers (above all those not used to employing digital solutions) should be accompanied step-by-step in their digital transformation: in this process, farmers really appreciate the figure of the advisors they trust in.

This suggests the need for professionals who can interact with farmers on the topic of the digital transformation of the agricultural business, being able to fill the gap between the tech providers and the farmers themselves. The people involved in the FIEs, especially those from the CCs, showed a good ability to interact with farmers, spending a lot of time explaining to them the technical features of the solution, and the benefits and listening to farmers' needs.

What are you most proud of?

There are several aspects we are proud of. First, the increase of our network. Since the beginning of the project, we attracted +19 among DIHs and CC. Moreover, we are proud that we had a DIH winner at each Open Call which contributed to widespread the concept of DIH.

We are proud that the activities conducted by the actors of our ecosystem covered different sectors and topics, from aquaculture to irregular work in agriculture, and that we have been able to facilitate the relationships between actors from our RC and others of different RCs. We are also proud of having contributed to creating awareness around the concept of the DIH among farmers, specifically the younger ones: in particular Coldiretti, co-leading partner of the RC, exploited the communication and visibility opportunities offered by SmartAgriHubs (newsletter, webinars, events, etc) to directly involve farmers as testimonials with the aim of bringing them closer to the DIH as a topic.

We are proud of having contributed to the gender equality debate, bringing testimonies which have been inspiring for ourselves and we hope also for others.