SmartField: New platform set to combat the pressing environmental nitrogen challenges in agriculture

Juan  Farré

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SmartField: New platform set to combat the pressing environmental nitrogen challenges in agriculture

Novo Nordisk Foundation




The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a substantial grant, of up to DKK 134 million over the next five years, to Danish Technological Institute for the creation of ‘SmartField’, an innovation platform at field level designed to significantly reduce nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching from agriculture.

Nitrous oxide resulting from the use of fertilisers in agriculture plays a little known, yet significant, role in global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing about 6-7% of global emissions caused by human activity.

Until now, the challenge of measuring these emissions has meant relying on oversimplified methods, which don’t encourage farmers to apply fertilisers in more environmentally-friendly ways, and thus reduce the release of N2O emissions into our atmosphere. Moreover, the lack of standardised field-testing opportunities hampers the industry innovation and deployment of promising new solutions that could decrease N2O emissions.

To address the urgent need for new technologies and solutions that farmers can implement to tackle this pressing issue, and to drive down emissions from agriculture, the Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) a substantial grant of up to DKK 134 million over the next five years (2024-2029) for the establishment of an innovative platform called ‘SmartField’. It is designed to test known and new agricultural N2O mitigating solutions in the field and to accelerate their adoption by farmers. The objective is the significant reduction of N2O emissions from agriculture.

“Solutions exist, we just need to verify their potential and to accelerate their implementation. SmartField has the potential to drive significant change on multiple levels, from the impact on individual farms to policies and regulation, enabling a potential 20-30 % reduction of N2O emissions from Danish agricultural fields by 2030 (compared to current levels),” says Claus Felby, Senior Vice President, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

SmartField is a multi-stakeholder initiative in the triple innovation helix of academia, industry, and government. Through the Agricultural Agency, the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities and Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries will engage, as observational, non-funded partners, enabling knowledge exchange and agile data sharing.

"Mitigating N2O emissions from agricultural soil is a vital element in reducing the total emissions of greenhouse gasses from the Danish agricultural sector, and society as a whole. We believe that the SmartField platform will be an important tool for identifying strategies to enable N2O emissions reductions, ideally without sacrificing crop productivity levels, says Jacob Jensen, the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

“Efforts to combat the climate crisis can also strengthen the development of new knowledge and technologies. The agricultural sector is expected to contribute nearly half of Danish greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, so it is crucial that we work on reducing these emissions. The SmartField project is a very interesting step towards meeting the climate goals of the agriculture sector,” elaborates Lars Aagaard, the Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities.

“The SmartField initiative demonstrates Denmark's commitment to sustainable agriculture and climate action," says Juan Farré, CEO at Danish Technological Institute. "We are proud that many years of dedicated research, commitment, and continuous development of expertise have qualified us to obtain the grant for this impactful project. Through innovative research and international collaboration, we aim to set a global standard for testing mitigation solutions and for reporting N2O emissions. These will play a central role in future farming methods.”

Denmark at the forefront of agriculture

The SmartField platform will have three elements: a measurement infrastructure, a modelling and data hub, and a science-policy-practice interface. Combined, these elements will provide accurate models for estimating N2O emissions that can help government entities, industries, and farmers to make informed decisions.

SmartField aims to revolutionise the way agricultural N2O emissions are managed by accelerating farmers’ adoption of mitigation measures with verified climate effects. This will be achieved by establishing a state-of-the-art measurement infrastructure for field-scale testing and validation of management practices and new mitigation solutions, by creating data-based models for improved emissions estimation and by fostering a dynamic exchange of knowledge among scientists, policymakers, and practitioners. The new models will also consider nitrate leaching, thereby ensuring that all the potential environmental effects of nitrogen fertiliser management are reported.

DTI will distribute the funds to key partners, such as the LandCRAFT pioneer centre, Aarhus University (AU), University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Colorado State University (CSU), and SEGES Innovation. Start-ups and industry will get access to the measurement infrastructure for testing and validation of new N2O mitigation solutions, with a particular focus on biological solutions. This initiative positions Denmark at the forefront of agricultural research and technologies, both for mitigating N2O emissions and for developing science-based models for greenhouse gas emissions, at national and field levels. Better models improve how farmers can report their climate friendly fertilisation practices. International partners will ensure that the platform is relevant and that it includes the latest findings, paving the way for future scaling and adoption outside Denmark.

By addressing the current limitations in emissions reporting and creating a pathway for market-ready solutions, SmartField will make a substantial contribution to meeting national climate targets and to upholding the objectives of the Paris agreement. The SmartField platform is testament to Denmark's proactive approach to environmental challenges and demonstrates the potential for significant reductions in N2O emissions, without compromising agricultural productivity or causing pollution shifts.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

Established in Denmark in 1924, the Novo Nordisk Foundation is an enterprise foundation with philanthropic objectives. The vision of the Foundation is to improve people’s health and the sustainability of society and the planet. The Foundation’s mission is to progress research and innovation in the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases as well as to advance knowledge and solutions to support a green transformation of society.


Further information

  • Please contact Jakob Stein, Communications Specialist,