Navigating the frontiers of smart horticulture: innovations and challenges

Boris Basile [Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Portici (Naples), Italy]
Susana M.P. Carvalho [GreenUPorto & Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal]
Giandomenico Corrado [Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Portici (Naples), Italy]
Carlo Andreotti [Faculty of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Sciences, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy]
Hilary Rogers [School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK]

Horticulture faces crucial decisions and opportunities that will shape its future trajectory. The sector must navigate through a myriad of persistent and significant challenges. For instance, poor automation continues to hamper efficiency and productivity in horticulture, which has ripple effects across related sectors such as agribusiness and distribution. Additionally, the impacts of climate change, including unpredictable weather patterns, increased pest and disease pressures, and shifting growing seasons, pose severe threats to crop viability, yield and quality. Amidst these challenges, the imperative to increase yield and enhance sustainability remains as pressing as ever. The horticulture sector must find innovative solutions to produce more food with fewer resources while maintaining environmental health and resilience. Rapid advancements in modern technologies are driving a transformative revolution in horticulture. Integrating cutting-edge innovations like artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing is set to revolutionize horticultural practices. Smart horticulture, which melds novel technologies with traditional methods, offers a promising path forward. By leveraging these technologies, farmers can optimize irrigation, take advantage of precision breeding, and crop monitoring, leading to increased yield, reduced waste, and enhanced sustainability. Precision breeding and phenotyping are crucial to smart horticulture. Advanced genomics, gene editing, and machine learning facilitate the rapid development of high-yielding, disease-resistant, and climate-resilient cultivars. High-throughput phenotyping, utilizing digital and hyperspectral imaging-derived biomarkers further accelerates the breeding process, ensuring new cultivars meet the demands of a changing environment. Automation and robotics are transforming horticulture by improving efficiency, reducing labour costs, and enhancing product quality. Developments in autonomous robots for precision pollination, harvesting, and pruning, coupled with advanced sensors and proximal sensing, enable real-time control and monitoring. Additionally, remote sensing technologies, including drones and satellites, are revolutionizing crop management by ensuring early detection of biotic and abiotic stresses. These tools provide detailed aerial imagery and data, allowing for timely interventions and improved crop health management. This wealth of data generated by modern technologies is revolutionizing horticultural production, providing farmers with valuable insights for optimizing crop management practices, predicting yield, and responding effectively to changing environmental conditions. Moreover, advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms enable data-driven decision-making, allowing farmers to optimize crop management, predict yield, and respond to changing environmental conditions. These technologies are fundamental to the development of zonation in agriculture, which involves dividing large farming areas into manageable zones based on soil properties, crop performance, and environmental conditions, thereby enhancing precision farming and resource allocation. Post-harvest practices are equally crucial in the horticultural value chain. Advances in post-harvest technology, including innovative storage methods, controlled atmosphere packaging, and improved transportation techniques, are known to be critical for minimizing loss and waste. Developments in sensing and monitoring post-harvest quality, and use of digital twins to predict realistic shelf life are also set to bring substantial improvements to quality for consumers, and reduction of waste. These developments are integral to the concept of smart agriculture, where data-driven approaches and advanced technologies are employed not only during cultivation but throughout the entire supply chain. By integrating smart agriculture practices with cutting-edge postharvest solutions, we can ensure that the benefits of precision farming extend beyond the field, optimizing the entire horticultural value chain from production to consumption. The future of horticultural science is therefore promising, with the convergence of modern technologies and traditional practices poised to lead to precision horticulture. Continued investment in research and development is essential, as is the integration of industrial and academic research, to ensure the horticulture industry remains at the forefront of innovation and sustainability. By embracing these new frontiers, our journal is committed to fostering a more efficient, productive, and environmentally friendly horticulture that meets the needs of a rapidly changing world. In 2023, Italus Hortus (IH) completed its third year of publishing activity since it became an international journal in horticultural science. This year, the journal engaged in intense editorial activity, resulting in a total of 18 published papers, including 1 Review, 12 Original Research Papers, 4 Brief Research Reports, and 1 Editorial (Figure 1). In terms of submissions, our journal, in the first three years after it became an international journal (2020-2023), attracted a worldwide international authorship, with contributions from 30 different countries (Figure 2). IH achieved a significant improvement in its Scopus CiteScore for 2023, reaching a value of 1.7 compared to 1.1 in the previous year. This resulted in the journal attaining the 42nd percentile in the “Horticulture” Subject Category (SC), solidifying its position as a consolidated Q3 journal in this field and nearing the status of a Q2 journal. Moreover according to the Scopus CiteScore 2023, Italus Hortus is a Q3 journal also in the “Plant Science” and “Food Science” SCs. This remarkable progress is attributed to the collective efforts of the team. However, we recognize that maintaining and augmenting this growth will require heightened focus, a challenge our dedicated Editorial team is eager to embrace. Finally, we would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Youssef Rouphael, an Associate Editor who resigned after three years of dedicated service. Dr. Rouphael’s expertise and commitment have been invaluable to our journal, ensuring the high quality of our publications. We are grateful for his significant contributions to advancing horticultural science and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

DOI: 10.26353/j.itahort/2024.1.140142



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Basile, B., Carvalho, S.M.P., Corrado, G., Andreotti, C. and Rogers, H. (2024) 'Navigating the frontiers of smart horticulture: innovations and challenges', Italus Hortus, 31(1), pp, 140-142. doi: 10.26353/j.itahort/2024.1.140142