96675 - Smart Horticulture

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Francesco Orsini

  • Credits 3

  • SSD AGR/04

  • Teaching Mode Blended Learning

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Horticultural Science (cod. 8883)


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Sustainable cities Climate Action

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will know the main solutions for smart and precision vegetable crop production. The student will have a good preparation on the aspects dealing with greenhouse, soil and plant sensors for crop monitoring and available decision support systems for dynamic crop management. The student will also be familiar with innovative vegetable cultivation technologies, including vertical farming, climate controlled agriculture, hydroponics and A.I. systems for vegetable crop production.

Course contents

The aim of this course is to respond to the global challenge of sustainable food production with a specific focus on how precision farming may allow for sustainable use of resources in vegetable crop production. The course brings together available knowledge and applications in the field of vegetable crop physiology, crop monitoring, decision support systems in vegetable crop production and innovative and resource efficient technologies for vegetable crop cultivation. The course is structured into 4 teaching units (TU), namely:

TU1: Models based on vegetable crop physiology (Face-To-Face, 6 hours)

Principles of vegetable crop physiology. Models for forecasting plant growth in response to cultivation environment. Plant requirements. K, P, Mg, S, Ca, and microelement nutrition.

TU2: Technologies and tools for vegetable crop monitoring and Decision Support Systems (DSS) (Face-To-Face, 8 hours)

Nutrient management in vegetable crops. Traditional nutrient management in the Mediterranean. N balance sheet method. Dynamic N management guided by optical sensors. Water management in vegetable crop production. Sensors and Decision support systems for dynamic water and nutrient management in horticulture. The speaking plant approach.

TU3: Innovative cultivation systems for vegetable crop production (Face-To-Face, 6 hours)

Artificial lighting and LED technology for vegetable crops. Hydroponics for greenhouse vegetable production, including closed and open loop systems. Smart climate management in greenhouse and vertical farms. Innovative technologies for vegetable crop mechanization. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) for vegetable crop production.

TU4: Technical visits and design of smart vegetable farming systems (Face-To-Face + at distance, 10 hours)

Technical visits to innovative farming systems (e.g., vertical farms) are foreseen. Students will also be grouped in teams and requested to address specific challenges toward the identification of smart production systems. Targeted topics include sensors, dynamic water and fertilization management, hydroponics, climate controlled agriculture.


Teaching material

Syllabus and slides available on virtuale.unibo.it

Suggested readings

Quaryoti M., Baudoin W., Nono Womdin R., Leonardi C., Hanafi A., De Pascale S. 2013. Guidelines on GAP for greenhouse horticulture in the Mediterranean Region. FAO-UN, Rome, Italy. FAO paper, AGP series, 217.

Kozai, T., Niu, G., Takagaki, M. (2021). Plant Factory: an indoor vertical farming system for efficient quality food production Cambridge Academic Press.

Kozai, T. (2016). LED lighting for urban agriculture. Springer, Singapore.

Teaching methods

E-learning, powerpoint presentations, online tests, technical visits, forum, assignments, practical work with diagnostic sensors and tools in greenhouse and vertical farming environments.

It will be delivered as blended course including face-to-face activities and integrative eLearning sources delivered at distance through Moodle.

Considering activities and adopted teaching methods, taking part to this course requires the attendance to safety modules 1 and 2 (online, at https://www.unibo.it/it/servizi-e-opportunita/salute-e-assistenza/salute-e-sicurezza/sicurezza-e-salute-nei-luoghi-di-studio-e-tirocinio) and 3 (in presence, further information in the website of the course degree).

Assessment methods

The test consists of closed-ended questions chosen in the areas listed in the course program available in virtuale.unibo.it. For each correct answer a score equal to 1 is assigned, for each wrong answer a score equal to -0.5 is attributed, while in the absence of an answer there is no penalty. The overall score is obtained by the algebraic sum of the individual scores. To pass the exam (and eventually access additional points collected throughout the course), students need to score at least 18 in the quiz and undertake a short oral discussion on the answers provided during the quiz. Cum Laude is awarded when an overall score equal to or greater than 32 points has been obtained.

The maximum duration for the written test is 45 minutes.

Teaching tools

International Student Challenge UrbanFarm

ISHS talks on Vertical Farming

H2020 Project FoodE (Food Systems in European Cities)

PRIN Project VFarm (Sustainable Vertical Farming)

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Francesco Orsini