From Dead Zones to Green Fields: The Role of Innovative Technology in Rural Growth

EU Project XGain

February, 23, 2024

Nestled off the South West coast of mainland Britain, the Isles of Scilly captivate with their stunning natural beauty yet grapple with a significant challenge: the digital divide. This divide starkly impacts their agricultural sector, leaving vast stretches of the islands in “dead zones” of connectivity. This scenario is not unique to the Isles but echoes across remote agricultural communities globally, highlighting a pressing need for innovative solutions.


The EU Horizon project, X-Gain, emerges as a beacon of innovation, aiming to transform rural, coastal, and urban areas with cutting-edge connectivity and computing technologies. At the heart of its collaborative efforts are CAFA Tech, a Estonian technology company, and Scilly Organics, a small-scale vegetable farm on the Isles. CAFA Tech’s contribution involves the development of an multi-robot system that measures soil moisture, provides a comprehensive farm overview, and offers reliable data communication. The Isles of Scilly are set to serve as a demonstration community within the project, illustrating the needs of remote areas through this UK-based use case. Scilly Organics, known for its agility and innovative approach, is able to provide valuable input regarding farmers’ needs.

Annika Tuulemäe, the X-Gain project manager from CAFA Tech, sheds light on the multi-robot system’s capabilities. “It integrates a ground robot with an aerial drone through a cabled connection.  The CAFA Worker Robot places various sensors in the soil, and plant diseases and pests are identified in the photos taken by the drone’s camera using CAFA’s machine vision, VideoLyzer. This approach is very environmentally friendly, as it helps to save the amount of irrigation water, allows an early response to the onset of plant diseases or pest outbreaks, and thereby increases yield,” explained Tuulemäe. “The drone is also equipped with a 5G data router, which ensures good data transmission within a radius of about 700m, so that all the different sensors can transmit their data from the field even in areas where mobile communication is usually absent.”

The X-Gain project is not merely bridging the digital and agricultural divide but is seeding the future of rural and remote communities with the promise of connectivity, sustainability, and economic growth. Through the deployment of groundbreaking technologies like the CAFA Multirobot System, the project transcends mere solutions to the digital divide and inefficiencies in agriculture, setting a foundational stage for these communities to flourish in a digitized era. In addressing the digital divide, the X-Gain project envisions a world where every remote community can prosper in the digital epoch, leaving no one behind.

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