First online edition of Organic Innovation Days was a success! 24-25 November, online

On 24-25 November 2020, TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming, held its annual Organic Innovation Days. This year’s event partnered with the Horizon 2020 project LIVESEED.

Recordings of all sessions and presentations will be available soon on the TP Organics and LIVESEED websites.

Day 1: LIVESEED final conference for stakeholder and policy makers

On 24 November, the LIVESEED final conference brought together more than 150 stakeholders and policymakers.

Monika Messmer, Scientific Coordinator of LIVESEED, highlighted the project’s outcomes, innovations and results impacting European and national policymaking.

During four workshops, attendees shared ideas, asked questions about the outcomes and progress made since the start of the project. The audience also identified success factors to increase the production and use of organic seeds. The workshops were structured along the following topics:

  • Organic varieties in the organic regulations
  • New models of cultivar testing for organic farming
  • Innovative breeding approaches for organic farming
  • Strengthening organic seed markets and business models

Day 1 ended with the reaction of Patrizia Pitton (Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, DG AGRI) and Thomas Weber (Directorate General for Health and Food Safety) to LIVESEED’s policy recommendations and a panel debate with these representatives from the European Commission. Monika Messmer concluded that organic plant breeding requires more financing. Actors in the value chain should take responsibility and invest in organic breeding. While private foundations can provide support, public funding is needed as well. Public institutions should engage in organic breeding.

Day 2: LIVESEED European workshop

On Day 2, almost 100 participants attended the LIVESEED European workshop, where they learned about the project’s progress at national level and key success factors in implementing national policy recommendations.

The workshop also provided an opportunity for the audience to get inspired by smart practices from all over Europe on seed expert groups, organic field trials and national seed databases. Another highlight was the launch of the European Router Database that will connect the national seed databases and make it easier for seed producers to place offers on multiple national databases.

The workshop ended with a panel discussion on national roadmaps for key crops to increase availability and use of organic seed. Representatives of the European Commission, several national authorities, seed companies and researchers joined the discussion.

Opportunities for organics in Horizon Europe

In parallel, TP Organics sessions at the Organic Innovation Days 2020, likewise attended by almost 100 participants, focused on EU Research & Innovation (R&I) policy, namely Horizon Europe, which is supposed to start next year, and how the new research programme can support the transformation towards sustainable food and farming systems by leveraging the potential of organic and agroecology. Emile Frison, member of IPES-Food and the Mission Board for Soil health and food, gave an inspiring keynote speech about innovation for diversified agroecological systems. He pointed out that agroecology is not just a single tool but a different toolbox altogether, combining a set of practices and co-created innovations compatible with the 10 elements outlined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and adapted to the local conditions.

Source: FAO

Susana Gaona Sáez, Research Programme Officer at the European Commission’s DG AGRI, showed that organic and agroecology play a key role in many different European R&I policies, including the Farm to Fork strategy with its goal of having at least 25% of EU agricultural land under organic farming by 2030. She also said organic farming contributes to other Farm to Fork objectives, including reducing the dependency on pesticides, nutrient losses, the use of fertilisers and antimicrobial sales. Horizon Europe will be a key enabler of the European Green Deal, but instruments beyond R&I are needed to support the uptake of organic in a more holistic approach.

Caring for soil is caring for life

The policy debate brought together Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver, Director for Quality, Research & Innovation at DG AGRI; Dr. Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, Scientific Officer, DG Research & Innovation; organic farmer and Mission Board member Alfred Grand; and Mute Schimpf, Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

The speakers agreed that soil, the basis of food production, is the most important resource we have. Urgent action is needed to preserve and restore it through sustainable land and soil management. The Mission for Soil health and food aims to make 75% of all soils in the EU healthy by 2030. It will develop and support the uptake of solutions such as the enhanced use of agroecological principles and organic agricultural practices that have shown evidence of notable effects on soil health.

Living labs, spaces for co-innovation through participatory, transdisciplinary and systemic research, and lighthouse farms, places for the demonstration of solutions, training and communication, such as Alfred Grand’s farm, will bring together all stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, citizens and public authorities, to showcase good examples from agroecology and the organic sector. Demonstration is key to convince other farmers to take up soil-friendly management practices.

All speakers agreed that we can and will achieve the Farm to Fork target of 25% organic farmland by putting all our instruments and efforts in it. It would equally indicate the mission’s success.

TP Organics’ policy debate at the Organic Innovation Days 2020, moderated by Eduardo Cuoco – Credits: Maria Gernert

Conclusion and announcement

We hope you enjoyed the first-ever online edition of the Organic Innovation Days and the sessions you took part in! If you signed up for the event, you have access to the SpotMe platform for the next 3 months and are encouraged to take the unique opportunity to browse the resources section or share your views with like-minded people via our LIVESEED and TPO discussion boards.

To help us improve your experience, we kindly ask you to fill in this evaluation form about the programme and format of the event.

If you did not get the chance to attend the event, we are pleased to inform you that recordings and presentations of all sessions will be made available on the TP Organics and LIVESEED websites, so stay tuned!

Save the date: The next edition of the Organic Innovation Days will be held together with the RELACS project’s final conference. Join us next year from 30 November-1 December 2021!

TP Organics is the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming. IFOAM Organics Europe is a founding member and hosts its secretariat.

These sessions are co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The sole responsibility lies with IFOAM EU. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

These sessions are financed by the LIVESEED project. LIVESEED has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727230 and by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation under contract number 17.00090.

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