Review of events

Organic and Conventional sectors discuss genome editing at IFOAM Organics Europe event – 10 February 2021, online

IFOAM Organics Europe invited food & farming stakeholders and policymakers to discuss GMOs and gene editing in agriculture. With the study of the European Commission on practical aspects surrounding the application of the European Court of Justice ruling on ‘New Genomic Techniques’ expected for spring 2021, the topic is high on the agenda of EU and national policymakers again.

Steven Jacobs, Business Development Manager at Organic Farmers & Growers started the event with a presentation of the organic control system and the role of good regulation in preventing contaminations. He concluded that detection of GMO contamination is dependent on both routine and targeted monitoring regimes.

Yves Bertheau, co-founder of the European Network of GMO laboratories, continued by elaborating on the feasibility of detection strategies for products from new genetic engineering techniques and presenting how detection routines for GMO testing laboratories could look like. He concluded that detection strategies are technically feasible, but it requires also a political will to direct resources into this, which appears to be currently lacking. 

These presentations were followed by a discussion on the status quo of the EU GMO Regulation, namely scenarios of its future implementation in the light of novel products and their relevance to trade, retail and different production systems, including organic farming.

During the discussion, Alexander Hissting from the European Associations of non-GMO producers (ENGA) highlighted the need for non-GMO food supply chains and why they are well-received by retailers and consumers. Benoit Biteau, a farmer and Member of the European Parliament emphasized that the European Parliament regularly votes against the authorization of GMOs for import and cultivation, mainly due to environmental concerns, but it remains to be seen what the majority position of the Parliament will be on new genetic engineering techniques such as genome editing. Thor Gunnar Kofoed, member of COPA-COGECA underlined the need for traceability of GMOs and argued that coexistence of organic and non-GMO agriculture with GMO agriculture is possible, if nationally defined rules are respected.

This conclusion was put into question by Daniel Evain from Federation Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique (FNAB), who made the point that while coexistence might appear simple in theory, the situation is quite different in practice as examples of GMO cultivation in Spain are showing. He described though that contamination in seed production is currently exceptional, this might change if (imported) products of genome editing end up on the EU market unregulated.

Sirkku Heinimaa from the EU Commission concluded the discussions by reminding participants about the legal status of New Genomic Techniques that had been clarified by the ECJ decision in 2018 and the request by member states for a study on the practical implications of this ruling. She emphasized that based on the study (to be published until by 30 April 2021), discussions in the EU Council (of the member states) and the European Parliament will guide the way forward. Different options are on the table, including a legislative proposal for New Genomic Techniques.

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

More than 1,000 attended our sessions at BIOFACH’s e-Special – 17-19 February 2021, online

On 17-19 February 2021, the first online edition of BIOFACH took place with more than 13,800 participants.

17 February: Opening & launch data on organic

Julia Klöckner, German Minister for Agriculture and Food and Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, Chairman of the German  Association  of  Organic  Farmers,  Food  Processors  and  Retailers  (BÖLW) opened BIOFACH’s e-Special and welcomed participants and speakers to the first day of the world’s largest trade fare for organic.

One of the first day’s first highlights was the launch of “The World of Organic Agriculture 2021”, published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). According to the latest statistics, the organic market grew by €45 billion in 2019. As Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM Organics Europe Director states “This data shows the European organic market’s potential to reach the objective of 25 percent organic land by 2030 put forward in the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies. To reach this target the organic sector needs political support at all levels. This includes a good regulatory framework, adequate support under the CAP – with clear support for organic in the national strategic action plans – and a powerful European Organic Action Plan with concrete actions supporting conversion, market development and capacity building of the European organic sector”.

17 February: Policy Day with the Presidency, Commission & Parliament

During our Policy Day on 17 February, we discussed how to reach 25% organic land in the EU by 2030. We did this in the presence of high-level speakers from the Portuguese Council Presidency, the Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI), the European organic movement and 586 participants.

After the opening by IFOAM Organics Europe Director Eduardo Cuoco, Maria do Céu Antunes, Portuguese Minister of Agriculture, mentioned the four priorities of the Portuguese Presidency for agriculture to promote a resilient Europe. These include reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to support sustainable agriculture, strengthening rural development, generation renewal and organic farming, boosting EU food security in line with the Farm to Fork strategy and innovating agriculture through digitalisation. Maria do Céu Antunes believes that the development of organic farming is key in transitioning to a sustainable food and farming system.

Wolfgang Burtscher, Director-General of DG AGRI agreed and stated that everyone in the supply chain, from producers to consumers, will have to work towards reaching this goal. To do so, the Commission needs to ensure sufficient financial support for farmers to convert to and maintain organic farming. He proposed ringfencing 30% of the second CAP pillar for environmental measures (including organic farming), while attributing 20-30% of the first pillar to Eco-Schemes, investing in research and innovation for organic and setting national targets.

Jan Plagge, IFOAM Organics Europe and Bioland President, welcomed that organic is mentioned as part of the solution and emphasised that Member States need to set ambitious targets for organic land in their CAP Strategic Plans, encouraging farmers to make vital economic decisions. Aina Calafat, International Project Manager at Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica/Agroecología (SEAE) added that organic farming needs increased payments as it truly delivers environmental and social benefits. In France, for example, CAP money has boosted organic conversion and maintenance, said Thierry Stoezel, CEO at Ecocert.

The Policy Day panel agrees that reaching 25% EU organic land by 2030 is ambitious but possible with the right tools in place. This includes a strong new EU Organic Action Plan, which is being developed by the Commission and expected to be published the end of March, as stated by Wolfgang Burtscher. To wrap up a successful digital Policy Day, IFOAM Organics Europe Director Eduardo Cuoco announced our European Organic Congress 2021, which will take place on 16-18 June and where we will continue the discussion with the Portuguese Ministry.

If you attended BIOFACH2021, you can relive this session by visiting the event platform.

18 February: Impact new EU Organic Regulation on producers & operators

Of course, we also organised a session on the new EU Organic Regulation, moderated by IFOAM Organic Europe’s Regulation Manager, Emanuele Busacca and attended by 435 participants. It took place on the second day of BIOFACH and aimed at providing organic producers and operators worldwide with an overview of the expected changes.

Luis Martin Plaza, Policy Officer in the Organic Unit of DG AGRI, informed participants about the changes related to organic international trade. In the future, control bodies will be recognised for compliance (instead of equivalence) after a transition period until the end of 2024. He was followed by Antoine Faure, Board member of the European Organic Certifiers Council (EOCC), who explained the regulatory changes expected for organic certifiers operating in third countries.

Finally, Florentine Meinshausen, Smallholder Group Certification Expert at IFOAM Organics International told BIOFACH participants about the challenges for groups of organic operators producing coffee, cacao, tea and tropical fruits in third countries. She concluded that even though the new EU Organic Regulation aims at strengthening and harmonizing group certification, especially for larger groups, it is likely to create higher administrative burden, increase costs and lead to drop-outs of organic operators. This makes the provision of guidance and training for certified organic operators by organic associations and institutions even more important. IFOAM Organics Europe Regulation Manager Emanuele Busacca reassured participants that the European organic movement will support its members and the organic sector in this transition.

Were you an attendee and would like to re-watch this session? Visit the event platform.

19 February: Organic certification

We ended this year’s BIOFACH with a session on organic certification, where speakers from DG AGRI, EOCC and Ecocert discussed how organic certification should be in the future, considering among others new technologies. Jan Wicher Krol from Skal Biocontrole moderated the session with more than 360 participants and first handed the virtual microphone to Paschalia Koufokotsiou, Team Leader in the Organic Unit of DG AGRI, who elaborated on the why and what of organic certification.

She was followed by Michel Reynaud, Vice-President of Ecocert and IFOAM Organics Europe Board member, who emphasised that organic certification covers the entire organic production system rather than a final product. He further stated that organic certification could be improved by using data collection systems and analysing data more efficiently, which would benefit organic operators, certifiers, and competent authorities. However, he warned that new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are tools to improve and should not be seen as solutions themselves. Georg Eckert, President of EOCC continued that organic production is process-based, so new technologies and availability of big data should be adjusted to that, not simply detect residues.

If you want to relive this session, visit the BIOFACH platform.

Relive the experience

Attendees can watch the recordings on the BIOFACH platform until August 2021. You can also relive our sessions by going through our Twitter moment and browsing #BIOFACH2021.

We would like to thank BIOFACH/Vivaness for organising this year’s BIOFACH e-Special as well as our speakers, participants, members, and dedicated staff for making our sessions a success.

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 Organics Europe. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

TP Organics’ Science Day at BIOFACH 2021: Innovating for organic food processing – 19 February 2021, online

At TP Organics’ Science Day at BIOFACH’s 2021 e-Special, more than 150 participants learned about ongoing research projects funded by ERA-NET CORE Organic and opportunities for organic companies in Horizon Europe, the upcoming research framework programme of the European Union.

Current research on organic food processing

Gardis von Gersdorff, PhD Student at University of Kassel and project coordinator of SusOrgPlus, presented the CORE Organic project’s main results. The project aims at developing smart processing chains, natural food additives and colorants. One of the findings Gardis shared was that smart drying by reheating drying air makes organic food processing more efficient and climate-friendly. Energy consumption can be reduced by up to 40%.

Flavio Paoletti, Senior Researcher at the Italian Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), coordinator of the CORE Organic project ProOrg, presented the progress of the project. ProOrg will provide guidance for choosing careful, minimal, and mild processing methods and has developed ‘Management Guidelines for Organic Processors’ to help them implement regulatory requirements for the organic food sector. An ‘Assessment Framework’ will help to objectively assess the quality of organic food. Ultimately, the strategies and tools will contribute to the sustainable development and innovation in the organic sector, help processors comply with the EU Organic Regulation and optimise organic food processing.

Horizon Europe and the new Food Systems Partnership: Advancing organic through research & innovation

In his presentation of Horizon Europe (Cluster 6), Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, Scientific Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), announced that they are expecting to launch first calls in April 2021. Project proposals should be developed with an eye on targets set in Food 2030 and the European Green Deal, particularly the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. According to Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, the Farm to Fork strategy’s target of 25% organic land in the EU by 2030 is not yet sufficiently represented across all programmes. Dr. Lutzeyer also pointed out that CORE Organic should find its place in the Food Systems Partnership to maintain networking between organic stakeholders, enable knowledge sharing and push for 25% organic farmland.

The new Food Systems Partnership, to be launched in 2023, was presented in more detail by Hugo de Vries, Research Director at INRAE and member of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR)’s Strategic Working Group Food Systems (SCAR Food Systems). Hugo de Vries said it will be an interdisciplinary and inclusive partnership that aims at reaching sustainable food systems in the EU and worldwide in the long term. Four different narratives have been developed for the partnership and presented to the European Commission, as well as a consolidated narrative. A factsheet will be published at the end of March. Hugo de Vries stressed that the partnership should aim at disruptive innovations rather than optimisations of food systems only. Inclusive governance needs to ensure all people are heard at a common European level as well as locally. Biodiversity and cultural diversity are basic building blocks of the partnership.

For the presentations, check the event review on TP Organics’ website. The session can be re-watched on the BIOFACH platform until August 2021 if you have a BIOFACH ticket.

Save the dates:

This session is 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 Organics Europe. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

FoodSHIFT2030’s webinar ‘Education for a new generation of food citizens’ – 25 February 2021, online
foodshift2030 webinar education food citizens

On 25 February, FoodSHIFT 2030 held a webinar highlighting the role of education to raise children’s awareness on the impact of food on the planet, health, and climate change.

Athen’s FoodSHIFT2030 Lab increases children’s knowledge on the benefits of plant-based, circular, resilient, and local diets through involving children in events with external stakeholders. These include presentations on obesity prevention or a national contest during which children can make healthy snacks. The Lab also worked on a project aiming at collecting data to better understand children’s food habits. More than 100,000 meals have been assessed for two months. The results showed that children ate more frequently during the Covid-19 crisis as they were home more often. However, their snacks were healthier and contained more fruits and vegetables.

Copenhagen’s FoodSHIFT2030 Lab considers food as an integral part of school education and decided to directly involve children in meal preparation and distribution. 95% of the food served in the 16 public schools is organic. Schools also organise communal lunches to involve parents.

The webinar also explored the ‘Shifting Urban Diets’ project led by EAT-Lancet. Three Master’s degree students designed food menus aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% in school canteens where 90% of all food already is organic. They analysed different diet scenarios and noted that reducing meat consumption to once a week could decrease GHG emissions by 22%. GHG emissions could even be decreased by 45% if meals were fully vegetarian, and by 65% if they were vegan. The London-based charity Food Matters presented their Fresh Enterprise programme, implemented in collaboration with the BELAZU company. The programme already allowed more than 218 children to visit the company production workplace and 382 to attend cooking masterclasses. 54 children had the opportunity to participate in a contest to create their own pasta sauce, which has been tested by a professional panel and was sold by BELAZU afterwards. Three children testified during the webinar and expressed the benefits of such a programme. Among others, they learned more about the food production process, cooking practices, and food marketing. One of the children is now eager to work in food marketing.

If you are keen to discover more about the above initiatives, watch the recording.

FoodShift2030 will launch an ambitious, citizen-driven transition of Europe’s food system to a low carbon, circular future. This Horizon 2020 project is promoting food systems innovations in nine cities across Europe. Follow the project on social media using @FoodSHIFT2030 on TwitterInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.

IFOAM Organics Europe contributes to the conceptual framework for further development of governance strategies and food policy strategies. We will also disseminate project outputs within the organic network and at our main events.

FoodSHIFT 2030 has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 862716. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

EURAKNOS Final Conference: From EURAKNOS to the EUREKA of European knowledge exchange – 25-26 February 2021, online

The EURAKNOS final consortium meeting took place on 25 February, the Final Conference on 26 February. As more sustainable practices are by nature more knowledge intensive, making practice-oriented knowledge readily available and easily accessible to end users is very relevant.

The EURAKNOS project, which aimed at strengthening the EU agricultural knowledge base, is already inspiring other projects and initiatives like the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) in the UK. Connecting to national initiatives is key for a wider spread across Europe. Key outputs of the EURAKNOS project were presented, including the EURAKNOS Explorer’s Guide for Thematic Networks. It summarises experience from all Thematic Networks (TNs) on how to set up successful, impactful and engaging projects and presents best practices and key insights from TN communities of practice. The outputs of the EURAKNOS project moreover resulted in an aspirational Vision Paper for a high-impact knowledge reservoir for agriculture and forestry.

The consortium meeting ended with a reflection exercise to gather feedback from all partners. Connections between the Work Packages are key, as are expectation management and end user engagement as well as good coordination and leadership, to make roles responsibilities clear. During break-out sessions, participants of the Final Conference pointed out that the platform should be used as well to showcase best practices, such as how to involve farmers more. The Explorer’s Guide and the platform should be a ‘living product’, meaning the content should be regularly updated. The policy discussion showed that, while a central repository will avoid double work, the communication/socialisation part is important as well.

By developing a proof, concept, and visuals for the future platform on a smaller scale, EURAKNOS laid the foundation for sister project EUREKA. EUREKA will connect all multi-actor projects, helping to ensure the long-term and wider use of practical knowledge and innovative solutions by the rural community.

Re-watch the Final Conference sessions.

IFOAM Organics Europe is a partner of both projects. For EURAKNOS, IFOAM Organics Europe’s role was to report on similar existing initiatives, capacity building through cross-exchange visits, networking as well as communication and dissemination. For EUREKA, IFOAM Organics Europe’s role is to contribute to the project with its expertise on organic farming and experience with multi-actor projects in the organic sector.

knowledge for organic euraknos project logo

EURAKNOS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 817863. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

EUCARPIA-LIVESEED Conference -Breeding and seed sector innovations for organic food systems 8-10 March 2021, online

A conference organised by Latvian LIVESEED partner AREI to present recent scientific results in organic plant breeding took place on 8-10 March 2021, as part of the EUCARPIA Section Organic and Low-Input Agriculture. Horizon 2020 sister projects BRESOV, ECOBREED as well as ECO-PB and Latvian FLPP-funded research outcomes were also presenting.

In her keynote speech, Louise Luttikholt from IFOAM Organics International highlighted the important contribution of organic breeding and propagation towards the necessary transformation of agriculture. She warned that legal measures such as allowing commercialization of Organic Heterogenous Materials (OHM) in the EU need to go hand in hand with raising general industry norms. A coherent policy package would get underpinned through true or full cost accounting implying accounting for all inherent negative effects of plant breeding for high-input agriculture and food systems.

The 50 following oral presentations and 48 posters were clustered in 10 sessions, including underutilized genetic resources, breeding for diversity and culinary and nutritional quality, soil – plant interactions, organic seed production, multi-actor & participatory approaches, market and consumer aspects of seed systems, regulations and policy, and sustainability.

LIVESEED presented its pre-breeding effort in white lupin for anthracnose resistance while BRESOV’s showed how they identified drought resistant genotypes of Brassica oleracea crops. Prof. Moreira from the University of Coimbra talked about how LIVESEED developed an overarching breeding approach to maintain agrobiodiversity and make agriculture more climate robust through breeding  Edwin Nuijten presented the results of research conducted on two biodynamic farms with three crops, where relationships between yield, storability, taste and nutritive quality were studied. LIVESEED presented furthermore its participatory evaluation and breeding efforts of tomato landraces in Spain and Italy, and how farmer acceptability as predicted by a genomic model could be valuable whenever farmers’ selection is difficult, such as in the presence of large sets of test lines and/or in early selection stages, based on a study using 144 pea lines issued by six crosses among elite cultivars, which underwent GBS molecular characterization and field evaluation in Northern Italy. The implementation of the system-based breeding concept by Edith Lammerts van Bueren and Edwin Nuijten in practical steps was also discussed.

Several LIVESEED partners presented recent results on on-farm and official cultivar testing, on seed health issues including case studies on common bunt and efforts against Alternaria diseases in carrot.

Prof. Gabriele Berg from the University of Graz invited us into the fantastic world of the microbiome and talked about how soil type, climate, geography and plant genotype were identified as main drivers of the seed microbiota and how breeding changes plants that is reflected in the seed microbiota.

In her sobering speech, Susanne Padel from the Thünen-Institut warned that it is unlikely that increase in demand will result in further investment in breeding and increases in organic seed production, as the organic breeding sector is characterised by a shortage of funds: “The market for organic seed cannot be categorized as a well-functioning competitive market. The market alone cannot deliver organic seed”.

Preliminary results by Eva Winter from FiBL of a market modelling exercise for durum wheat in IT and carrot in DE showed that a gradual phasing out of derogations for using conventional seed helps avoid losses in farm enterprise gross margin. Eric Gall from IFOAM Organics Europe talked about the changes and opportunities in the new organic regulations for plant reproductive materials. Maaike Raaijmakers from Bionext (NL) explained that  to reach 100% organic seed by the end of 2035 a proactive, comprehensive approach is needed with all stakeholders who are willing to develop national roadmaps. Interesting perspectives and experiences were brought in from the USA as well. Julie Dawson from the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences described the development of a professional community of practice for regional seed systems and breeding, as well as digital tools to use to evaluate varieties over a wide range of adaptation and culinary quality. We learned from Micaela Colley that the next State of Organic Seed report from in USA (published by the Organic Seed Alliance) is for release in 2021 and will include a national survey of certified organic seed producers and provide recommendations for future research, education and policy efforts for organic seed availability, quality, and diversity. She also presented a case study on how they developed a sweet corn variety ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ that was released in 2014 in partnership with a seed company that got expanded to be sold very widely and used in further breeding. Nicolas Enjalbert shared an important collaborative digital platform dedicated to data sharing to help characterize, breed, source, and harvest the best cultivars. The book of abstracts will be made available on OrganicEPrints.

LIVESEED aims to boost organic seed and plant breeding across Europe. IFOAM Organics Europe and FiBL-Switzerland coordinate the project with 50 partners covering 18 EU countries.

knowledge for organic liveseed project logo

LIVESEED has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727230 and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation under contract number 17.00090. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

Organic agriculture as a living lab and front runner in applying digital technologies adapted to farmers’ needs – Internet of Food & Farm 2020 final event – 16-18 March 2021, online

On 16-18 March, the final event of the Internet of Food and Farm 2020 (IoF2020) project took place online. More than 900 people registered to the event, ranging from policy-makers to project partners and civil society.

Day 1: Workshops & organic farming

George Beers, IoF2020 Project Coordinator from  Wageningen University & Research (WUR)  kicked off the event with a series of transversal workshops on the 33 IoF2020 Use Cases. Among others, Benoît de Solan, Research Engineer at ARVALIS, presented organic Use Case ‘Precision Crop Management’, introducing smart wheat crop management by sensor data embedded in low-power, long-range infrastructure. According to Benoît, the sensors act as farmers’ eyes, enabling them to make informed decisions about improved crop management.

During a session on organic farming with Cristina Micheloni from the Italian Association for Organic Agriculture (AIAB), Jos Ruizendaal from WUR and Stephanie Weyenberg from the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (ILVO), participants and speakers discussed how organic farming can benefit from digitilization and the Internet of Things (IoT). Two organic Use Cases, the ‘Grazing Cow Monitor’ and the ‘Added-Value Weeding Data’ demonstrated how organic agriculture can take advantage of new technologies. Besides making organic farming more attractive through reduced labour intensity and greater financial viability, IoT can contribute to transparency in the EU’s food and farming sector.

Day 1 ended with a session on how IoT might change certification together with Dr. Ayalew Kasahun from WUR, Matteo Balderacchi, consultant at Valoritalia, Theocharis Moysiadis from F6S and Carlos Callejero from SensoWave. Speakers agreed that IoT can improve transparency in organic certification. Yet, a constructive dialogue between organic certification bodies and IoT and blockchain technology providers is essential for control bodies to see the benefits of these novel technologies, concluded Cristina Micheloni from AIAB.

If you’re interested in learning more about the IoF2020 Use Cases, have a look at the project’s Use Case catalogue and filter for organic.  

Day 2: Gender inequality in agri-tech

Day 2 featured a panel discussion on the achievements and impact of IoF2020 as well as a debate on how to address gender inequality in agri-tech. Simone van der Burg from WUR, Alexander Berlin from Berlin Thinking, Milica Trajkovic from BioSense, Harald Sundmaker from ATB Bremen and Joël Bacquet, Programme Officer at DR AGRI were of the opinion that IoF2020 was a huge success and served as a platform of collaboration for more than 80 external stakeholders. Among the lessons learnt, speakers agreed that data sharing within and without a project is an important factor.

According to Alexander Berlin, future projects will benefit from the learning curve made during IoF2020. During the session on gender inclusiveness in agri-tech, Jovana Vlaskalin, Cynthia Giagnocavo from Universidad de Almería, Doris Letina from the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), Doris Marquardt, Programme Officer at DG AGRI, Ntuthu Mbiko-Motshegoa and Antonella Di Tonno from Coldiretti talked about the challenges and constraints women in agriculture are facing.

Doris Marquardt stated that digital skills are crucial for balancing perspectives in agri-tech right from the beginning, starting with programming and in research and should be embedded in school education. Antonella Di Tonno highlighted that women are agents of change and sustainable development due to their different leadership style, privileging cooperative systems and building relationships. Ntuthu Mbiko-Motshegoa, successful agripreneur from South Africa added that women empowerment in agri-tech will contribute to food security and inspire young women for the generations to come. Visibility, education, capacity building, encouraging leadership, networking, acting locally and the support from institutions and organisations are important factors to reach gender inclusiveness in agri-tech, concluded Cynthia Giagnocavo.

Day 3: Future of digitalisation in farming

Finally, day 3 of IoF2020 final event was dedicated to the research and innovation ecosystems of the project, starting with a panel discussion with more than 130 participants. Together with Sjaak Wolfert from WUR, Doris Marquardt, Daniel Azevedo from Copa-Cogeca, Jérôme Bandry from the European Agricultural Machinery Association (CEMA) and Bert-Jan Ruissen from the European Parliament, our Director Eduardo Cuoco discussed the policy recommendations for the future of digitalisation in farming.

“TP Organics’ Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda highlights the role of digitalization in creating more diversified farming systems, efficient resource use, food safety, traceability and transparency and strengthening Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS)”, said Eduardo Cuoco. IoT can help improve agricultural production, but incentives are needed to implement technologies with sustainability benefits by farmers while considering all relevant sustainability variables and entire value chain. In organic farming, IoT, blockchain and other new technologies might be used to minimize accidental pesticide contamination, other non-admissible substances, and food-borne bacteria, improving organic food safety, quality, and health.

Furthermore, digital tools can strengthen AKIS. For organic farming, this could mean targeted advisory services using technical solutions, networking, training, and demonstrations for effective knowledge exchange. Eduardo also pointed out the need to create substantial benefits and incentives for farmers through smarter regulation, simplification, higher tolerances, smaller penalties and more guidance and correction, adding value for all stakeholders. He continued that it is crucial to ensure rural actors adapt new technologies without leaving anyone behind and to avoid a digital divide through fair access to and education about technology by ensuring a level playing field and affordability of digital solutions. To do so, digitalisation and smart farming could be eligible under the Eco-Schemes of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), provided they contribute to environmental and climate objectives.

Eduardo Cuco concluded that digital solutions can help facilitate waste reduction, increased productivity and diversity, and knowledge exchange if data governance is organized in a balanced way and market imperfections are tackled sufficiently. Technologies should be adapted to comply with organic principles and meet the needs of organic farmers. To improve Europe’s food and farming system’s sustainability, farmers need to be involved from the start, local knowledge integrated, and tailored advisory services developed.

Sjaak Wolfert agreed by stating that technology should also better connect farmers and consumers and not only support productivity and profit goals, but the sustainability goals we have set as a society. Bert-Jan Ruissen underlined that the new CAP will play a crucial role in ensuring access to new technologies by all agricultural stakeholders, especially under Eco-Schemes in pillar 1. He further made clear that farmers must remain in control of their data at any point. According to him, the new CAP is key in supporting bottom-up approaches by farmers to take ownership of their data and data sharing.

IFOAM Organics Europe Director wrapped the session up by highlighting that organic farming is green in both areas, on the field and on the accounts as one of the most financially viable agricultural production systems. Organic agriculture can be front runner in applying digital technologies adapted to organic farmers’ needs and a living lab for applying them. We were front runner on ecology and we also want to be front runner on IoT.

Session on EURAKNOS & EUREKA projects

IFOAM Organics Europe also chaired the session on EU Horizon 2020 project EURAKNOS, in which the main outputs of the project were presented, as was the sister and follow-up project EUREKA. IFOAM Organics Europe is a partner in both projects, which aim to build an EU-wide digital knowledge reservoir for agriculture, thereby strengthening the EU agricultural knowledge base and facilitating (digital) exchange of best practices.

After an introduction of the EURAKNOS project by Maria Gernert, guest and project partner Laura Palczynski from Innovation for Agriculture presented the EURAKNOS Explorer’s Guide for Thematic Networks, the Vision Paper as well as the policy recommendations. The Explorer’s Guide provides information on how to design and implement Thematic Networks and other multi-actor projects to maximise user engagement and impact. The Vision Paper sets out a vision for an EU-wide, open-source, digital database platform where project outputs can be stored and easily accessed by end users. The Policy Brief includes recommendations on how to improve the (digital) exchange of best practices, such as sufficient funding to stimulate the connection to digital learning. While EURAKNOS has developed a prototype for the future ‘FarmBook’, EUREKA is setting up the actual platform, which will host the outputs/data objects of all EU multi-actor projects, thus scaling up the scope of the platform. Project coordinator Pieter Spanoghe from Ghent University explained why and how end users are involved during the development of the platform as well as how IoF and other project partners can connect with EURAKNOS and EUREKA.

Relive the event & ‘thank you’

Couldn’t make it or want to relive the event? Watch all recordings here or browse #IoFinalEvent and #IoF2020.

As IFOAM Organics Europe, we would like to thank everyone who visited our booth, all project partners, Ecosystem Chairs, Use Cases and other involved stakeholders for making IoF2020 a success. A heartfelt ‘Thank you’ also to Schuttelaar and Partners for organising this professional and inspiring final event. We look forward to continuing our collaboration in the framework of the SmartAgriHubs project and other future endeavours.

The Internet of Food & Farm 2020 project is a large-scale pilot under Horizon 2020 investigating and fostering large-scale implementation of the Internet of Things in European food and farming. IFOAM Organics Europe is a project partner and represents the European organic movement.

knowledge for organic iof2030 project logo

IoF2020 has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 731884. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

ReMIX final Conference “Intercropping to boost agroecology in European Agriculture” – 23 March 2021, online

As the Horizon 2020 multi-actor project ReMIX draws to a close, its final conference “Intercropping to boost agroecology in European Agriculture” was held in collaboration with DIVERSify project on 23 March 2021.

Species mixtures can increase productivity while reducing external inputs and nutrient losses. Furthermore, they can secure farmers’ income. ReMIX partners proposed solutions and recommendations to boost the adoption of intercropping and delivering ecosystem services. Moreover, it was discussed how to support wider use and uptake of intercropping by farmers. The afternoon sessions were dedicated to policy debates and discussions on the contribution of species mixtures to shift to more sustainable food systems and preserve ecosystems. Within this context, 9 panellists including policy makers and experts from the crop diversification cluster discussed the role of intercropping in the EU’s agri-food chains and agroecology within the Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Several interventions stressed points like:

  • Adopting intercropping does not depend on farmers alone;
  • New value chains should be set up; and strong collaboration among all actors is needed for that;
  • Public policies are very important. In that respect, the CAP offers opportunities to support species mixtures and they need to be used by Member States.

Recordings of the sessions and presentations from speakers are available on the conference platform.

The Horizon 2020 project ReMIX exploits the benefits of species mixtures to design more diversified and resilient agroecological arable cropping systems. IFOAM Organics Europe is a project partner representing the European organic movement and ensuring knowledge transfer and dissemination towards stakeholders and policy-makers.

knowledge for organic remix project logo

ReMIX has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727217. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

Workshop “Organic districts revitalizing Rural areas” during Rural Vision Week 2021 – 25 March 2021, online

During the Rural Vision Week: Imagining the future of Europe’s rural areas, IFOAM Organics Europe organised a fringe workshop on 25 March. IFOAM Organics Europe’s Director, Eduardo Cuoco, moderated a session on the concept of Organic Districts (or biodistricts) and planning and implementing them. Raffaele Basile, Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Organic Districts G.A.O.D shared his 15-years of experience with successful Organic Districts in Italy and worldwide. He gave an overview of the status of Organic Districts and outlined their social, economic, and ecologic benefits.

“Organic Districts could be a way to redesign local economics” said Aina Calafat Rogers presenting her work on Organic Districts in Mallorca. As international project manager for SEAE, the Spanish Society for Organic Farming and Agroecology, she spearheads the development of an Organic District while actively contributing as part time organic farmer at the same time. Her presentation highlighted both the urgent need for transformation at all levels of the food system and the positive potential of all actors working together to create a more sustainable vision of rural development.

As third member of the high-ranking speaker panel, Jaime Ferreira, head of the Board in the Portuguese association for organic farming, AGROBIO, showed the influx of Organic District developments in Portugal. “The promotion of Organic Districts in Portugal as a strategy to connect all actors, […] proves to be intelligent, contributing to the cohesion of the territory and, particularly, to the ecological transition” he pointed out, followed by outlining plans for further developing Organic Districts in the region.

After their keynote speeches, the experts answered questions from the participating audience, that showed strong interest in Organic District. The experts and audience emphasised the debate on access to land and challenges in implementation. The expert pointed out that long term engagement is crucial for successful implementation, and Aina Calafat Rogers stressed that Organic Districts “give people hope and that is something that is very much needed in these times”.

The speakers welcomed and highlighted the importance given to Organic Districts in the recently published Organic Action Plan, in which Members States are “encourage[d] to support the development and the implementation of ‘Bio districts’”. On this, Eduardo Cuoco added that Organic Districts’ concept involves multiple stakeholder interaction which leads to a high variability in the design but it is united by shared values and goals.

Do you want to find out more about Organic Districts and their implementation? Our members can check out our expert’s presentations on our member extranet. Other interested parties can visit the website of the international network of Eco-Regions. For information about what you can gain from being a member, read our membership page and contact membership@organicseurope.bio.

I accept I do not accept