As part of the European tools to support innovation in agriculture, the European Commission has paid attention to the establishment of multi-actor groups, able to collaborate with applied research. Since 2012, EIP-AGRI (European Innovation Partnership Agriculture) has been activated to facilitate sustainable innovation, through the so-called Operational Groups: a set of subjects that collaborate in the application of an innovation (the GO must consist of at least one farm and one subject operating as a research body). GRAFIS, a precursor project for innovation in the cereal sector in Veneto, made use of this tool which in Italy is included in the Regional RDPs. The Veneto Region adopts a two-phase process: a first phase (measure 16.1) supporting the construction of the GO; a second one (16.2) supporting the activities of the established GO. The GRAFIS project defined the objectives and collaboration methods for the GO on the sustainable cereal supply chain in Veneto, which were then taken forward with the CONSEMI project.
GRAFIS was inspired by the work of low-impact cereal chain actors in defining new and innovative ways of organising the various stages of production, from seed selection and management to consumer distribution. The project made use of field meetings in the cereal growing period and sector surveys, and offered the opportunity of a FILIGRANA event for the exchange of knowledge and experiences between the new cereal chain projects active in Veneto, so as to lay the foundations for the activities of the future Operational Group. Other activities were an analysis of varieties suitable for the Veneto locations, technical training meetings for farmers and others in the supply chain and consumer awareness raising.
Duration: 2016-2017 (9 months)
The Rural Seeds Network has carried out on behalf of ARSIAL (Regional Agency for Agricultural Development and Innovation in Lazio) a participatory and evolutionary genetic breeding project to obtain seeds adapted to the different ecosystems of Lazio, centred on experimentation on three crops:
Between 2019 and 2020, a series of technical-scientific update seminars were also held for Lazio Region technicians on the topic of agricultural biodiversity (one of them in collaboration with the DYNAVERSITY project). In addition, RSR organised animation meetings on the territory to identify the social networks present and facilitate their involvement in the dynamic management of agricultural biodiversity and, in particular, in the management of variety conservation systems by local communities. The programme targeted all those actors dedicated to the protection of agrobiodiversity, including in organic and biodynamic systems, and to the transition to low-input production systems. Website: http://www.arsial.it/arsial/biodiversita/promuovere-la-diversita-per-innovare-i-sistemi-agricoli-programma-di-ricerca/
BIOGREEN, is an intensive training in organic and biodynamic farming, within the framework of the Tuscany Region programme to contribute to innovative business management, devoted to the low environmental impact and capable of adding value to the products of organic and biodynamic agriculture. The BIOGREEN course aims to create a figure who is aware of the social and economic opportunities with a modern approach to organic and biodynamic agriculture and to stimulate the birth of innovative local supply chains.
The BIOGREEN course aims to train the target group in organic and biodynamic farming methods and in innovative and effective farm management, also in relation to market opportunities and agricultural policies. BIOGREEN offers farmers in-depth training on the most important topics of this type of agriculture, starting with the soil – how to preserve or increase fertility, which processing techniques to use – agricultural biodiversity – which seeds to use, how to carry out research on the farm, how to cultivate evolving populations – but also how to adhere to organic/biodynamic regulations and how to approach the sale of products, the composition of the label and communication to consumers. The aim of the workshops is to analyse real cases of organic and biodynamic farms on site. Website: https://www.apab.it/en/biogreen-2021/
At the core of this project was the concept of “diffuse” production (locally managed instead of centrally managed by seed companies for (inter)national sale) of seeds, and in particular populations, with a view to preserving the principle of specific adaptation of each population to a given environment. The population, the bearer of diversity, adapts to the location and evolves over time, showing greater resilience than uniform seed. Around this idea arose the need to build a network between the different stakeholders potentially interested in innovation, first and foremost the farmers, in a broader perspective of collaboration over time around a shared project. Diversity that is not exclusively biological Locally grown varieties are not only the product of genetic and environmental diversity, but also of cultural diversity in the approach to innovation and responding to the needs of local society. All these aspects require collective management to harmonise the needs of farmers with those of the supply chain and consumers. The Operational Group of the project therefore engaged in an open dialogue with the farmers and the various actors present on the Tuscan territory, considering the different experience and geographical origin of the group members essential to respond to the problem of managing the diversity inherent in the populations and the various problems that emerged during the various phases of the project. Crucial in the marketing of population seeds are the following questions
how to organise the seed production of material that does not have uniform and stable characteristics over time?
How many farmers are interested in experimenting with populations on their own fields?
How can a population seed production system be sustained socially, technically and economically?
The project has addressed these questions and the Operational Group continues to explore them today through the RESILIENT CEREALS 2.0 project. Duration: 2017-2019
The second phase of the PEI RESILIENT CEREALS project has been underway since 2019, in which the Operational Group consolidated during the first part of the project is carrying out all the planning activities foreseen by the Strategic Plan through the entire supply chain. The protagonists are the local networks of farmers who contribute to the reproduction of seeds, managing their correct evolution over time, and to their dissemination, with the technical and scientific support of the project partners. The project aims to achieve economic objectives:
- To produce cereal material selected for its adaptability and evaluated for its technological and nutritional characteristics in order to develop local production chains.
- To increase the production potential of cereals for organic and low-input farming in order to guarantee a higher income for farmers who will be motivated to put back into production lands that have been abandoned for years and to reduce marginal agricultural areas;
- To create a network between different scientific, economic and social realities in order to provide technical assistance and genetic material to farmers in local production chains, to promote cultural aspects linked to processing and consumer awareness of foods with special nutraceutical characteristics.
- to Improve pest management and control and contain pathogenic adversities through seeds from populations adapted for organic and low-input farming;
- to maintain soil fertility by fostering a good structural state of the soil, with appropriate programming of rotations
- reducing (in the long run) the accumulation of pollutants in soil and water and promote carbon sequestration through more efficient organic and low-input farming systems
Improving the planning capacity of supply chains, thus reducing under-use of machinery
A further reduction of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere through the promotion of 0 km cereal supply chains c
From an operational point of view, this means:
- increasing crop diversity on farms and promoting CCP (Composite Cross Population) evolution and adaptation in different growing environments;
- developing the integrated seed production system of SOLIBAM TENERO FLORIDDIA, analysing the socio-economic aspects of an innovative seed system;
- enabling farmers to select and maintain their own CCPs in order to achieve stability of production yield, decrease production cost and increase farm income;
- improving food quality by testing products derived from CCPs where competition between genotypes and reduced nitrogen favour the increase of secondary metabolites (nutraceutical substances);
- increasing soil fertility with environmentally sustainable cultivation practices to improve soil structure and reduce energy inputs that increase CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
RSR takes care of project coordination and monitoring activities by organising coordination meetings and internal animation, so that all partners can effectively cooperate and strengthen local networks. Our contribution to the project also includes the publication of information material and the organisation of public presentations, company visits and thematic meetings. Finally, we maintain relations with policymakers such as MiPAAF and CREA DC to update them on activities and results. Among the other partners, the University of Pisa deals with the economic sustainability of the innovation, including applying for seed authorisation and identifying the implications of seed management by farmers with an open source licence to ensure the widest possible access to potential users. The University of Florence, on the other hand, is engaged in the contextualisation in the different environments of Tuscany, and in particular on the aspects of the maintenance of the primary source of the SOLIBAM Floriddia population, the secondary adaptation at the 4 mother farms and the climatic analysis for the definition of the adaptation environments The project also includes the study of the quality of the flours and products: on the one hand, the evaluation of the rheological properties of flours and mycotoxins (at UNIFI laboratories); on the other hand, milling tests at Floriddia and Angeli mills, and bread, cracker, biscuit production tests evaluated by panel tests.