Last month I went on a somewhat unexpectedly autumnal visit to Clermont Ferrand in France. The trip was part of a new pan-European project which will be building robust evidence of the benefits of agroecology across the continent. The purpose of my trip was to meet the 18 other partner organisations who are collaborating on this project, a Horizon Europe funded initiative called Agroecology-TRANSECT. The project will be led by French research institute INRAE. The partnership includes 11 Innovation Hubs which will provide a focus for our investigations while we explore different agroecology practices in their real-life contexts. So it was a great opportunity to network with a diverse range of these hubs and share insights from Innovative Farmers’ fields labs too.
Still only in its first month of activity the three-day meeting provided a great opportunity to familiarise ourselves with our joint commitments across the next four years. It was also good to hear more about the benefits of when farmers, researchers and other stakeholders come together to trial new and innovative practices on-farm and in the value chain.
Showcasing the model of farmer-led research
It is always powerful being able to share the Innovative Farmers model and what we have learnt over the past decade. However, it is also inspiring to hear how other groups and projects have formed to explore ways in which farming can be more sustainable, productive and profitable in the long-term.
A total of 11 of these Innovation Hubs will be part of Agroecology-TRANSECT and they range in their longevity, structure, scale and scope. Listening to the co-ordinators there were parallels with Innovative Farmers’ recent array of field labs including the groups from Switzerland, France and Bulgaria exploring pasture performance and livestock health and well-being. There were evident synergies of learning with the Dutch group of farmers trialling intercropping in the Netherlands and Hungarian group utilising cover crops in viticulture reaping similar rewards to what the hop growers in England have been so encouraged by.
Keeping you up to date
Over the coming months Innovative Farmers and the Soil Association will share ways in which the farming community in the UK can get involved in the project which will explore the full potential of agroecology for European agriculture by improving the knowledge base for farmers and farm advisors and supporting policy decision makers to deliver its widescale adoption.
Agroecology-TRANSECT will build the evidence to support a transition to agroecological farming practices in the EU and beyond. To keep informed and up-to-date with developments follow the project on twitter @ag_Transect.