SUPER G – Co-Innovation Workshops. How far have we got?

The project SUPER G Sustainable Permanent Grassland Systems, financed by the European Union within the program H2020, in which CONSULAI manages the Communication and Dissemination work package, enters now in its fourth year. The project, which aggregates a consortium of 15 European countries, aims to promote the use of permanent grasslands as a way of improving the development of ecosystem services – obtaining, through sustainable management of this type of grasslands, better solutions in a long term scenario, that benefits both the profitability of the field and the environment.

In a way of promoting: a better understanding of the importance and the management of permanent grasslands; developing profitable and sustainable management models for them; observing the performance of existing cases and identifying the main challenges regarding the implementation of these practices, 18 co-innovation workshops were organized during the course of the SUPER G project. The sessions gathered farmers, landowners, advisers, researchers, among others, where these and other ideas were discussed from multiple perspectives.

The co-innovation workshops took place in the field – in 9 countries partners of the project – aiming to identify the conditions and challenges of each specific region and working with the farmer’s local community in the search and exploration of solutions.

With the project getting closer to its end, we’ve seen interest and relevance in summarizing all the co-innovation workshops that took place until now in the various regions. So, we will go through the four years of SUPER G, within this scope of contact with local farmer’s communities by the biographic regions that the project operates: Atlantic (France, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Ireland); Continental (France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland); Mediterranean (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Montenegro) and Boreal (Sweeden) – not including both Panonic and Alpine regions since the countries belonging to them, didn’t host any of these initiatives.

 

Atlantic Region

We will start with the Atlantic region, which aggregates four partner countries. England hosted 3 co-innovation workshops between 2019 and 2020. The first took place in the Bainbridge Farms, Northumberland, on the 26th of February 2019, and had the presence of 21 farmers and advisers. The second was in the facilities of Quicke’s – a cheese producer – in Devon, on the 6th of March 2019, attended by 23 farmers and advisers. Both the workshops started with an introduction of the SUPER G project, followed by a discussion with the local farmer’s community about the main challenges on managing permanent grasslands, identifying the main problems that needed to be solved. Then the community identified other subjects that wanted to see explored and investigated by the project.

The third session took place in the month of September of 2020, and due to the current context was conducted online, hosted by three speakers, members of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) e ADAS (agricultural adviser) organizations. In this workshop, the researcher James Drummond shared some insights of his investigation concerning the performance of different species of grass.

The Netherlands hosted two co-innovation workshops in the year 2019. The first took place in the facilities of Cows and Opportunities Farm Network, on the 3rd of May 2019. The session aimed to share know-how with the local farmer’s community, related to improving agricultural practices that were more efficient to improve the levels of carbon sequestration in their fields. There were also discussed the measures that local farmers were willing to adopt in a way to improve that subject, promoting a better relation of the farmer with the environment. The second workshop took place on the 9th of October 2019, with the Alblasserwaard farmer’s network. The session had two purposes: sharing both the challenges and advantages regarding the comprehension of soil analysis data and how this information could support and generate better management of the field; the second was the presentation of the SUPER G project, identifying with the local farmers the benefits that they took from ecosystem services.

In Ireland were conducted two co-innovation workshops. The sessions took place on the 26th of February 2019, at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough, and on the 7th of March 2019 in Cookstown. In both workshops were discussed ideas regarding the compatibility of the local conditions with the adoption of permanent grasslands, as well as the identification of possible innovations that contributed to improving that practice and how could methods be translated into services provided by the ecosystems.

Regarding France, although this country belongs to two regions (Atlantic and Continental), the 4 co-innovation workshops that hosted, were in cities that belonged to the Atlantic region. The first took place on the 24th of September 2018 in the city of Lorraine. The second, on the 9th of July 2019, took place at the facilities of the agricultural producer GAEC du Pichet in the city of Norroy. From what it was known, the local farming community of these two cities were applying new and innovative agricultural practices in their fields. So, the purpose of the session was to understand why the farmers were testing new practices, and for them to share them with the project representatives, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. The third workshop took place in the region of Meuse, on the 9th of July 2019, and had the purpose of sharing with the local farmers the new practices that the project representatives found in the previous two regions, stimulating a disclosure of know-how between french farming communities.

The fourth and last workshop, hosted by France, took place in the Le Neubourg region, on the 11th of July 2019. During the morning the participants visited a local farmer’s association, and in the afternoon a local farm. The goal of the session was to present SUPER G project, get to know the local community, and identifying subjects that they had an interest in seeing explored or investigated during the course of the project.

 

Continental Region

The co-innovation workshops hosted by the Continental region started in Italy. This country welcomed one session, on the 18th of April 2019, that was attended by 9 participants. During the workshop, the project was presented, and there was a discussion on the main strengths, weaknesses, and threats identified by the local farmers regarding their agricultural productions.

Like Italy, Czech Republic hosted one co-innovation workshop. The session lasted three days: the first day, at the Mendel University due to the celebration of 100 years of the institution, the project was introduced to local farmers, as well as economic results of agricultural production that used permanent grasslands compared to the owned that didn’t, finishing the day with a sociological characterization of the rural population of the country. On the second day, the participants visited an agricultural propriety that managed 1.300 hectares of permanent grasslands, where they discussed the importance of the implementation of this practice as well as the technology tools required. On the same day, participants were also introduced to the project, to the ecosystem services concept.

 

Mediterranean Region

Within the Mediterranean region, Spain hosted one co-innovation workshop that took place on the 20th and 21st of February at Andalusia Agricultural and Fishing Research and Training Institute (IFAPA), Córdoba, being attended by 36 farmers and advisers. During the session was conducted a formation course, followed by an evaluation on how the local farmer’s perceived the adoption of new and innovative practices.

Portugal hosted two sessions. The first co-innovation workshop took place on the 26th of November, 2019 at the Herdade da Barrosinha in Alcácer do Sal. During the session, the SUPER G project was introduced and problems were discussed associated with permanent grasslands management in Portuguese agriculture, as well as the identification of potential technologies – to be investigated – that supported the management and implementation of this practice. The second workshop took place on the 19th of February 2020, and approached the same subjects but in the city of Lisbon. Conducting two sessions in two different Portuguese regions, allowed attending two different perspectives, challenges, and solutions, adapt to each area.

 

Boreal Region

The Boreal region it’s only integrated by Sweden, which welcomed two initiatives. The first co-innovation workshop conducted in the country took place on the 18th of June 2019 at the Uppland province and was attended by 5 farmers. The session aimed to introduce the SUPER G project, and discuss the local conditions regarding the feasibility of the implementation of permanent grasslands. There were also discussed potential innovations within that subject, and in which way they could contribute to the services provided by de ecosystems. The second workshop was on the 21st of October 2019 and approached the same ideas as the first, but in a different Uppland city: Ultuna, the session was attended by 3 farmers. Although the lack of attendants in presence, in both sessions the community used the VFA (Volunteer  & Farmer Alliance Sweden) platform, in a way to share the discussed ideas and the followed conclusions with the whole farmer’s network.

 

 

After four years of existence, the SUPER G project has conducted 18 initiatives, that allowed the share of knowledge and experience with local farmer’s communities across Europe, allowing a better understanding of their challenges and struggles, being able to find solutions adapted and adjusted to every region, aiming always a sustainable management of permanent grasslands. Here, lays only a summary of what the project accomplished so far within this scope, so we invite you to get to know better the specific characteristics of each region and their respective farming community through https://www.super-g.eu/upcoming-events/#co-innovation

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