This WP aims to understand why, how and from whom European farmers and farm managers gather and exchange information (their microAKIS) to underpin their decision-making regarding the adoption (or not) of different types of innovation. This work will be undertaken in 26 focus regions and in relation to 8 innovation areas. WP2 will also lead to a better description and mapping of the regional farm advisory systems (R-FAS) in the focus regions.
There are 9 innovation clusters in WP2:
1.The innovation cluster ‘Autonomous vehicles, robots, drones, intelligent sensors and precision farming’ (TECH cluster) is devoted to investigating the importance of new technologies in the agricultural systems to improve efficiency and facilitate the agricultural labour. Examples of cases studied are: the use of drones to collect data, which can be used to increase the environment performance of farms, enabling a more efficient use of agricultural inputs (water, nitrogen, pesticides); the use of intelligent water sensors on the soil (to monitor parameters such as humidity, temperature and salinity at different soil depths) to improve the efficient use of water; or the use of robots with milking cows allows to save time and reduce the waste during the milking process. The distribution of focus regions selected for this innovation cluster are represented in Figure 1.
Figure 1 – Focus regions selected for TECH innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
2. The innovation cluster ‘Biological pest control’ (BIOP cluster) is devoted to investigating the use of natural mechanisms to control pests such as insects, mites, weeds and plant diseases to reduce the use of pesticides in crops, to increase the biodiversity and beneficial organisms, to maintain the profitability of the crops and to supply food products without pesticide residues to consumers. Examples of cases studied are: methods of sexual confusion of the insects, the introduction of natural predators of pests (e.g. ladybirds and parasitic wasps to control greenflies), proving special shelters for useful animals (insect houses), etc. and the implementation of ecological infrastructures network to enhance the conservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecological services (e.g. biological control of pests, diseases and weeds; maintenance of soil fertility; clean air and water; shelter and food for locally rare birds, reptiles and insects). Figure 2 shows focus regions selected for BIOP innovation cluster.
Figure 2 – Focus regions selected for BIOP innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
3. The innovation cluster ‘Soil improving cropping systems’ (SOIL cluster) is devoted to cropping systems that improve soil quality and have positive impacts on the profitability and sustainability of cropping systems. Examples of cases studied are: the use of cover cropping, often in combination with tillage, mulching or herbicide treatment under the rows as a practice to reduce compaction, draining and erosion of soil, increase organic matter, allows machinery access and reduce disease pressing; the use of non-inverse tillage approaches combined with using different types of cover crops to combat decreasing soil quality due to soil compaction by heavy machinery and intensified cropping plan. Figure 3 shows focus regions selected for SOIL innovation cluster.
Figure 3 – Focus regions selected for SOIL innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
4. The innovation cluster ‘Retro-innovation” (re-creation, re-inventing, re-introducing traditional products/crops) cluster (RETR cluster) presents cases where traditional products/crops are made through innovative ways. Retro-innovations represent business opportunities for the sustainable use of resources that through innovations create conditions for sustainable growth. Cases studied in this cluster include a new, mechanized, hay-making technique for mowing, turning and collecting hay rapidly replacing traditional hay-making by hand; and the production of new dairy products.
Figure 4 – Focus regions selected for RETR innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
5. The innovation cluster ‘Introducing new crops’ (legumes, superfoods, heathy seeds, etc.), abbreviated to NCRO cluster, presents cases of crops that were not traditionally cultivated in these regions or crops whose production had declined. Usually the new crops present beneficial healthy properties. Examples in this cluster are: grain-legumes, which have high functional and nutritional properties both as animal feed and human food and cultivation; the processing and trade of stevia products.
Figure 5 – Focus regions selected for NCRO innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
6. The innovation cluster ‘Developing new activities’ (recreation, healthcare, wild resources, renewable energy, etc.), abbreviated to NACT cluster, presents activities related to the production of bioenergy, in order to allow farming production processes be eco-friendly and cost saving, such as pocket digestion (a technology where the anaerobic digestion process is applied to proprietary biomass flows for the on-site production of renewable energy) and renewable energy as an alternative to traditional forms of energy.
Figure 6 – Focus regions selected for NACT innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
7. The innovation cluster ‘Direct marketing and local markets’ (DMAR cluster) presents alternative ways of selling agricultural products locally, directly or through short circuits in a way that improve economical sustainability of the farms. Examples of cases presented in this cluster are: local markets (to sell directly to final consumers the farmers’ production) and vending machines (automatic vending machines who sell dairy products).
Figure 7 – Focus regions selected for DMAR innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
8.The innovation cluster ‘Natural resources common management’ (water, grazing, forest, etc.), abbreviated to COMM cluster, refers to the management of natural resources and how that management affects the efficiency of use those resources. Examples are: utilization of common pasture to sheep; supporting activities for the preservation and restoration of ecological infrastructures in agricultural areas; crop production in order to mitigate farming abandonment. Figure 8 shows focus regions selected for COMM innovation cluster.
Figure 8 – Focus regions selected for COMM innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
9. The innovation cluster ‘Labour innovative arrangements & labour conditions’, abbreviated to LABO cluster, studies ways of cooperation among farmers in order to increase production and incomes. Examples are: the development of new forms of outsourcing in France, or the COCEBA project in Portugal that is intended to take over the agricultural land whose owners are unable to do it, either because they live away from the land or due to incapacity (age or illness). Figure 9 shows focus regions selected for LABO innovation cluster.
Figure 9 – Focus regions selected for LABO innovation cluster/ Source: AgriLink
Cristina Micheloni (VIN)