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Living labs bring agroecology potential to life

New farming, as well as research and innovation approaches, are needed to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss and soil degradation. The EU-funded ALL-Ready project is demonstrating how agroecology practices can be adapted across a range of European climates and habitats.

Food and Natural Resources

A growing global population is putting ever-increasing pressure on our natural resources, and forcing us to rethink the way we farm. This has led to the emergence of agroecological farming, which fully takes into account all the complex ecological interactions occurring in agriculture. This means adopting food production systems – including organic farming – that offer high rates of nutrient recycling, reduced use of synthetic inputs and lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. One challenge of course is that agricultural ecosystems vary from region to region. Building on this recognition, the objective of the ALL-Ready (The European Agroecology Living Lab and Research Infrastructure Network: Preparation phase) project is to develop agroecological approaches that apply to site-specific contexts. To achieve this, the project aims to establish a network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures, to increase cooperation across Europe and bring about this much-needed transition. Living Labs are multi-actor, placed-based, open innovation arrangements that have user-centredness and testing in real-life conditions as their main principles. An important goal here is to achieve an even geographical distribution, and to take into account the various scales of users, maturity levels and scopes of activities found across Europe. After a selection process conducted between June and August 2021, the ALL-Ready pilot network was launched at the end of 2021, with 15 pilot members across Europe and Canada. One example is the ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab in Hungary. Through co-developing and designing agroecological practices, products and technologies in partnership with organic farmers, a number of successes have been achieved. These include bringing to the Hungarian market an organic flour produced from locally grown landrace emmer and einkorn grains. In a second phase, different prerequisites and activities for the future network will be prepared. Finally, the work will be communicated widely throughout Europe by a variety of mechanisms. A principal outcome of the project will be a pilot-tested plan for implementing the validated framework of AgroEcoLLNet. In doing so, the ALL-Ready network is acting as a test bed for such agroecological experiments, and provides feedback on the tools and recommendations that have been developed through the project. The ultimate aim is to encourage ongoing cooperation between different agroecology-focused Living Labs and Research Infrastructures, and to drive the transition to sustainable agricultural practices forward.

Keywords

ALL-Ready, agroecology, Living Labs, soil, biodiversity, climate, farming, habitats