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Defossilising agriculture – solutions and pathways for fossil-energy-free farming

Proposals shall address only one of the following sub-topics:

A. [2020] Pathways for a fossil-energy-free agriculture (CSA)

This coordination and support action (CSA) shall provide a framework in which policy makers, scientists and other stakeholders can join forces to conceive and implement ambitious approaches and strategies towards a fossil-energy-free agriculture. The action shall setup a knowledge and policy hub to take stock of past and on-going research, to inventory and benchmark policies and technologies at the interface of agriculture and energy, and to identify good practices.

The outcomes should be translated into attractive and easily understandable materials for policymakers, farmers and rural communities. Such materials should include roadmaps for particularly energy-intensive farming systems (e.g. greenhouses), practices (e.g. ploughing or irrigation) or inputs (e.g. fertilisers or plastics). In this exercise, proposals should consider both direct and indirect fossil energy uses, as well as the possibility of integration with the upper scales of the energy systems (groups of farms / rural communities / rural-urban). The sustainability of proposed approaches shall be assessed from the economic, social and environmental perspectives, including land use considerations.

The consortium shall develop a vision on the de-fossilisation of agriculture, identify enablers, bottlenecks and lock-ins in this transition, and provide a set of policy recommendations and a research roadmap. Interlinkages and synergies with the forestry sector should be considered where common approaches are possible.

B. [2020] Close-to-market solutions for fossil-energy-free farming (IA)

Proposals shall test cost-effective technical solutions for reducing the dependence on fossil energy sources in agriculture, and demonstrate whether renewable energy produced on-farm can be a reliable source to cover the needs of agricultural operations. Proposals shall tackle both renewable energy production on farm(s) and the adaptation of machinery and buildings to these new energy sources, and consider fuel, heat and electricity production and storage as appropriate.

Proposals shall focus on a specific on-farm practice, provided that it is common in Europe and highly dependent on fossil energy consumption. The sustainability of the solutions developed shall be assessed from social, economic and environmental perspectives. Such assessment should consider indirect fossil fuel consumptions and impacts on agricultural land use. At the end of the project, the TRL will range between 6 and 7 (see part G of the General Annexes). Proposers will indicate the estimated levels of TRL at the beginning and at the end of the project.

All sub-topics: The proposals funded under this topic (sub-topics A and B) should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under the same topic and potentially other running projects dealing with energy systems (e.g. LC-SC3-ES-3-2018-2020 Integrated local energy systems) and climate change mitigation. This cluster will in particular identify the lock-ins, barriers and path dependencies regarding the fossil-energy uses (including fiscal policies) in order to map out the transition pathways for a fossil-fuel-free agriculture in the CSA (scope A). Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]] , with a consortium based on a balanced mix of actors with complementary knowledge clearly activating farmers, technology providers, researchers and advisors.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 2 million for scope A and 5 million for scope B would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The bioeconomy is expected to contribute to the replacement of fossil-based products, materials and energy, thereby helping decarbonize the economy. However European agriculture, the starting point of numerous bioeconomy value chains, still relies heavily on direct fossil energy inputs in farm operations and buildings, but also on indirect fossil energy embedded in agricultural inputs, materials and the related transport. Such products therefore embed greenhouse gas emissions, and need to be addressed through technology and policy. Energy consumption by agriculture made up 2.8% of final energy consumption in the EU-28 in 2014, of which 53% was fossil-based. The potential for the use of renewable energy produced by the agricultural sector to be consumed at the level of farms or group of farms is still mostly untapped. The challenge is to reduce the technical complexity and develop cost-effective solutions for fossil-energy-free farming, and to design the pathways for a de-fossilised agriculture as a keystone of new agricultural agendas and energy systems.

Proposed activities will provide policy and technology solutions paving the way towards a fossil-energy-free agriculture. In the short term, this will help to:

  • Develop appropriate, coherent policies and strategies at EU and national level.
  • Reduce farm costs, increase competitiveness and improve farm resilience.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to agricultural activities.
  • Raise awareness and help increase the outreach and impacts of European R&I outcomes and initiatives.

In the longer term, this should contribute to the EU commitments on climate change mitigation and the objectives of the EU Energy Union.