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Turning climate-related information into added value for traditional MEDiterranean Grape, OLive and Durum wheat food systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MED-GOLD (Turning climate-related information into added value for traditional MEDiterranean Grape, OLive and Durum wheat food systems)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

The MED-GOLD project prototypes climate services in agriculture by developing case studies for three hallmarks of the Mediterranean food system: grape, olive, and durum wheat. Climate services – the transformation of climate-related data and information into customised projections, forecasts, analyses for supporting decision-making at all levels – have the potential to become the intelligence behind a climate-resilient, low-carbon society. Agriculture is primarily climate-driven and hence highly vulnerable to climate variability and change. Evidence suggests the Mediterranean region is under immediate threat of shifting climate patterns and associated ecological, economic, and social effects. Developing a capacity to turn the increasingly big climate-related data into climate services that can inform decision-making in agriculture is therefore a priority both in Europe and worldwide.

The long-term goal of this project is to make European agriculture and food systems more resilient to climate change, using climate services to minimize risks/costs and seize opportunities for added value. MED-GOLD aims to develop climate services for olive, grape, and durum wheat crop systems that are the basis for producing olive oil, wine, and pasta. These crops and foods are of utmost climatic, ecological, economic, and cultural relevance to the Mediterranean region. Because they are not only hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet but also food commodities with a global market, there is considerable potential for developing climate services with high added value. To address added value directly, MED-GOLD co-designs pilot climate services involving both suppliers and users. Operational decision-making of users is reviewed to either identify key decisions or introduce new actions that can benefit from climate-related information at timescales from months to decades.
The analysis of case studies in each sectors was carried out focusing on relevant EU regulations. Guidelines for appraising user needs and critical decisions and to collect feedback on the usability and relevance of the services were developed and used in the co-design process. Two rounds of interactions with users have been conducted to collect information on the users’ needs and to present the advancements in the implementation of the sectoral tools.

An ICT platform has been designed and is being developed as a scalable modular system. It is designed as a data pipeline of independent microservices connected by standard REST APIs, and builds on ICT technologies such as autoscaling, container orchestration and serverless platforms to ensure its replicability and scalability. This flexible ICT platform encompasses a wide variety services such as: running heritage crop system models; showing a custom visualization dashboards; connect existing decision support tools and simulation models to cutting edge climate data sources; process seasonal climate forecast data with on-the-fly bias correction.

An analysis of the EU market for climate services was performed. A preliminary version of the project’s business plan has been prepared as the basis for a more comprehensive final document that will provide solid ground for the commercialization of the prototype services.

One of the key objectives of MED-GOLD is to build better informed and connected end-user communities for the global olive oil, wine, and pasta food systems and related policy making.

Since the kick-off,MED-GOLD has been presented in more than 40 international events,; has organized 12 workshops including two workshops open to the general public in Porto and in Cagliari; has organized the MED-GOLD Living Lab 2020, a summer training event conducted on-line during the COVID-19 emergency; has organized 2 webinars and published 4 info sheets in five languages on the use of climate information. MED-GOLD has also developed a glossary to support the communication of key concepts to the users of climate services (https://www.med-gold.eu/glossary/) .

The project website (www.med-gold.eu) and Twitter account are active and in disseminating communication material in five languages.

A first definition of science-based knowledge for climate-related policies has been prepared, based on the evidence of policy makers interests and needs that emerged
during the stakeholders sectorial workshops.

The COVID-19 emergency had a significant impact on the project. It was not possible to carry out some of the planned face-to-face meetings with industrial partners and external stakeholders in all sectors. We hope there will be a chance in the near future to reschedule such key activities with internal and external users, while at the same time, substantial effort has been devoted to convert the planned face-to-face activities into remotely based engagement.
MED-GOLD builds on major recent European initiatives on climate services, using case studies to stimulate demand for such services, with the ultimate goal of reaching European agriculture and society at large.

The co-design and co-development work first revealed the incredible diversity of users and needs that climate services need to respond to in agriculture; a result that has rarely if ever been addressed in a research project.

Following are critical decisions identified. Grape: siting, choice of scion variety and rootstock, control of pathogens and abiotic stress, and management of wine style. Olive: pest management, fertilization, irrigation, pruning, harvesting, and design of new orchards. Durum wheat: variety selection, purchase/selling of commodities, supply chain planning, breeding, and siting.

Expected added value ranges from agricultural management to policy-making at the Mediterranean, European, and global levels. This is because olive, grape, and durum wheat are grown worldwide and produce global food commodities that are also staple foods of the Mediterranean diet, and hence have demonstrated potential for contrasting the increasing homogeneity in global food supplies, with important food security implications and significant health benefits, and for reducing the ecological footprint of the global food system.

The entire value chain for climate services in agriculture is represented in the project, and the potential market for the services developed is global, with most producers and consumers currently located in the Mediterranean region. Engagement of potential users and development of a sound business model will get MED-GOLD climate services ready for commercial settings.

At the time of the second periodic report, there were 170 individuals registered in the MED-GOLD community. These are largely based in the Mediterranean countries where MED-GOLD is developing the pilot climate services - Italy, Portugal and Spain - but also in other key Mediterranean countries where the crops being studied in MED-GOLD have a prominent presence such as Greece and France.