Soil health living labs are becoming increasingly popular in Europe as a way to promote sustainable farming practices and improve soil health. These labs are designed to be a collaboration of farmers, researchers, and other stakeholders, with the goal of sharing information and best practices for improving soil health with the broader agricultural community. The focus of these labs is typically on the use of cover crops, reduced tillage, and other conservation practices that help build soil organic matter and improve soil structure, water-holding capacity, and nutrient cycling. These practices have been shown to increase crop yields, reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, and improve water quality.
Our workshop on soil health living labs
SOILdarity is currently working to raise awareness on the preliminary steps the project partners have taken for the development of a living lab in Alentejo, a geographical, historical, and cultural region of south–central and southern Portugal.
The SOILdarity workshop ‘A living lab for a just transition to sustainable food production systems based on soil health and ecosystem services‘, which took place on 17th January 2023, has been set up to establish new connections and consolidate the collaborations with a group of relevant Portuguese and European stakeholders representing different categories (academia, business, civil society, policy) with the final aim to discuss the application of the concept of living lab in the Alentejo region.
One of our main goals was to show what has already been done in Portugal and Europe, which challenges need to be addressed, which successful practices and methodologies can be transferred from more mature living lab experiences to Alentejo. The resulting interaction between the participants provides key insights on common understandings, problems and difficulties that living labs are facing in the development process and produced a lively debate on possible solutions to make this initiative sustainable in the long term. The workshop focused on a specific topic relevant to the attendees and their industries, with presentations and group exercises designed to encourage collaboration and idea-sharing.
Despite the chilly weather outside, the atmosphere in the room was warm and productive as the participants actively engaged in the activities and shared their own experiences and insights. Here, we gathered the presentations by the partners and experts who spoke at the workshop. You can freely download them if you are interested in knowing more.
Introduction to “A Living Lab for a Just Transition to Sustainable Food Production
Systems based on Soil Health and Ecosystem Services”
1. Gabriele Quattrocchi_EUKNOW_SOILdarity Workshop_20230117
The path from SOILdarity to soil related sustainable development and the need for a Living Lab in Alentejo
2. Cristina Cruz_FC.ID_The need for a Living Lab in Alentejo
A Living Lab in Alentejo : the regional context, strengths, needs and expectations
3. Ana Maria Ventura_Alentejo, the regional context
Soil Health Living Labs and the Soil Mission projects
4. Giulia Campodonico_ENoLL_Soil Health Living Labs and the Soil Mission projects
Farming Systems Unit: Lighthouse farms and living labs to explore wicked problems, an example
6. Didier Stilmant et al_Farming Systems Unit
Advances in soil and land health monitoring and a new soil health coalition
7. Leigh Ann Winowiecki et al_Advances in soil and land health monitoring
As the morning progressed, the group took a break to enjoy a tasty coffee break together, allowing them to continue conversations and build connections with one another. After lunch, the workshop resumed with more hands-on exercises and a final presentation summarizing the key takeaways from the day. By the end of the workshop, the attendees left feeling energized, having gained valuable knowledge and connections that they could apply to their work. The sunny but chilly morning in Brussels had been well-spent, and the group was already looking forward to the next opportunity to come together and learn.
Programme | (CET, Brussels time)
1st Part | 9:30 – 11:00
9:30 – 9:40 | Gabriele Quattrocchi – Euknow project advisor – “Welcome and introduction to SOILdarity”
9:40 – 09:55 | Cristina Cruz – Professor in Plant Biology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon – “The path from SOILdarity to soil related sustainable development and the need for a Living Lab in Alentejo”
09:55 – 10:10 | Ana Maria Ventura – Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon – “A Living Lab in Alentejo: strengths, needs and the regional context.”
10:10 – 10:25 | Marcos Nogueira – H2020-AURORAL coordinator – “Rural is Europe’s new frontier. Healthy soil is the most critical dimension for making it sustainable. H2020-AURORAL tools enable the use of digital tools for supporting intelligent territorial management in rural areas.”
10:25 – 10:50 | Note & Vote: How to engage the farming community and society?
10:50 – 11:00 | Coffee Break
2nd Part | 11:00 – 13:00
11:00 – 11:15 | Giulia Campodonico – European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) – “Soil Health Living Labs and what NATI00NS project will do to support them”
11:15 – 11:30 | Manlio Bacco, PhD – Institute of Information Science and Technologies (ISTI), National Research Council (CNR) – “Living Labs in the H2020 DESIRA project”
11:30 – 11:45 | Didier Stilmant, head of the ‘Sustainability, systems and prospectives’ department at CRA-W – “Lighthouse farms and living labs to explore wicked problem, an example”
11:45 – 12:00 | Leigh Ann Winowiecki, PhD – Global Research Lead for Soil and Land Health at Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF)– “Advances in monitoring and tracking soil health and building coalitions to scale soil health globally”
12:00 – 12:20 | Note & Vote: How to make Living Labs economically sustainable when public funds end?
12:20 – 12:35 | Tayfun Bahsi – 17 Sustainable Services – “The importance of financial security and peer-to-peer learning and how it can be linked with business cases which can support “living labs” approach”
12:35 – 12:45 | Giuseppe Saija – EUKNOW Director – “Mission soil, an overview of the next round of calls for proposals”