Boosting knowledge and innovation flows across Europe
Farmers, foresters, and rural communities rely on knowledge and innovation to handle present and future problems. Practical Agricultural Information and Innovation Systems (AKIS) are required throughout Europe to guarantee that knowledge is shared among those who use and create it and that people are linked.
Agriculture, forestry, and rural communities gain from improved information flow, as do food and non-food systems, biodiversity, the environment, climate change, and consumers. Influential AKIS helps advisers, farmers and foresters, academics, rural networks, national and regional governments, the media, all those engaged in education and training, and consumers generate innovation and share information.
When information is co-created, utilized effectively, and broadly shared, it helps to accelerate the creation and scale-up of practical, creative solutions. This pamphlet covers various significant aspects, inspirational examples, and initiatives that contribute to developing better agricultural knowledge and innovation systems across Europe.
What exactly is AKIS?
For a visual summary, see the EIP-AGRI animated presentation. The’spotlight’ page lists all EIP-AGRI activity connected to AKIS.
Efficient knowledge and innovation systems will help the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) achieve its sustainability objectives (2023-2027). The AKIS policy brief and the study ‘Preparing for Future AKIS in Europe’ provide further details.
The EIP-AGRI lecture, titled “CAP strategic plans: the crucial role of AKIS in the Member States,” included a variety of inspirational experiences and initiatives.
Stimulating more competent advice and innovation support
Advisors are vital to a well-functioning AKIS. All advisers must be included in the AKIS in the new CAP. They provide farmers, loggers, and other rural business owners with relevant, up-to-date information to help them make informed choices daily. EIP-AGRI Operational Groups and other forms of interactive innovation might benefit from the assistance of consultants, who can serve as conduits for people and information. Advisors with specialized expertise in a particular area might be valuable assets in a time of need. National and international researchers and CAP networks that gather and disseminate project outcomes often engage with advisors. It is via their expertise that the AKIS ecosystem as a whole can build national or global knowledge repositories.
Integrating advisors in the Slovenian AKIS
Slovenia’s Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry is dedicated to the country’s public agricultural consulting service. Field advisors collaborate with specialists and coordinating advisors to develop effective knowledge exchanges.
“Our experienced field advisers serve farmers throughout the nation,” says Anton Jagodic, an advisor. A ‘back-office’ with specialized advisers well-connected to researchers, rural networks, specialists from public services, and others in the AKIS ecosystem is available to field advisors when they require further information. The field advisers are trained, and they prepare instructional materials. With the support of other advisers, they can provide more tailored counsel to their clients.
“EIP-AGRI Operational Groups” promotes the relationships between farmers, rural communities, and innovative programs like these.
The Slovenian advisory model has demonstrated its worth and fosters knowledge exchanges. Aiming to expand the scope of training and demonstration activities, we’re presently trying to deepen our links with academic research groups and educational programs.
Innovation Support Services as a “one-stop-shop”
Boerenbond, a Flemish farmers’ organization, provides a wide variety of services for farmers and rural regions, including a full-fledged innovation support service. They assist in the development of grassroots ideas into Operational Groups or other creative initiatives, organize knowledge-sharing events, and provide innovation guidance and training. Project Manager Wim Ceulemans: “Co-creation does not happen spontaneously. Innovation support services play a critical role in bringing people and projects together to facilitate the flow of information and new ideas.
Farmers, foresters, advisers, researchers, and anyone who needs it should be able to quickly locate, utilize, and share valuable information from research and experience. Digital knowledge platforms and databases at the national and EU levels, stocked with real-world project outcomes, may facilitate the exchange of information throughout Europe.
All Operational Groups and other innovative EU initiatives are included in the EIP-AGRI database.
Networks such as BEST4SOIL and INNOSETA in Horizon 2020 have established databases, including information on best practices for water and fertilizer usage and spraying equipment optimization to decrease pesticide use.
EUREKA and EURAKNOS are two Horizon projects preparing an EU-wide digital knowledge repository for practice.
Connecting through CAP networks
National “CAP networks” will expand the reach of the present National Rural Networks in the EU Member States starting in 2023 to facilitate knowledge sharing and stimulate innovation. With the help of networking events, Operational Group projects (OGs) from throughout the country and the world may engage with one another, and European projects can be brought together. National CAP networks are essential for making creative knowledge more broadly available via the collection, translation, and sharing of practical project outcomes that are most relevant for each nation. This implies that national CAP networks will need to spend more on innovation strands. These national innovation strands will be brought together through the EIP-AGRI Support Facility, connecting them to Horizon Europe.
Inspiring knowledge exchange across borders
Regional innovation support services in Germany gather twice a year to share best practices, according to the National Rural Network’s (NRN) initiative. The NRN also hosts annual meetings and cross-border field trips. Farmers, researchers, advisers, and innovation brokers from Operational Groups meet at these events to exchange ideas with other national and worldwide creative initiatives working on related topics.
The NRN’s Jan Swoboda explains, “We wanted to strengthen our cross-border contact across areas and benefit from each other’s experiences.
“When at least four OGs from more than two areas indicate a desire to share ideas, we organize topic workshops.” Horizon 2020 projects are also encouraged to participate to maximize learning and knowledge sharing. Members of the Operational Group and researchers looking to broaden their activity were enthusiastic about these sessions. Finding common ground and forming lasting ties amongst everyone engaged is the most exciting component.”
Building bridges between practice and research
Connecting researchers, farmers and foresters, advisers, agricultural school students, and others are critical for improving the flow of information and innovation. Researchers who participate in Operational Groups or other cutting-edge, hands-on endeavors may contribute to developing answers to real-world problems. Projects like this allow farmers and foresters to try out new ideas, advance technology, reduce practices, and co-create solutions to their problems. There are many ways to bring people together and encourage information sharing, which may lead to new ideas that can be implemented on a farm.
Pioneer and demonstration farms to foster knowledge and innovation
Climate change poses difficulties for rainfed grain cultivation in Spain’s interior dry-land zones. Operational Group ECOPIONET has built a knowledge-sharing network to assist farms in becoming more resilient and developing a successful organic farming business.
As an organizer, Raquel Arroyo says, “we intended to demonstrate to farmers that organic techniques provide instruments to boost their profitability.” With the help of organic farmers, consultants, and applied researchers who shared their expertise with local advisers and ‘pioneer’ farmers, we were able to help them transition to organic farming.” This resulted in a dynamic and efficient flow of knowledge, where advisers and researchers learned from the farmers. Participants in the project exchanged information via the use of a digital portal.
Operational Group members constructed training and demonstration fields to form a mini-AKIS. Initially sceptical farmers and advisers were persuaded to switch to organic farming after seeing results, says Raquel. “Our advising services have increased,research centres have a better understanding of farmers’ requirements, and the initiative has given farmers insight into best practices, empowering them and enhancing their profit.”