The Grow Workshops, streamlined in Portugal by Food4Sustainability CoLAB and BGI - Building Global Innovators, are now in the second year of this initiative that wants to promote free training and awareness, sponsored by the largest European network of Food Innovation, EIT Food.
This year's edition focused on the five pillars of regenerative agriculture, intending to demonstrate and rethink agricultural techniques, and explore new technologies that simultaneously promote business and the quality of soil and food. The basic theme was the role of soil functionality as the basis for successful farming. More than 100 farmers, students, and stakeholders joined the educational sessions, with participatory discussion and visits to model farms.
On July 1, they took place at Quinta Dias nas Árvores, in the Alentejo, with the theme Keeping Soil Always Covered, a practice that aims to protect the soil, to reduce or even suppress its water and wind erosion, reducing the consequent loss of organic matter and nutrients, and promoting the maintenance of soil moisture and the protection of its biodiversity and nutritional cycles. The second session of this cycle took place on July 8 in Vila Feliz Cidade, Golegã, and was based on the theme Maximizing Species Diversification. This diversification, when well combined, results in a more diversified and balanced food chain, in the aid between species, in the use of resources, in a healthier soil exploration, and control of weeds, diseases, and plagues. On July 15, at BioFrade, Lourinhã, the theme Maintenance of Living Roots in the Soil was addressed. The roots, as a structure, aggregate the soil, protecting it against the elements, and reducing compaction, erosion, and consequent degradation, to preserve its physical, chemical, and biological integrity. To reduce erosion and soil degradation, to maintain its fertility and crop productivity, the Minimum Soil Disturbance was addressed on July 22nd, at Quinta do Alecrim, Torres Novas. Lastly, the theme Integration of Livestock in Cash Crops was addressed on July 29 at Monte da Silveira Bio, Idanha a Nova, to demonstrate its benefits for the soil, promoting the improvement of its structure, fertility, and soil microbial diversity and activity. It presents not only soil benefits, but also economic ones, with the reduction of mechanization and labor needs, as weed control, green cover maintenance, and crop residue consumption are reduced.
All these pillars, when applied together, confer balance and resilience to the production system, resulting in less need for external inputs. Healthy soil is vital for human existence since 95% of food production depends on the soil, which also helps prevent flooding and mitigate the effects of drought. In addition, the world's soils contain 2500 GT of carbon; almost 80% of the carbon is found in terrestrial ecosystems - more than 3 times the carbon in the atmosphere (800 GT) and more than 4 times that stored in all living plants and animals (560 GT). Only the ocean has a larger stock of carbon.
Sweden, Austria, and France are the other hosts of this program. In Sweden, Lunds University hosts the participants in its university demonstration center "Food Valley of Bjuv". In France, the organization is in the hands of partner Vitagora, an agri-food innovation cluster linking several associated companies and innovation partners. In Austria, the sessions take place at Grand Farm, one of Europe's most renowned farms for its regenerative agriculture practices and cutting-edge technology.
Those interested can find out more on the initiative's website. _____________________________________________________________
About EIT Food
EIT Food is a body of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), whose aim is to build an inclusive and innovative community of diverse food sector partners to leverage innovation and entrepreneurship in this sector across Europe.
About Food4Sustainability (F4S) CoLAB
The Food4Sustainability (F4S) CoLAB is a collaborative laboratory located in Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal, that aims to solve large-scale problems in food systems (e.g. food, fish, algae, vegetables) for climate resilience. The F4S CoLAB is at the forefront of the shift from linear agri-food production processes to circular processes. The aim of F4S CoLAB is to test and implement new approaches in food production systems that positively impact: CO2 mitigation, no use of chemicals, sustainable intensification (maximising land use), preservation of water bodies and environmental impact, and increased efficiency in the food sector value chain.
Building Global Innovators (BGI) is an international accelerator for deep-tech startups - a spin-off of MIT Portugal, which for the past 11 years has been empowering and connecting technology-based startups with investors, mentors and clients around the world.
About Lund University
Lund University was founded in 1666 and has repeatedly been considered one of the top 100 universities in the world. The university has around 44,000 students and over 8,000 employees, spread across Lund, Helsingborg, and Malmö. Lund University sends efforts to understand, explain and improve the world and the human condition.
About Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT)
Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is the largest RTO (Research and Technology Organization) in Austria and is also a key player on the international scene in several of its research areas. As such, AIT is a leading development partner for the industry and a top employer in the international scientific community.
Vitagora is a French agri-food innovation cluster that connects a range of member companies with innovation partners and provides access to extensive international networking in the field. By providing tools and support for building ecosystems, strategic intelligence, practical innovation support and knowledge sharing, Vitagora takes its members to the heart of Europe's food innovation potential.