On 15th February, the Final Conference of Circular Agronomics took place in Brussels at the Delegation of the government of Catalonia with the title: “A multidimensional approach for a more sustainable and circular nutrients management in agri-food system.”
In line with the European Green Deal, in particular the Farm to Fork’s target to reduce nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring soil fertility, Circular Agronomics aimed to apply the principles of circular economy to agriculture. With this objective, innovative solutions were developed at farm level to use nutrients more efficiently, reduce nutrient waste and recover and re-use nutrients from organic waste.
Coming to the end of the project, the Circular Agronomics consortium has organized this final conference to present its promising results. The technological innovations, economical and social findings as well as the policy recommendations were showcased by the members of the project and discussed with the relevant stakeholders. 60 participants among different sectors, including EU institutions, NGO’s, academy, private company and public institutions, attended the event providing valuable feedback.
The event, organized by RISE Foundation, member of the consortium, included 3 sessions. Victor Riau, project coordinator and researcher at IRTA (the Institute of agrifood research and technology of Catalonia), opened the conference giving an overview of Circular Agronomics’ objectives and introduced the first session on “Innovative solutions to close nutrient cycles in agriculture”. Jan Willem Van Groeningen (WUR) presented the case studies, the novel amendments and the environmental benefits, while Fabian Kraus (KWB) gave an overview of the 5 technological innovations developed for manure, agricultural digestate and food industry wastewater.
The outcomes of the innovations developed within the project are promising as they contribute to improve nutrient use efficiency in agro-ecosystems, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mineral fertiliser use as well as to decrease eutrophication potential. However, some elements remain to be filled, including consideration of biodiversity and the need for indicators to prove efficiency of measures.
In the second session, moderated by the researcher Fiona Thorne ( TEAGASC), factors influencing technological acceptance at farmer and consumer level were discussed. First, Prof. Zein Kallas (CREDA) introduced the survey carried out to the farmers to understand elements and barriers that affect their adoption of innovative solutions. Secondly, Sinéad McCarhty (TEAGASC) outlined the social and economic aspects that influence consumers choices. The results show that environmental attitude, level of education and previous experience are key for the adoption of more sustainable solutions
Moreover, to boost the synergies between relevant Horizon projects, Prof. Erik Meers, Kari Ylivainio and Nagore Guerra have contributed to the conference, sharing their work and experiences respectively from Nutri2Cycles, Lex4Bio and Fertimanure projects.
Also Ana Rocha, agriculture policy officer at ELO, and Fabrizio Fabbri, environmental policy officer at EUROCOOP have been invited. They gave their opinion on Circular Agronomics results and shared their vision for achieving a more sustainable agri-food system.
In the afternoon, the 3td session on “Policy recommendations to achieve the Farm to Fork´s 50% reduction in nutrient losses by 2030” was held. To provide the context for the session, Jeremy Pinte, policy officer at DG GROW, presented the role of the Fertilizing Product Regulation within the Circular Agronomic Action Plan. The session was moderated by Elisa Rose, researcher at KWB, who introduced the Circular Agronomics Policy Note, further discussed by a panel of representatives from the European Commission and other relevant organizations such as Michael Wolf (DG AGRI) Ludwig Hermann (ESPP), Javier Branas (Fertiberia), Ana Rocha (ELO) and Fabrizio Fabbri (EUROCOOP).
The final debate was very interesting and different points of view for a more sustainable agri-food system came to light, outlining a fundamental common need: coordination and cooperation throughout the whole food chain are the key to close the loop of nutrients and increase the nutrient use efficiency. As Javier Brañas and Ludwig Hermann said, “all the fundamental elements and instruments, including technologies, management and regulations are aligned” now “ is the moment to be ambitious and gather all these competences and abilities to really make happen the transition toward a circular and sustainable agri-food system.