Report from Science Day 2016 at BIOFACH

On 12 February 2016, the fourth Science Day took place at BIOFACH, the World Organic Trade Fair, in Nuremberg, Germany. It was a joint event of TIPI, the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM and TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming, organized by the Reserch Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL and the European Union Group of IFOAM - Organics International.

Urs Niggli, director of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and president of TIPI, opening the session "Challenges for organic farming research in the tropics and research policies", organized by TIPI. (Photo: FiBL)

Eduardo Cuoco of TP Organics at the session "Research and innovation for organic food companies", organised by TP Organics. (Photo: FiBL)

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Research and innovation for organic food companies

TP Organics organized the morning session, which focussed on innovation for European organic food companies. The session also explored how the European Commission can improve the support of organic food companies, particularly in the framework of the European Food Research Area, which the European Commission will be building over the next years.

The main outcomes of the discussion highlighted the need for more research to translate the requirements of the organic regulations into practice, in particular regarding food processing (e.g. “processing with care” and “guaranteeing the vital qualities of the product”). The plenum acknowledged that the substantial differences in the interpretation of these requirements across the Member States hinder the development of the organic food sector, and concluded that a code of conduct is needed to set appropriate regulatory frameworks for the development of innovative yet “careful” technologies.

The session on research and innovation for organic food companies was opened by Eduardo Cuoco (Head of Secretariat, TP Organics), Raffaele Zanoli (Università Politecnica delle Marche) and Johannes Kahl (University of Copenhagen) with contributions by Bram Moeskops (Senior Scientific Coordinator, TP Organics), Luc Gauduchon (Food R&D Manager, Léa Nature), Lorenzo Tonini (R&D manager, Priobios) and Johannes Doms (CTO, Hipp GmbH & Co. Produktion KG). This was followed by a presentation about funding opportunities for organic food companies in Horizon 2020 by Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer (Unit Agri-Food Chain, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission) and a panel discussion moderated by Eduardo Cuoco on the question: “How to fund innovation for organic food companies?”, featuring Luc Gauduchon, Lorenzo Tonini, Johannes Doms, Alex Beck and Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer. Several presentations held during the morning session can be downloaded here.

Research policies and challenges for organic farming research in the tropics

The afternoon session, organized by TIPI, focussed on challenges for organic agriculture research in tropical zones. The session also aimed to explore opportunities in further developing research on organic food and farming in the tropics in order to better position organic farming research on the agenda of major international players in international cooperation.

The main outcomes of the discussion highlighted the needs to:

  1. make further efforts in facilitating global access to knowledge on organic food and farming systems,
  2. increase the number of researchers working with organic food and farming systems and participatory action research approaches, and facilitate interactions among them, and
  3. assist IFOAM and the entire organic movement with advocacy based on scientific evidence.

Prof. Dr Urs Niggli (TIPI president, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL) had opened the floor with a presentation of the final draft of the TIPI Vision and Strategy for Organic Farming Research. Subject of the session was on challenges for organic agriculture research in tropical zones with contributions by Dr Noah Adamtey (Department of International Cooperation, FiBL), Prof. Dr Eva Schlecht (Animal Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Kassel and Georg-August Universität Göttingen), Dr Julia Wright (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience CAWR, Coventry University) and Dr Mohammadreza Rezapanah (Iranian Research Institute of Plant Protection (IRIPP), Teheran. This was followed by a workshop on the roadmap towards more organic farming research in international cooperation moderated by Dr Brian Baker (Cornell University). Several presentations held during the afternoon session can be downloaded here.

Finally, Urs Niggli gave an outlook on further steps to be taken for boosting research in organic farming. This will include the elaboration of a condensed version of the TIPI Vision and Strategy, a paper on "The 100 most important questions for organic farming in the tropics", policy briefs and the launch of a TIPI newsletter. Furthermore, TIPI will take part in strategically important conferences in the following years. These activities will be coordinated by Christian Andres (Department of International Cooperation, FiBL) and should provide a stepping stone for the writing of proposals to international funding bodies in order to raise the profile of research on organic food and farming systems in international cooperation.

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