In Brussels to present the All-Ready project: meet the Agroecology Virtual Lab

Agroecology Living Labs & Research Infrastructures

In collaboration with AE4EU, ALL-Ready organised its final event in Brussels on 27 September 2023. The conference was hosted by the Committee of the Regions.

Our Agroecology Project Manager, Iria Soto Embodas, presented the All-Ready project in the panel “Practice Perspective: How to put Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures in practice? Q&A”. Within the project, one of the deliverables was to produce the Agroecology Virtual Lab, a collaboration platform to standardise collaboration for research and innovation. During the event, the steps to achieve this were presented.

The one-day conference highlighted two projects that have laid the foundation for a European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures. The discussions focused on how these projects can best support the transition to agroecology and translate theoretical concepts into practical applications. The event explored the lessons learned from three years of project work and highlighted regions’ role in driving agroecology transitions.

The Agroecology Virtual Lab

The Agroecology Virtual Lab is a web platform designed to simplify, centralise, digitalise and streamline the creation of interdisciplinary innovation ecosystems and communities via collaboration with complementary partners that match your needs. This Agroecology Virtual Lab includes, among other functionalities, a marketplace, networking tools, a repository of resources for dissemination and knowledge sharing, geographical visualisation of innovation ecosystems available agroecology best practices and other data management functionalities.

The platform caters to individuals and organisations from various sectors, including research, innovation, public, and civil sectors. The main objective of Agroecology Virtual Labs is to assist scientists, academics, small and medium-sized businesses, farmers, authorities, public bodies, consumers, citizens, and anyone interested in agrifood systems. Additionally, it aims to bring together stakeholders from different sectors of society to foster collaboration and exchange of knowledge on real-world applications of agroecology, research questions, technological solutions, and any other innovative ideas.

About the project

Agricultural systems face multiple challenges today, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, dwindling resources, and soil and water quality degradation. To address these challenges, Open Innovation Arrangements, including Living Labs and Research Infrastructures, can pave the way to enhance the sustainability and resilience of farming systems.

There is great potential to promote agroecology in Europe. The main objective of ALL-Ready is to establish AgroEcoLLNet, the framework for a future European network of LLs and RI that will facilitate the transition towards agroecology throughout Europe. To learn more about All-Ready, please visit the project website.

LifeWatch ERIC at the AgroServ Conference

AgroServ Conference.

The first annual European Research Services on Agroecology Conference was held by AgroServ (a project in which LifeWatch ERIC is partner) from 5–6 June 2023 at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (in-person and online). This first edition of the AgoServ Conference was dedicated to presenting the various agroecological services accessible through AgroServ and the different aspects that shape research in the emerging field of agroecology. To promote and encourage interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to address the agroecological transition, the first call for transnational access to its services was launched during the event.

Since the transition towards a sustainable and resilient agricultural system must take into account ecological, economic and social factors, work sessions were dedicated to discussions and practical workshops to exchange ideas, meet researchers from different fields (chemists, biologists, agronomists, ecologists, bioengineers, analysts, social scientists, etc.) and build ideas for possible proposals.

As LifeWatch ERIC is one of the eleven partners of AgroServ, three people from the LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology team participated in the conference. The coordinator, José Manuel Ávila, and the researcher, Iria Soto, attended the conference in person, in Prague, while Ángela Ventura intervened remotely in the working group sessions, which were coordinated by the team of Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems (AnaEE ERIC).

In the working group on ‘Management and sustainability of agroecosystems, aquaculture and forests’, the importance of interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity was highlighted, opening dialogues about the need for the service to have offers coming from multidisciplinary teams. In fact, one crucial problem identified was the lack of understanding between different disciplines, which all have specific and different terminologies, different interests, etc., thus contributing to a complication of the situation that is AgroServ’s big challenge to date.

On the other hand, in the working group on ‘Living Labs’, problems about intellectual property rights were highlighted. The need to tackle this issue was confirmed so that all the agents, coming from different sectors and working on an innovative idea, will feel more comfortable when getting involved in the process.

Finally, in the working group on ‘Animal and Plant Health, Quality Food, and Valorisation of By-products from Agriculture’, progress was made regarding the great potential of small agricultural producers in setting trends in the circular economy model and in scaling up these practices. In order to achieve this, the researchers collaboration must prioritise a daily and high quality production model, in which waste is recycled and reused in examples such as farms converted into biorefineries, and in which alternative income is generated through bioproducts.

LifeWatch ERIC at the ALL-Ready Second Regional Workshop

On 11 May, LifeWatch ERIC hosted, at its ICT Core in Seville, the second regional workshop of the European project ALL-Ready: “Accelerating Agroecology Transition: Your potential role and benefits of contributing to a European network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures”.

LifeWatch ERIC is is one of the main partners in this highly strategically relevant project. Its Agroecology team, led by José Manuel Ávila, Daniel Caro and Iria Soto, coordinated the morning session of the workshop together with Gerald Schwarz (Thünen Institute), Isidora Stojacic (BioSense Institute), Ophélie Bonnet (INRAE), Isabelle Couture (ENoLL – European Network of Living Labs), Jo Bijttebier and Sylvie Fosselle (ILVO Living Lab Agrifood Technology).

In the presentation, Gerard Schwarz marked the objectives of the implementation plan, stressing the importance of ensuring relevance for actors across Europe and specifying that this work in progress is to be finalised in early autumn 2023:

  • To provide a structured framework to sustainably implement, monitor and adapt the European Network in the long term;
  • To ensure its effective contribution to the partnership on Agroecology;
  • To deliver benefits to the agroecological community in Europe.

During the workshop, the participants formed several groups to exchange experiences and discuss solutions about the challenges of Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures, and to explore possible roles and contributions of the European Network, in relation to:

  • Thematic priorities of the Network;
  • Communication, networking and demonstration activities;
  • Funding requirements and strategies.

The ALL-Ready workshop served also to advance the production of ideas and proposals to further improve the understanding of which thematic areas and what kind of measures and activities, as part of the European Network, would be especially useful.

The coordinator of the session, Gerard Schwarz (Thünen Institute of Farm Economics), led the working day to discuss:

▪ Insights into topics, themes and issues that the European Network should address;
▪ Insights into type of communication and networking activities that are particularly needed;
▪ Insights into practical solutions foe addressing funding gaps;
▪ Insights into capacity building, including regional gaps in competences, and the role of local actors to support development of competences.

The perspectives and recommendations of the participants will be taken into account to for the implementation plan of a European Network.

The CEO of LifeWatch ERIC, Christos Arvanitidis, intervened in the closing session. He explained that it is necessary to build all together the European Network of Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures: “And as a Research Infrastructure focused on biodiversity and ecosystem, LifeWatch ERIC aims to support the community of practices to provide science-based evidence about agroecology practices and contribute to knowledge and data sharing to demonstrate and make visible its added value and impacts”.

Christos Arvanitidis also stated that LifeWatch ERIC is working to provide digital tools / e-Services to facilitate the adoption of agroecology practices based on collaboration with the different stakeholders (researchers, farmers, policymakers and citizens), but also in association with other Research Infrastructures. And he especially stressed that: “In the coming years, in the EU Partnership on Agroecology, LifeWatch ERIC will lead the design and implementation of a conceptual framework to monitor the AE transition and the consequent impacts. We encourage to work with us, as CoP, to co-design the specific tools that fit your needs to all together contribute to the make the European agricultural sector more sustainable, resilient and responsive to societal and policy demands”.

Future workshops of ALL-Ready will be held today 12 May, in Budapest, and on Monday 15 May, in Frankfurt. All the efforts made are directed towards the final conference, which will take place on 27 September 2023, in Brussels.

Opening up good practices and e-research collaboration opportunities in the Mediterranean with PRIMA Foundation

ICT-Core and FEDERTECH Working meeting with PRIMA Foundation.

The LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core held an extensive working meeting at their headquarters in the Cartuja Science and Technology Park in Seville, with Octavi Quintana, Director of PRIMA Foundation.
PRIMA’s Director left an important legacy as Director of “European Research Area”, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission, while fostering the development of Research Infrastructures and policies.

LifeWatch ERIC and PRIMA – The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area – are exploring collaboration opportunities with the intention of extending good practices and use of e-research tools in Mediterranean countries.
The aim of the PRIMA Foundation is to build research and innovation capacities and develop much-needed, shared and innovative solutions for a more sustainable management of water and agri-food systems in the Mediterranean basin. PRIMA focuses in particular on new research and innovation approaches to improve: sustainable management of water in arid and semi-arid Mediterranean areas; sustainable farming systems under Mediterranean environmental constraints; sustainable Mediterranean agri-food value chain for regional and local development.

LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, introduced the team and explained the major initiatives in applied research and innovation, and the digital tools that LifeWatch ERIC is designing and developing to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, both in natural and urban environments. All this in collaboration with international networks such as GBIF, UNOOSA and IUCN-Med, while contributing to strengthen networks such as the EU-CELAC Working Group on Research Infrastructures.

Researchers and Project coordinators, José Manuel Ávila-Castuera (Agroecology), Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta (Satellite & HAPS Operations), Rohaifa Khaldi and Yassir Benhammou (Data Science & Artificial Intelligence), presented in detail the ongoing projects and their challenges, such as the transition from productive models to agroecology, or the generation of more precise and reliable data for the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem services.

For further information about PRIMA, please visit its official website.

LifeWatch ERIC to Host Upcoming ALL-READY Regional Workshop

ALL-READY REGIONAL WORKSHOP

We are excited to announce the upcoming 2nd ALL-READY Regional Workshop, entitled “Accelerating the Agroecology Transition: Your potential role and benefits of contributing to a European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures”. This interactive discussion session will take place on 11 May 2023, at the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core premises in Seville, Spain, and will also be available online as a hybrid event.

The workshop is organised by LifeWatch ERIC, Thünen Institute and INRAE as part of the ALL-Ready project, and will focus on exploring the potential of a European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures to enable the transition towards agroecology throughout Europe.

The European Partnership under Horizon Europe for Accelerating Farming Systems Transition by Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures is currently being prepared by the SCAR Agroecology Strategic Working Group. ALL-Ready is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) funded by the European Commission with the aim of preparing a framework for a future European network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures.

The workshop will not only raise awareness of the future Horizon Europe Partnership on Agroecology but also build on the knowledge gained at the previous workshop in November 2022. The event will provide a platform for exchange and networking among local and regional actors, exploring possible solutions to overcome problems and difficulties that initiatives face in the transition process. The workshop will particularly emphasise a capacity-building programme for Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures.

This workshop is ideal for policy makers and funding organisations, companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and academics, living lab representatives and practitioners, innovators, and participants of an initiative related to the agroecology transition.

We invite all interested parties to join us for the ALL-READY Regional Workshop on 11 May in the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core premises in the Italian Pavilion (Isla de la Cartuja), Seville for an engaging and productive discussion about the potential of agroecology and the role of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures in driving this transition forward. 

Agreement between LifeWatch ERIC, IICA and COOP to develop the ‘Cooperative Technological Competence Center’ in the Americas

Cooperative Technological Competence Center

LifeWatch ERIC, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP) have signed an important general technical cooperation agreement. Its objectives include developing the Cooperative Technological Competence Center and promoting digitalisation processes in agriculture across the Americas, through its cooperatives. This within the context of the green and digital transition, which represents an opportunity to build and consolidate national and international alliances and generate a broad social, environmental and economic impact.

The agreement, signed by Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO; Manuel Otero, General Director of IICA; Graciela Fernández, COOP President; and Danilo Salerno, COOP Regional Director, structure the common vision that these institutions have on the importance and urgency of a green transition, for which it is crucial that there be a harmonious digital transition, creating unified, open, secure, reliable and agile management data spaces to make data a key factor in alliances, management processes and decision-making.

IICA is an organisation with 80 years of experience, whose mission is to stimulate, promote and support the efforts of its 34 member states to achieve their agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence focused on the needs of their agri-food systems. The International Cooperative Alliance, founded in 1895, is an organisation that unites, represents and serves cooperatives worldwide, establishing in 1990 its Regional Office for the Americas in San José (Costa Rica), called Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP). Its aim is to promote the repositioning of the cooperative model in the modern economic, political, social and commercial environment.

COOP and the IICA on Agriculture have been developing a ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ since 2019 for the modernisation and digitisation of cooperative services for family farming in the Americas, making family production systems more diversified, respectful of the environment and natural resources, ensuring development, generation after generation, not only of agriculture, production and the economic livelihood of people, but also their own family life. The aim of the programme is that such production systems generate income and genuine employment, while protecting biodiversity and fragile agroecological systems.

The agreement with LifeWatch ERIC reinforces the ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ and connects it with the Common European Agricultural Data Space. It promotes the cooperative model as a key player in local development, as well as an associative solution for access to markets and economies of scale in the agri-food value chain, with favourable environmental management.

Strengthening Cooperation at the AERAP Africa-Europe Science & Innovation Forum

AERAP 2023

This week, LifeWatch ERIC participated in the AERAP Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Forum, an event to reinforce the contribution of research and science through digital technologies and advance collaboration between European and African institutions through strategic innovation programmes. The forum was held in the South African Embassy in Brussels, and focused on the EU Partnership Strategy with Africa, the African Union-European Union Innovation Agenda, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, compliance with the SDGs, and the Strategy on Research Infrastructures.

LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, presented in the session ‘Microbial sciences for a sustainable future’, which also featured the participation of Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology; Eugene Lottering, of the National Research Foundation in South Africa, and Zeinab Osman, director general of the National Centre for Research in Sudan.

He demonstrated how LifeWatch ERIC promotes synergies in science, technology and innovation between entities and researchers from Africa and Europe, through partnership agreements which foster the green transition and access to energy. Within the AERAP platform, he co-chairs the Green Deal subgroup together with Georgina Ryan, Deputy Director for Green Economy of the Government of South Africa. Furthermore, he explained how LifeWatch ERIC cooperates with the Arab Science Research and Education Network (ASREN) and is helping the coordination of the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) to support the implementation of the UN Food System Summit. He also made a special mention of African researchers working in the LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence team, Rohaifa Khaldi and Yassir Benhammou, who just recently were awarded a prize at the AI4Science Workshop by a jury that included representatives from DeepMind and Google.

LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Coordinator, José Manuel Ávila Castuera, spoke in the session ‘Science for Climate Resilient food systems in Africa’, which included speakers Petronella Chaminuka, Head of the Economic Analysis Unit, Agricultural Research Council of South Africa; and Intisar Soghayroun, who was Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan.

He explained the relevance of LifeWatch ERIC as a distributed e-Infrastructure to support agricultural research and innovation in climate-resilient food systems and foster cooperation between Africa and the EU, as a facility that provides resources and services for biodiversity and ecosystems research communities in the long-term. Likewise, he detailed the involvement of LifeWatch ERIC in the structuring of the EU partnership on agroecology, through projects such as AE4EU and ALL-READY, among others. He explained the ten elements of agroecology to change the production paradigm and achieve new models for food provisioning in a globalised context. Adoption of agroecology principles can drive towards biodiversified agroecosystems, which are more sustainable from an environmental, economic and social perspective. This whole path of innovation could facilitate the implementation of an Africa-EU Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

Seville City Council supports LifeWatch ERIC expansion and 2023 events on the theme of biodiversity

Biodiversity event Seville 2023

On 14 February, the mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz, visited the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core offices in the Cartuja Science and Technological Park, showing the City Council’s support for the consortium, which he describes as a “powerful ecosystem of innovation, science and research in Seville” and whose activity contributes to placing it on the map in terms of the two great challenges facing cities: the fight against climate change and digital transformation.

During the visit hosted by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, the mayor promised that Seville City Council will back the infrastructure in its organisation of two major international events on biodiversity in 2023. The first will be The LifeWatch ERIC BEeS Biodiversity & Ecosystem eScience Conference “Threats and challenges to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation from an eScience perspective” from 22–24 May, coinciding with the celebration of World Biodiversity Day on May 22, and will include the participation of representatives and experts from numerous countries. More information soon to come! The second will be on 5–6 July, with great European, Spanish and Latin American institutional relevance, and will be included in the programme of activities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second semester of 2023. LifeWatch ERIC last welcomed biodiversity information facilitity representatives from Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean to its Seville seat in November 2022 – click here to watch the highlights video.

Furthermore, the City Council is going to support LifeWatch ERIC in its expansion of spaces, activity and personnel, as the infrastructure is pinned as one of the organisations to participate in the new innovation and research ecosystem that the Seville City Council wants to deploy, taking advantage of the potential of the Spanish Space Agency with the configuration of the new hub and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

LifeWatch ERIC leads numerous European programmes from its Seville seat. A notable example, by election of the European Commission, is the scientific data information technology work package for the European global programme on agroecology and agrobiodiversity, to help contribute to a green and digital revolution throughout Europe. For this initiative, LifeWatch ERIC is developing an innovative virtual research environment based on its Tesseract and LifeBlock platforms, which will support the tokenisation of ecosystem services, contributing to monitoring for Common Agricultural Policy schemes based on agroecological practices and low-carbon agriculture.

LifeWatch ERIC presents its endeavours in remote sensing and support for indigenous knowledge at UNOOSA meeting

UNOOSA

This week has seen the participation of LifeWatch ERIC in the UNOOSA COPUOS STSC 60th Session 2023, which is taking place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from 6–17 February 2023.

COPUOS is the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, set up by UNOOSA, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity. It reviews international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. STSC stands for the Scientific and Technical Subcomittees, which are holding plenary and technical sessions, in which LifeWatch ERIC is taking part:

On Wednesday 8 February, Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta, LifeWatch ERIC Satellite & HAPS Operations Manager, participated in the SCTC Plenary Session, presenting LifeWatch ERIC’s close collaboration with CANEUS International as well as the infrastructure’s efforts in the Remote Sensing field, using the example of the launch of AGAPA-1 nanosatellite for the SmartFood project in October 2023 and related mission operations.

In the STSC Technical Session the following day, Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS, and Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta held a presentation entitled “Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) and Remote Sensing for Sustainability Applications”, co-prepared with LifeWatch ERIC CTO and Director of the ICT-Core Common Facility, Dr. Juan Miguel González-Aranda. IKRI is a Global Research and Knowledge Repository initiativerun with the participation of LifeWatch ERIC, CANUS, FILAC, UNOOSA and AERAP Science, which aims to develop a global collaborative infrastructure using Public-Private-Partnership. It does this by seeking to leverage the power of Earth observation and AI to capture, process, analyse, and present indigenous knowledge from multiple sources, to achieve implementation of UN SDGs and 2030 Agenda targets and action items. Watch here from 1:22:00.

Andalusian Government Commends LifeWatch ERIC as an Invaluable Ally in the Green Revolution

Green Revolution

On Thursday 2 February, directors and representatives of the LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities in Seville were welcomed to the government office of the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla. LifeWatch ERIC members were invited for an afternoon at the beautiful Palacio de San Telmo in Seville with the President, who described the infrastructure as an “invaluable ally” in the Green Revolution, which is being widely promoted in the region.

The President praised the infrastructure for its open science model, through which it can provide advanced digital analysis tools to stakeholders for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services, highlighting the synergies between the infrastructure and the regional Ministries of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy and that of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, whose respective ministers, Carmen Crespo, and Ramón Fernández-Pacheco, were both present for the occasion. He underlined how the government can make use of LifeWatch ERIC’s expertise in cutting-edge technologies such as AI in a number of ERDF projects, which rely on digitisation and innovation processes to generate environmental knowledge, in order to foster a culture of sustainability.

Good examples include the SmartFood project, in which LifeWatch ERIC is collaborating with Ministry of Agriculture and a number of partners to launch its first nanosatellite this year, which will offer useful information to helpadvance the sustainability of agriculture and fisheries, contributing to the digitisation of the primary sector. Another fine example is the Índalo project, which proposes building a technological infrastructure from which to monitor environmental changes in Andalusia in order to define the most suitable measures for resource management.

LifeWatch ERIC is grateful to the president and the Andalusian government for the gesture of recognition, and is honoured to provide tools and services which can contribute to the betterment of the environment in the region.

You can watch the President’s speech here (in Spanish).