Since its creation, the Innovation award for women farmers try to propose a specific focus for each edition. As 2020 will be the year of the Green Deal at European level, Copa-Cogeca wanted to propose the following guiding theme: “Women Farmers in the driver’s seat of climate innovation”. Climate action can take various forms on farms from simple adaptions to more integrated projects including a carbon monitoring. All type of actions, measures and projects will have their place within our 2020 awards, we will reward the desire for change initiated by women farmers, the impact (economic, social, environmental) of their actions and the leading dimension of the project.
The candidate has been working as a forest engineer for the last 21 years in one of the largest and leading state-owned forest companies in Hungary. She has applied the practice of sustainable agriculture and forestry management both in her job and on her farm.
In 1999, after graduating the candidate founded her own nursery which is producing forest seedling. Every year, 200-300 thousand seedlings are sold which are used mainly for reforestation and afforestation. Their products include oaks, wild cherry, hornbeam, wild pear and robinia seedlings. The candidate decided to extend her business activities to crop production and today manages a 36ha farm with diverse activities. The fields are also home to large and high-quality red deer (Cervus elaphus). The candidate tries to harmonise her land management approach with local conditions and thus diminish the conflict between crop production and wild game management. In order to do so, her crops are divided by grazing fields for the deer, and only protected by temporal fences which can be dismantled after harvest; therefore, the habitats of the large herbivores are not decreased. In 2016 she took part in the AES programme, dividing her plots to a maximum of 5ha with pease stripes and green fallows. Only bird-friendly reaping is applied, and a nutrient supply plan is elaborated every year by specialist based on soil samples. She uses biofertilizer and if needed, semi-deep soil loosening is carried out, and no machinery is used on wet soil. Furthermore, only selected chemicals are used in plant protection. With an increase of private forestry in Hungary during the early 2000’s, the candidate also started working as a forest consultant providing advice to new owners who often had no forestry education or experience. In 2005 the candidate received her PhD in forestry, having written her thesis on the false heartwood beech, including an application of non-destructive timber test methods.
With cutting-edge technology the research team managed to be the first in Europe to detect false heartwood using MR (magnetic resonance) technology. She also taught forest ecology and management at the University of Kaposvar for 7 years.
The candidate also took part in an innovation programme through her employer that aimed at developing new methods to prevent cockchafer (Melontha melontha) damage. The candidate used her own experiences and her management approach of continuous forestry cover, proving that forest management can be more secured by gradually reducing the area of final cuts and reforesting with mixed forests that are more resistant to damage.
Through her management approaches the candidate has been able to reduce the time of reforestation through a smaller harvest area, well thought-out species choices, application of propagation material of proper origin, and carefully chosen nursing operations in the vegetation period. As a result, the loss of quality and even quantity in over matured forests can be avoided. It is evident that chemical-free, mechanical nursing can increase crop yield and the size of the seedlings. Due to the small-parcel structure and the common efforts with the hunting association, for the first time, even the maise and sunflower remained totally free of wild game damage this year.
Croatia - HPK
The candidate has been actively involved in the production of vegetables and is a well-known producer of the Varazdin cabbage, maintaining the tradition of growing and pickling the cabbage.
The candidate has made major contribution to the Varazdin cabbage protection process at EU level as well as the development of the specifications. She has been involved in the preparation of a book and monography about the Varazdin cabbage as well as several other contributions to books on domestic products to promote the tradition of the rural environment.
The candidate is an active participant in the Varazdin County project ‘Experimental - demonstrational field’ which is aimed at demonstrating the numerous ways agrotechnical measure related to reducing carbon emissions, conserving biodiversity and preserving resilient domestic cultivars adapted to climate change can be implemented, thus improving the knowledge transfer and strengthening the connections between research and practical applications on farms. Through the project they demonstrate how the farm contributes to climate mitigation and reducing greenhouse gases through new tillage techniques and the sustainable management of the farm with the help of energy sources.
The project included climate-smart agriculture and an approach that helps guide the activities needed to transform and reorientate agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food production and food supply security.
They promote the importance of soil preservation as an important natural resource, coupled with water, oxygen and nutrients necessary for plant growth. They presented the importance of preserving biodiversity and landscape together with importance of preserving domestic varieties and cultivars as important genetic resources. Through the project, the results of improving competitiveness and higher agricultural productivity in a sustainable way of management was achieved, enabling the effective response to the challenges associated with the growing demand for agricultural products with limited resources and increasingly pronounced climate change.
As a model of a successful Farm, the candidate receives groups of visitors from different countries as well as from students and children.
The candidate has been awarded several times for her contribution to the development of agriculture in the Varazdin County.
The candidate is the secretary of the Association of Ploughman’s as well as an active member of the Municipal Council Agriculture Committee, County Union of Agricultural Associations and Varazdin Pumpkin Seed Oil Association.
Nazaret Mateos Alvarez
Spain - UPA
The candidate is the manger and owner of her farm and business EntreSetas that is characterised by its circular economy of proximity which starts with the selection of raw materials and ends with the generated waste being used as organic fertiliser against Nematoda.
They are the first ecological company of mushroom growing in the Castilla and Leon region and the only one in Spain with environmentally friendly facilities taking a natural farming approach. The substratum is selected from their fields in the region, from which they obtain the stalk and cereal that will later be used as a layer for the mushrooms. The mycelia are selected from the best Spanish seed banks and are always certified to be transgenic free. The plantation of the species is done by hand, which gives the candidate additional information about the state of the layers at the time of farming. There is no forced heating or cooling to avoid pollution by the gases in the products. They do not use automatic watering in order to reduce water waste and promote the quality of their mushrooms and the irrigation of the mushrooms mainly comes from rainfall. Thanks to the lower temperature at night, the condensation produced generates water drops on the ceiling of the greenhouse,which creates natural rain by falling back to the ground. The greenhouses have darkening nets and no artificial lights to promote natural cycles of mushroom growing and to reduce the environmental impact. Their consumption of energy comes from the self-sufficiency of their solar panels.
These synergies have also led to collaborations such as supplying mushrooms for Las Fallas and providing workshops for children on growing and harvesting, as well as to caterers for a Spanish band in Madrid. The candidate often collaborates with different local institutions. They have collaborated with schools on the environmental education to students; with associations for retired people, revitalising mycological programmes to get children closer to older people. Indirectly, they support local employment through their various products relating to mushrooms; local farmers for raw materials, bakeries and restaurants etc.
The business has a free of plastic policy as well as self-sustainability and zero waste policy. The plastic free waste generated on the farm is taken to a composting area that is also used by other farmers as organic fertiliser for its power against Nematoda. Due to this practice, they are in a state of zero waste. They actively try to eradicate the use of not-necessary plastic and all containers used are all made of paper, cardboard, glass-aluminum and wood.
They have the permission to sell their products abroad, as there are no phytosanitary products or polluting supplies. They have also obtained permission from the Ministry of Agriculture of the United States to send their mushroom growing kits to America.
Italy - Confagricoltura
The candidate manages a 4ha certified organic farm that consist of mainly greenhouses and is attentive to the theme of circular economy.
The farm specialises in the cultivation of leaf vegetables, legumes, corn and tubers with experimental fields of cultivation of ancient vegetables. The fields are equipped with sensors, irrigation system, agrometeorological station and through a piped music system the crops receive sound wave and ultrasound system between 3 Hz and 5000 Hz. The digital platform with 4.0 technology connects the various sensor and the Agrometeorological station, with the main purpose of detecting and processing environmental data useful for crops, digitally monitoring the cultivated fields. It has allowed the candidate to intervene with meticulousness on the crops, preventing the attack of harmful insects, and plant diseases as well as being able to irrigate with precision, managing the water resource more efficiently. For example, if the state of humidity is below the expected threshold, the irrigation system is activated during or immediately after the stimulation of the crops with the wire broadcasting of sound waves. This process of bio-stimulation with sound waves facilitates the opening of the stomata of the plants allowing to absorb the highest percentage of water introduced with lower costs in terms of time and quantity of water poured, moreover it stimulates the development of plants in less time, accelerating growth.
The experience in the field through the set and combination of the methods applied has shown very satisfactory results in terms of a greater yield of product collection with a correlated and significant reduction in company costs. There was also a marked improvement in plant resistance to plant diseases, as well as a reduction in attacks by harmful insects. Such practices also lead to an optimization of the use of water resources, greatly reducing the waste of water.
Through the use of Artificial Intelligence algorithms that store the history of the events and the status information from the fields, it is possible to predict with a high degree of probability, identify and activate procedures, outputs and any interventions to be performed.
The main goal of all the techniques and used is to improve the quality and resistance of crops to climate change
in the area they are grown, as well as reduce attacks by harmful insects and plant diseases.
A renewable energy plant with 20 kW solar panels was also built to limit CO2 emissions, and saving electricity cost. The candidate has also created an eco-sustainable packaging project ‘SAiCCHETTi-dO’. A shopping bag with 100% recycled fabric. The business is also connected with various local associations and non-profit organizations to carry out targeted training, inclusion, orientation and educational activities through social farming courses aimed at disadvantaged groups of children.
Belgium – Boerenbond
The candidate took over running the family farm, that first started with a few Belgian white-blue cows and has grown to include around 800 cows.
The candidate contributes to sustainable and circular production. She produces the basic rations for the cattle herself, applying a short chain principle to the plant products she grows; maize, sugar beet, barley, wheat, grass, etc. For example, the sugar beet goes to the sugar factory 10 km away whilst the remaining product (pressed pulp) is used in the cattle ration. She supplements the feed with sustainable concentrate feed according to the Euroclim principle, being one of the first farmers in Belgium to do so. Most of the raw materials used are from Belgian and French origin and 100% European, this results in CO2 emissions that are 8 times lower than when using Brazilian or Argentina soya. The candidate is one of the first farmers in Belgium to follow the Euroclim principle, of feed/food ratio which reduces the environmental footprint per litre of milk or kilogram of meat produced without any loss of performance. The candidate combines this with their carefully selected breed which has a very high feed conversion rate.
The feed of the cattle for fattening is based on extruded linseed. An important feature of this is that it has a positive effect on reducing methane emissions from cattle by up to 30% during the fattening phase. Its use also improves feed efficiency and increases the omega 3 fatty acids in the meat.
The Belgian White Blue breed is an efficient breed of cattle with a low carbon footprint per kilogram of meat due to high carcass yield and good feed efficiency. For every kilogram of feed, the Belgian white-blue cattle produce more meat compared to other breeds, thus making it a more environmentally friendly breed. Furthermore, the rumen of the cow, which is, on the one hand, a producer of methane, can play just as much of a positive role in the eco-system, and they are trying to use it as efficiently as possible. Thanks to its specific rumen, a ruminant can convert plant products that are unusable to humans via rumen bacteria into high-quality proteins for humans, in the way of meat.
With the help of new innovative techniques, animal welfare is optimised. The farm uses detection systems, spider (vaginal thermometer) to closely monitor calves and ventilation systems. The candidate tries to keep up with the trends with her goal being to be one step ahead.
The candidate has also established her own meat label called Fines which enables her to show the consumer the story behind the meat.
In addition to the farm, the candidate along with her mother and sister have a ‘play farm’ named RAVOT that allows them to share their passion for agriculture with others. They organise guided tours on the farm showing the cattle and explaining the workings of the farm. The motto being Discover, Experience & Enjoy.
The Award shall be granted according to the following non-cumulative criteria
The use of innovative solutions in adapting to and/or mitigating climate change
Innovation may include working methods, organisational approaches and new forms of technology that contribute to adaptation and/or mitigation of climate change .
Adaptation solutions may refer to the use of new strategies and adaptation tools in geographical areas where they were not previously used, aiming at making the sector more resilient to the impacts of climate change. This may involve the development of risk management tools, new forms of active land management and irrigation systems allowing for more efficient water management. Other examples may include the creation of new plant varieties able to withstand more extreme weather conditions and more resistant to pests and diseases.
Approaches focusing on mitigation should focus on reducing carbon emissions. This may include carbon sequestration and different ways in dealing with emissions from arable land, livestock management and the substitution of traditional fossil fuels by biofuels or renewable energy. Additionally, increasing efficiency in food production through circular economy should also be considered, creating added value with by-products allowing for the creation of more sustainable business models and new value-chains.
Innovation for All
Innovation must not be limited to one single farm but should have a potential impact or effect on all holdings in the same production sector or region, or on the area’s relations with the outside world.
In this context, innovation not only refers to those aspects which affect the farm itself, but also to the whole value chain, including machinery, the packaging of products, channels of distribution and export methods for agricultural or forestry products.
The sustainability of innovation, in particular at an economic, social and environmental level
The sustainability of innovation, in particular at an economic, social and environmental level.
The innovation must be socially viable and promote green growth by tackling climate change, mitigating pollution and optimising resource efficiency.
It must also have a certain longevity and should stand the test of time in order to have an impact, instead of appearing and disappearing in a short space of time.
The innovation should also promote the maintenance and creation of jobs in rural areas, entrepreneurship and new business models.
New communication methods and tools
New communication methods and tools are used to improve farm or forestry education for children and adults and/or improve consumers’ knowledge of farm or forestry production methods, or of the nutritional value of agricultural products. Conveying how farmers are at the forefront of innovation regarding solutions to tackle climate change.
5 key dates
of the competition
November - February
Shooting of the video clips
with the 5 short listed candidates
10th March 2021
Award Ceremony at the European Parliament
(2 rewarded candidates)
Secretary-General of Copa-Cogeca
Maria Benitez Salas
Deputy Director General, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission
Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality
Chair of the Women’s Committee of Copa-Cogeca
President of the NAT Section, European Economic and Social Committee
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