Ines Theunis. Belgium – Borenbond
Ines Theunis took over running the family farm, which first started with a few Belgian white-blue cattle and now contributes to sustainable and circular production. She produces the basic rations for the cattle herself, applying a short-chain principle to the crops she grows. For example, the sugar beet goes to the sugar factory 10 km away whilst the remaining product (pressed pulp) is used in the cattle rations. She supplements the feed with sustainable concentrates according to the Euroclim principle and is 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 result in CO2 emissions that are 8 times lower than when using Brazilian or Argentina soya. The Euroclim principle of feed/ food ratio reduces the environmental footprint per litre of milk or kilogram of meat produced without any loss of performance. Ines combines this with her carefully selected breed which has a very high feed conversion rate. She uses a feed based on extruded linseed for fattening the cattle, which 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 Ines is trying to use it as efficiently as possible. Thanks to its specific rumen, the cattle can convert plant products that are unusable to humans via rumen bacteria into high-quality proteins for humans. With the help of new innovative techniques, animal welfare is optimised. The farm uses digital detection systems to closely monitor calves and ventilation systems. Ines tries to keep up with the trends with her goal being to be one step ahead. She 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, Ines 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.
- Published in 2020 edition
Marija Cafuk. Croatia – HPK
Marija Cafuk 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. Marija has made major contribution to the Varazdin cabbage protection process at EU level leading to its Protected Designation of Origin status.
Furthermore, 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 traditions within the rural environment. She is an active participant in the Varazdin County project Experimental – demonstration 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.
This has led to improving the knowledge transfer and strengthening the connections between research and practical applications on farms. Through the project she demonstrates 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. She promotes the importance of soil preservation as an important natural resource, coupled with water, oxygen, and nutrients necessary for plant growth. She also presents 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 were 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, Marija receives groups of visitors from different countries as well as from students and children. She has been awarded several times for her contribution to the development of
agriculture in the Varazdin County.
In addition, Marija 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
- Published in 2020 edition
Boglárka Biró. Hungary – NAK
Boglárka Biró 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 she founded her own nursery producing forest seedling. Every year, 200-300 thousand seedlings are sold which are used mainly for reforestation and afforestation. Boglárka 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 red deer population.
Moreover, Boglárka 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 temporary fences which can be dismantled after harvest.
This means the habitats of the large herbivores are not reduced. In 2016 she took part in the AES programme, dividing her plots to a maximum of 5ha with pea strips and green fallows. Only bird-friendly reaping is applied,
and a nutrient supply plan is elaborated every year by specialists based on soil samples. She uses biofertilizer and if needed, semi-deep soil loosening is carried out, with no machinery used on wet soil. With an increase of private forestry in Hungary during the early 2000’s, Boglárka also started working as a forest consultant providing advice to new owners who often had no forestry education or experience. In 2005 she 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. Boglárka uses her own experiences and 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 Boglárka has been able to reduce the time of reforestation through a smaller harvest area, well thought-out species choices, application of propagation material of domestic
origin, and carefully chosen nursing operations in the vegetation period. As a result, the loss of quality and quantity in over matured forests can be avoided.
Due to the small-parcel structure and the common efforts with the hunting association, for the first time, even the maize and sunflower remained totally free of wild game damage this year.
- Published in 2020 edition
Special Achievement – Immacolata Migliaccio. Confagricoltura – Italy
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.
- Published in 2020 edition
Winner – Nazaret Mateos Alvarez. UPA – Spain
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.
- Published in 2020 edition