In light of the new Organic Action Plan for the EU, which recognises the importance of research and innovation for organic, knowledge exchange on organic farming, and building organic agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS), TP Organics’ study, based on mapping and screening existing cases in Europe, presents seven organic living labs and five organic lighthouse farms. The selected initiatives showcase not only technological but also social, economic, organisational and governance innovation, applying a multiplicity of approaches and methodologies across Europe to find local organic solutions and improve the sharing of knowledge and innovation in the organic sector. Involving multiple actors, they demonstrate how innovative the organic sector is in improving organic practices, building capacity and inspiring the transformation of the agri-food system at large.
The results indicate actions that should be taken to enable organic living labs and lighthouse farms to reach their full potential:
- Support peer-to-peer learning events
- Invest in online platforms and social media
- Bring organic and conventional farmers together
- Raise awareness about the living lab and lighthouse farm concepts in the organic sector
- Invest in courses and trainings for farmers
- Set up a sub-network for organics in the Soil Mission network of living labs and lighthouse farms
- Better connect and integrate organics in national AKIS
- Set up an EU network of organic advisory services
Furthermore, the study points out that the needs of organic farmers and other actors are currently not sufficiently met through existing AKIS. The national advisory services rarely include and communicate about organic solutions, let alone the latest innovation. To organise a better flow and exchange of information, a European organic advisory network should be developed, to solve the problem of disconnect from and underrepresentation of organics in national AKIS. It would also have the potential to function as a platform that supports participatory, farmer-led research and innovation.