Go back

Agriculture partners need clear objectives

Farmers and researchers must be clearer about their joint objectives to make collaboration in agricultural innovation projects a success, according to project participants.

Collaborative agricultural research projects are being supported by Horizon 2020, but Matt Reed, a researcher at the UK-based Countryside and Community Research Institute, says that there can be a clash of values and goals when researchers and farmers work together. This must be addressed for projects to work, he says.

Christian Huyghe, the deputy scientific director of agriculture at Inra, a French public research institute, says that the problem has come about as priorities for EU-funded agricultural research have changed. Fifty years ago the objective was just to produce more food, but now you need “to create a compromise between various performance and productivity measures, as well as the environment and social aspects”, he says.

In Horizon 2020’s 2014-15 work programme, €148 million will be spent on innovation projects involving farmers and others outside academia. The European Commission’s hope is that this will lead to more information exchange and faster take-up of innovation.

Bringing researchers and farmers together means they can work on developing similar objectives and understanding each other’s goals and practicalities, says Liz Bowles, head of farming at the Soil Association, which runs several collaborative projects in the UK. “A lot of research has been done at academic level but at farm level that hasn’t spread through to practice,” she says.

Last month Phil Hogan, the agriculture commissioner, told the European Parliament at its annual innovation summit that farmers should be “centrally involved” in research in order to develop practical solutions to their problems—such as soil fertility, biodiversity protection and animal health. Hogan’s comments followed disappointing results in Framework 7, where farmers’ take-up of innovation from agricultural research was slow.

And researchers can benefit from the different views and insights that farmers bring to scientific work, says Bowles. Farmers may be able to offer different solutions to problems, she says, because “researchers don’t have to make a living out of farming”.

This article also appeared in Research Europe