The ConnectFarms project will develop approaches to increase in a sustainable way integrated crop-livestock production while benefiting soil resilience to stress and climate change. This will include an extensive toolbox for farmers and stakeholders addressing crop-livestock integration, precise farming, organic amendments, reuse of residues in circular economy and sustainability improvements of farming practices. A set of recommendations for sustainable strategies leading to environmentally sound production in compliance with the Farm to Fork strategy will be given. Emphasis will be given to new approaches based on science and nature-based solutions to manipulate crops, livestock, soil and plant microbial communities to maximize positive ecological interactions and enhance ecosystem services.
The ConnectFarms concept is highly interdisciplinary and joins together expertise from many research fields, to achieve an integration of crop, livestock and ICT to obtain ecosystem services in agreement with the needs of sustainable agriculture. Partners will work in experimental sites in all countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and Turkey. Focused aspects of the project will concern agriculture and soil fertility–crop and livestock–amendments and biochar for soil health–welfare and sustainability for animals–precision farming–life cycle and ecosystem services assessment - stakeholder involvement.
The ambition of the project is to contribute to innovative strategic food systems by targeting enhanced agricultural technology, food processing and preservation innovation, environmental issues, and ultimately human health. ConnectFarms explores the interaction between arable crops, e.g. barley, and pulses with farm animals of high relevance, sheep and chicken. The connection is maintained through triangulation - crop becomes feed for animals, residues become amendments, amendments feed and boost crops and animals. The sustainable use of biochar is our keystone to improve both plant and animal farming in a circular economy approach.
The presenting consortium includes 10 partners: one Interuniversity Consortium, 5 universities, and 4 research institutions, based in 7 countries. The project is highly interdisciplinary as it includes
- Ecological and agronomic studies;
- Soil and crop management to improve diversity and functionality;
- Studies of ecosystem services such as C sequestration, nutrient cycling, and pest control.
Connecting the work of the different partners by comparing soil amendment methods, energy requirements, management practices, yield records and the experiences at the different locations in Europe will be an important priority to successfully carry out the project.
- Production of biochar and amendments from residues, characterization and distribution to partners
- Availability of pale green barley lines with low beta glucan content, achieved by crossing and backcrossing mutants and accessions
- Greenhouse trials with pale green barley mutants on soil from Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and Turkey
- Identification of barley accessions with high and low beta glucan content, and development of a method based on Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy
- Identification of crops and crop rotations for different agroclimatic conditions in Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Spain and Turkey and set up of first season experiments
- Experimental rearing of poultry with biochar in litter, first trial: a significant reduction in ammonia evolution was observed when adding biochar to the poultry litter
- First investigation of machine learning techniques to predict soil organic carbon and evapotranspiration
- Definition of indicators for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment
Prof Nelson Marmiroli - Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per le Scienze Ambientali (CINSA) Italy
- BULGARIA: Agricultural University - Plovdiv
- LITHUANIA: Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry
- ESTONIA: University of Tartu
- SPAIN: CIEMAT - NEIKER
- POLAND: Warsaw University of Life Sciences
- TURKEY: Niğde Ömer Halisdemir University
- ITALY: University of Milano - Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l'Analisi dell'Economia Agraria (CREA)
- The ConnectFarms project started on 1 December 2021 and runs until 30 November 2024.
- The kick off meeting was held in Parma, Italy, on March 29th, 2022: https://www.unipr.it/notizie/28-e-29-marzo-alluniversita-di-parma-kickof...
- Website Poland: https://ir.sggw.edu.pl/instytut-rolnictwa/nauka-w-instytucie/badania-nau...
- ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Connecting-sustainable-agroecosyste...
Presentations and publications
- Introduction meeting December 2021
- ConnectFarms at work! We are showcasing in images a snapshot of our current activities, all based on the circularity of crop production, livestock farming and soil amendments.
- Publication: Ghizzoni R, Morcia C, Terzi V, Gianinetti A, Baronchelli M. Indirect Measurement of β-Glucan Content in Barley Grain with Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy. Foods. 2022 Jun 23;11(13):1846. doi: 10.3390/foods11131846. PMID: 35804662; PMCID: PMC9265271.
- Uzair, M.; Tomasiello, S.; Loit, E.; Lin, J. C.-W. (2022). Predicting the soil organic carbon by recent machine learning algorithms. IEEE International Conference on Cloud and Big Data Computing (CBDCom 2022) IEEE, Falerna, September 12-15 2022, code 185057 (indexed by Scopus)
- Uzair, M.; Tomasiello, S.; Loit, E. (2022). Interpretable approaches to predict evapotranspiration. 14th International Conference on Soft Computing and Pattern Recognition (SoCPaR 2022), 1−8
- Poster presentation in EUBCE 2023, 31st European Biomass Conference & Exhibition – 5-8 June, Bologna, Italy
- ConnectFarms on the world stage in 2023: EUBCE Poster
Picture 1 to 3 from left to right:
Experiments with sheep in preparation in Spain
First experiment with poultry litter in Italy
Tests performed in Italy for amendments produced in Poland with model plant barley, showing stimulation of growth