Advancing research collaboration on organic food and farming
An interview with the co-ordinator of QLIF
||The QualityLowInputFood project is co-ordinated by professor Carlo Leifert from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UNEW), in the northern part of England. Apart from being a professor in ecological agriculture at UNEW Carlo Leifert is also director of the Storckbridge Technology Centre, which is a non-profit company aiming at transferring knowledge from research to horticultural producers and the horticultural industry.
In this interview, Carlo Leifert amplifies some of the objectives of the QualityLowInputFood project.
The QualityLowInputFood project is one of the biggest research projects ever within organic farming. What are the consequences as regards the development of organic farming in Europe?
One of the important aspects of the project is that it provides an organisational structure for organic research in Europe. At the moment, research is often fractured and disposed and there is quite a bit of overlap.
Most of the major research institutes in European organic farming are represented in the project. Furthermore a lot of the advisory services are going to be connected to the project. This allows a much more efficient use of research facilities and experts in a co-ordinated manner.
How will the project affect the individual organic farmer or the small-scale processor?
The project seeks to address the most urgent issues identified by producers, processors and advisors in the area of dairy, pigs, poultry, arable, vegetable and glasshouse production.
Subproject 1 will provide information about consumer preferences with respect to quality characteristics by improving the processors' possibilities for decision-making in relation to price and quality. It will be essential information for producers and processors who live in a market environment with constantly reduced subsidies.
Subproject 2 will give results on the advancement in nutrition and quality food increasing the ability of producers to develop added value products.
Research in subprojects 3, 4 and 5 will yield protocols that allow producers and processors to produce more cost efficient and to improve specific quality and food safety aspects.
The project is financed by the EU commission. What benefits will the EU obtain on a project like QualityLowInputFood?
Research in organic farming and food production is small compared to the overall agricultural research. Although there are several substantial centres doing research in organic farming, the national research cannot cover all topics of interest to organic farming. By co-operation at the European level, it is possible to utilize new resources and to offer an infrastructure for co-operation.
Furthermore, organic research has a local focussed agenda, which can lead to duplication in different countries. In this area, an integrated project like QualityLowInputFood project has an important networking effect.
However, the network will clearly be advanced further by the co-operation in the coming ERA-NET scheme CORE Organic.
What about the efficiency of this network in regards to utilizing the research?
In the project, major focus on utilizing the research is already put. This newsletter is just one example.
However, it is a problem that the participation of SMEs (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) in the project is relatively small. As a matter of fact, it is below 15 per cent, which is the EU recommendation for integrated projects.
In the project, we are addressing this problem by refocusing resources allocating them to SMEs both as partners and contractors.