A new story-telling toolkit to help farmers inspire their consumers has been nominated from among 240 contenders to win The European Digital Skills Award 2017. The toolkit includes a web application allowing farmers to quickly craft a story out of photos or updates, to show how they manage their farms along agrobiodiversity principles. It has a double impact, both driving sales of produce and spurring consumers’ interest in agro-ecology farms so they visit or event hold events there.

The app was developed by the ATHENA RESEARCH CENTRE and deployed, by the Dutch association ZLTO, under the EC funded CAPSELLA project an online innovation lab for agrobiodiversity. Thanks to the app’s user-friendly prompts and templates, farmers can weave their photos, videos and text into stories which inspire consumers and make compelling content for social channels.

Whilst the app – and the whole suite of communications tools – has been co-created with farmers in the Netherlands, its simplicity means it can be applied in any environment and by farmers with only basic digital skills. The developers have noticed it reveals remarkable creativity among farmers. One user has decided to tell his story through the eyes of ‘Annabel’ the cow – something the app inspired and helped him do.

The tool was inspired by culture as well as by sustainable development goals. At a time when agrobiodiversity is under siege, farmers cannot simply manage their own farm well for future generations – they also have to tell the story about it to inspire change in society more widely.  Mariska Van Koulil, app project manager at ZLTO and partner of the Capsella project, commented, “We are on the land today thanks to past generations of farmers managing their land with foresight. Today, with evidence emerging daily about the degradation of agro-biodiversity, we have an urgent need to imagine the future we want and inspire consumers so we can all help it become a reality”.

Culture and local knowledge are central to agrobiodiversity: agriculture can shape and conserve the human wellbeing of a territory as well as the biodiversity. The story telling app brings this cultural element into the age of digital communications, allowing farmers to tell the story of their land and how it is managed for the future. Farmers’ natural passion for their work is ideal for inspiring online audiences.

Together with other social innovations such as this communications package for farmers, Mariska dreams of creating an enough of a change in consumer and agricultural trends that agrobiodiversity in farming, seeds and food becomes mainstream.

If we want our environment to be intact, our cultures to flourish and humans to stay healthy, we need to tell the story about how it is done. Thanks to social innovations such as this, we can be more confident our next chapter will be a happy one.