FIELD Pilots

CAPSELLA’s “field scenario” addresses ecological intensification and functional agro-biodiversity in cropping systems. It particularly focuses on four fundamental principles in sustainable agronomic practices’ development:

  • diversifying crop rotations: to elaborate improved crop rotations that optimise the use of resources;
  • improving soil fertility: to monitor the efficacy and opportunity of practices such as green manures, mulching, compost application in arable and vegetable crop rotations in different agro-climatic contexts;
  • weed management: to enable farmers to tailor a decision support tool on weed control – through preventive and direct practices – to the features of the production environment, including weed abundance and weed community composition;
  • biological control: to monitor pests and their natural enemies and to define and promote effective habitat manipulations.

This scenario is enriched by the experience of networked farmers from Italy (ESAPODA) and Greece (AEGILOPS) already committed in implementing ecological intensification strategies.
ICT tools will be used i) to create a collaborative workspace for practice-sharing that can result in a permanent learning community and ii) to produce data-driven services supporting management choices.

Thanassis, Farmer

Quote: “Organic is the only way to be sustainable”

Name: Thanassis
Age: 53
Location: Thessaly, Greece
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise
Profession: organic farmer for 30 years

Motivations
Producer of organic vegetables for 30 years. Organic farmer even before the EU regulations on this type of agriculture were released. Since 30 years, his main driver is the will to produce tasty, healthy food, respecting the environment. Thanassis during his long activity in organic farming gained a lot of experience and knowledge. Having started his work as a pioneer he is aware of how important is sharing information with other farmers and learn experimenting with others for improving his own work and the organic production system.

Needs
The challenges for organic farmers are multiple: soil fertility, crop protection, choice of adapted germplasm, and these only citing the main production related challenges. Thanassis thinks that, among the possible challenges to face, fertility and water management assume a high relevant role. In particular, Farmer1 highly values the possibility to obtain a tool supporting the long term decisions about fertilization and crop rotation.

Ideal experience
Thanassis is motivated to take part in CAPSELLA by the possibility to exchange knowledge about fertility and irrigation management with the other farmers.

Luca, consultant

Quote: “Sharing knowledge is crucial towards best practices”

Name: Luca
Age: 53
Location: Northern Italy
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise
Profession: private and independent consultant for organic horticulture.

Motivations
Luca works in direct contact with farmers. He conducts his work directly on field. Most of Luca’s customers are organic farmers with direct sell of the products. Luca is proud of being an independent consultant and as such responding only to his customers about the advice given.

Needs
Luca with his work experience of several years in many organic farms in North Italy has realized the importance of horizontal share of information among farmers. Luca is animator of the Esapoda association. He highly values the possibility of free information flow given by this type of organization. He needs tools to strengthen the sharing of knowledge and experiences and good practices among Esapoda farmers.

Ideal experience
CAPSELLA will help to build a Soil Health application which will be used and further implemented in the future for sustaining the dissemination objectives of the association.

Christina researcher

Quote: “Combining experimental research with tradition is the fastest route to go forward.”

Name: Christina
Age: 41
Location: Peloponnese, Greece
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise
Profession: Dr. in organic agriculture and farmer

Motivations
Promote the importance of conserving biodiversity among Greek farmers. Support farmers in experimenting with types of farming based on the exploitation of biodiversity and enforced by the application of sustainable agronomic practices. Christina is involved in the organization and management of Aegilops field trials for testing heritage cultivars performance in different areas of Greece. Christina thinks that this type of germplasm is very useful in organic agriculture farms.

Needs
Christina would like to find new adequate tools for supporting Aegilops experimental and dissemination programs. Christina works for enhancing the flow of information among the members of the association. She would need ICT tools to support the activities of the association.

Ideal experience
CAPSELLA will allow the farmers in Aegilops network to get in contact with farmers that work in similar climatic conditions. The Field Scenario pilot will allow the increase of awareness about the importance of conserving biodiversity among greek farmers. The demonstrator developed will be useful for showing to the farmers of the association the potential of using new technologies to support their activities.

Consumer

Quote: “Eating organic means caring for your health and the planet’s.”

Name: Kelly
Age: 29
Location: Peloponnese, Greece
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise

Motivations
Participation to Aegilops association gives to Kelly the opportunity to be aware about additional values behind the food products on the local organic market. Her main motivation is to buy tasty and healthy food at a fair price and geting more information about the principles that are applied in organic agriculture helps her to understand the challenges related to sustainable food production.

Needs
Understand the links between the production methods and the quality and price of the products.

Ideal experience
Increase her own and other consumers’ awareness about the complexity of actions needed to obtain sustainable and healthy food.

Farmer

Quote: “Working the old lands of my family with modern methods and a new crop gives me a fresh outlook and hope for the future.”

Name: Mihalis Age: 52 Location: Lamia Technical comfort: basic computer expertise Profession: Stevia farmer

Back story Mihalis was born in a village near Lamia in a traditionally agricultural family. Having spent almost two decades in Athens as a small shop owner and taking into account the declining health of his parents, he decided to return to his home village and start working on the fields that had been in his family for generations. His father was a tobacco farmer that gradually realized that the traditional farming approach was no longer viable. Mihalis felt that working on his family land with a new, modern perspective would be the best option, and the Stevia coop gives him the chance to do that.

Motivations Mihalis may not be a youth, but he feels energetic and motivated to succeed as a Stevia farmer. Being part of the Coop has given him access to a variety of information and guidelines on all aspects of Stevia production as well as a sense of collaboration and comradeship of belonging in a energetic, dynamic group that will modernize agricultural practices in his area. Although he is not proficient in computers, he has always been a basic computer user, both for business purposes and for leisure. It is really interesting for him to look for information related to his current practice in the web and lately, having realized the role of social media in everyday life, he would like to take advantage of this means to promote his product.

Frustrations Although Mihalis has the will to dedicate time searching in the Web for the information he needs, he sometimes feels that it is too much. He is looking for very specialized information on how to improve his techniques as well as how Stevia is perceived in the market and social media in particular, but he is at a complete loss where and how to access this information and whether the sources are trustworthy.

Ideal experience Mihalis needs the possibility for a unified access to tools that can respond to his information needs. On one hand he needs the latest gray literature and reports on farming practices in general and Stevia in particular and on the other he needs to be able to have a quick overview of market trends and the perception of Stevia by the consumers so that he can get a sense of the value of the product he is producing.

Agronomist

Quote: “Applying scientific methodologies in Agriculture is the only way to sustainable production.”

Name: Niki Age: 36 Location: Lamia Technical comfort: basic computer expertise Profession: Agronomist consultant

Back story Niki is a graduate of the Department of Crop Science of the Athens Agricultural University. Growing up in a family of farmers, she has had from a young age first-hand experience with agricultural production practices in Greece. Feeling alarmed by the uncontrolled use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and the non-sustainable farming practices employed by most of her neighbours, she decided to study Agriculture. As an agronomist she has the chance to contribute to her local community by introducing sustainable methods that will improve the use of soil and increase the production of crops without damaging the environment and, as a consequence, the farming communities themselves. Consulting the newly-founded Stevia Hellas Coop, Niki finds herself in a unique position to work with a modern organization wishing to apply state of the art methodologies in all aspects of stevia production, from cultivation and processing to sales and marketing.

Motivations Niki sees a big opportunity in stevia, as it is a relatively new agricultural product with specific advantages both in its methods of production and as a final product. It is a hardy crop that can be easily sustainable if the correct farming methodologies are applied and also it is a product with a growing market interest. However, there is also controversial information about stevia that she needs to be constantly informed about, in case there are new scientific research results. She feels that her work consulting the Coop is crucial to promote the most recent and effective methodologies in the farming and production chain of the Stevia crop and its extracts. The participating farmers, having recently switched to Stevia from other crops, are open to new ideas and ready to introduce modern scientific methodologies in their work.

Frustrations Niki needs to be constantly informed on one hand on new advances on stevia cultivation and processing methods and on the other on the dietary values, as well as controversies around this crop and its extracts. She is constantly searching for the latest grey literature content on these issues, including technical reports, white papers, evaluations, official government document. The diversity of sources for this material as well as the fact that she is looking into a rather specialized field, that of stevia cultivation and production, makes it extremely hard to find at some points. Grey literature lacks a systematic means of distribution and collection and presents a variety in the quality of information it presents. This is a constant source of frustration for Niki as she has to spend so much time in fruitless search for relevant material.

Ideal experience It would be ideal for Niki to have access to an effective search mechanism that will effectively retrieve relevant grey literature material from a variety of sources and provide additionally provenance information as a means to assess its quality. Secondarily, Niki would be interested into turning the new information she discovers to results she can communicate easily to the members of the Coop and also to the wider public, through social media, which is again not a trivial task for her.

Coop Manager

Quote: “Stevia is a new trend we should build upon methodically in order to succeed.”

Name: Sofia Age: 54 Location: Lamia Technical comfort: basic computer expertise Profession: Coop Marketing Manager

Back story Sofia has been a marketing consultant for different enterprises for almost 20 years, starting her professional career in advertisement companies and then moving to consulting. Working for the Stevia Coop in Lamia gave her an exciting opportunity to work with a relatively new product and a new organization with a fresh outlook and the strong will for innovation in a sector that has been the most traditional in Greece.

Motivations Sofia feels that information is the key for the Coop to succeed, in all aspects of its operation. On one hand the farmers need access to information on the latest and more effective and sustainable production methods and on the other, market and consumer data and trends in social media are paramount to understand the consumer needs and fine tuning the products offered and their presentation.

Frustrations Getting the information she needs is a constant issue for Sofia as her work is heavily based on understanding first the product and costumer and then proposing the appropriate marketing approaches and strategies. Sofia feels that Stevia, being a relatively new “discovery” in the market, is in danger, if not handled properly, to become another temporary trend, soon replaced by a new one. And she constantly feels that she has to struggle to get the information she needs on the issue.

Ideal experience Sofia would ideally need a common point of access to information that is fine tuned to her search needs. She would like to quickly scan if there are changes or new information on the issues that interest her through a tool that “remembers” her needs and is there to do the search for her.

Nelleke, an average to large farm owner

Quote:Networking with the local community certainly makes things easier.”

Name: Nelleke
Age: 49
Location: Schijndel, The Netherlands
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise
Profession: Mixed cropping and dairy business, Owner of an average to large company

Background
Nelleke together with her husband owns a mixed farm (dairy and arable farming) in Schijndel. It’s a real family business: the children, aged 17 and 19, also contribute a bit. Her husband took over the company from his father and they run it together, with her in a more administrative role. Her oldest son is likely to be the successor of the farm, therefore they involve him now as much as possible in business decisions they take with her husband.
Nelleke is quite active online and because she finds it very convenient. She orders on-line both for their business and private affairs and she has regular Skype calls with her sister in Canada, with whom she also shares photos via Flickr.
She takes inspiration and support from her (women) network and its study group. Here she discusses matters such as personal development and ways of communicating in resolving conflicts.

Motivations
Nelleke is the linchpin of the company as she is responsible for different administrative issues, including the contacts and agreements with their suppliers. She believes it is important that they have a good relationship with the local residents. She and her husband have noticed that in recent years this has become increasingly important if they want to be able to continue functioning as a business. With all the changing regulations, the support from the local community is vital. Therefore she organizes open days and is very involved socially.

Frustrations
To promote this aspect of her work she is often in need of information on how to approach and involve the community. She has no clear idea on how she can retrieve such concrete and practical information on-line and, as a result, she resorts to asking acquaintances in similar professional fields, when she meets them, most often in non-business contexts, like the women’s group she participates in. These channels are not the most effective for her to get the information that she needs.

Ideal experience
Nelleke has good experience with ZLTO and when possible she acts as its ambassador herself. She feels it is a trusted party to turn for support for her own active role, seeking inspiration and information exchange. She is informed of the new information service offered by ZLTO and turns to it for support to organize her next “Open Day” at the farm. She can get all the information she needs to plan her event, including:

  • Ideas how to attract visitors
  • Ideas for different activities
  • PR and dissemination templates and material, like a standard text for the invitation, promotional material, etc
  • Access to volunteers or professionals who can help her prepare different aspects of the event.

Having all this guidance in one place she has all she needs to plan her event.

Thijs, a gardener

Quote: “I need the right information to make my ideas work.”

Name: Thijs
Age: 49
Location: Oosterhout (Brabant), The Netherlands
Technical comfort: basic computer expertise
Profession: small to medium scale business

Background
Thijs is an enthusiastic gardener. He has taken over the company from his father and things are going well at the moment. His youngest son works alongside his studies at the HAS, spending each day a few hours in the company with the aim to become the successor of his father.

Motivations
Thijs is aware of the fact that he and his company must continue to develop and be sustainable. His cultivation method is organic and his business provides produce among others to specific hospitality businesses and organic supermarkets. He is broadly oriented on new developments, both technical and commercial. Therefore, for example, he follows the trends of “Better Food Concepts”. In addition, he regularly looks beyond the boundaries of his own sector to find inspiration to develop continuously and grow as an entrepreneur. Currently, he is investigating the possibilities to develop a new variety of tomato flavor.
Because he has a medium-sized company, he needs also to focus on and improve daily operations. How he keeps his costs down and gets a good price for his tomatoes? How he keeps the (staff) records in order?

Frustrations
Thijs consults weekly all sources of (online) information he is aware of and tries to remain connected to his local network. He gets newsletters and emails from different associations, newspapers, etc where he is a subscriber and occasionally looks in the Web for more information, especially when he has a particular need. He is not however fully oriented on-line. He often turns to his local “offline” network of acquaintances and collaborators for information and advice. This approach makes him feel relatively “informed” on new developments in his field, it has however been proven ineffective to provide to him information when he urgently needs it for a particular plan or task. Thijs regularly needs targeted and specific information of particular types to form an informed opinion and a concrete plan on how to proceed with a specific project concept.

Ideal experience
Thijs often has new concepts he would like to experiment with, like a new tomato variety (for snacks) and is wondering if this is interesting in relation to the consumer needs. He would like a quick and effective way to access information that are reliable and to the point, in relation with this issue. More specifically, he would like a direct way to consult a knowledge network that would facilitate access to:

●       other professionals with similar interests and experience

●       information on consumer needs and the development of the market

●       Experiences of other professionals

●       promotional ideas and opportunities