A thematic debate on women in the driver's seat of sustainable innovation in agriculture

© COPA COGECA 2021 - Innovation Award for Women Farmers

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the fact that getting food "from farm to fork" cannot be taken for granted, and that European farmers, as well as all food supply chain actors (including consumers), are key to managing the transition to a sustainable and climate-neutral society.

Empowering rural women and female farmers can boost rural entrepreneurship, self-employment, and innovation in European agriculture. One of the major opportunities in this realm is female innovation that can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, which is especially relevant in light of the new EU Climate change adaptation strategy. The COPA-COGECA Innovation Award for Women Farmers, presented on 10 March, provided an opportunity to showcase the many innovative approaches women take to lead in implementing climate innovations in rural areas.

The NAT section invited the two winners of the COPA COGECA 2021 Innovation Award for Women Farmers to join its Section meeting of 15 April to bring practical and innovative ideas in their debates. Read more here

  • Ms Immacolata Migliaccio, an Italian certified organic farmer specialized in the cultivation of leaf vegetables, legumes, ancient vegetables, corn and tubers, received the special achievement award. She uses the latest technology, and her fields are equipped with sensors, irrigation system and agrometeorological station. This is all interconnected enabling her to intervene with detail on the crops, preventing the attack of harmful insects, and plant diseases as well as being able to irrigate with precision. Furthermore, the crops receive sound waves through a piped music system allowing the plants to absorb the highest percentage of water at a certain time.
    The farm is also equipped with a renewable energy plant with solar panels. She has also created an eco-sustainable packaging project, a shopping bag with 100% recycled fabric. She is further involved with a number of local associations and non-profit organizations to deliver training and educational activities through social farming courses aimed at disadvantaged groups of children.
  • Ms Nazaret Mateos Alvarez, is a Spanish farmer and entrepreneur, owner of an ecological mushroom farm, and received the award winner. Her business has a free of plastic policy as well as self-sustainability and zero waste policy. It is characterised by its circular economy of proximity which starts with the selection of raw materials and ends with the generated waste being used as organic fertilizer. The substratum is selected from their fields in the region, from which they obtain the stalk and cereal that will later be used as a layer for the mushrooms.
    The irrigation of the mushrooms mainly comes from rainfall and condensation on the ceilings of the greenhouses. The greenhouses have darkening nets and no artificial lights are used to promote natural cycles of mushroom growing and to reduce the environmental impact.
    The consumption of energy comes from their solar panels. The plastic free waste generated on the farm is taken to a composting area that is also used by other farmers as organic fertiliser for its power against Nematoda. They actively try to eradicate the use of not-necessary plastic and all containers used are all made of paper, cardboard, glass-aluminum and wood. She has also collaborated with schools on the environmental education to students and with associations for retired people. Indirectly, they support local employment through their various products relating to mushrooms.

The least we can say is that these exchanges were very inspiring for all NAT Members. They were delighted to hear such successful experiences showing that new kinds of farming can be sustainable, using good agricultural practices and applying the circular economy principles, keeping the land in good conditions, and so maintaining farmers in the fields and creating jobs and social links.

The sensitivity that women bring in agriculture, in these examples by stimulating plants with music, recalling rituals used under ancient civilizations to help plants to germinate, was also highlighted. The Members concluded that more visibility should be given to such initiatives, e.g through the EU circular economy platform.