Carbon Farming Summit, Thessaloniki, 21-22/10/2022

arbon Farming is a new “green” business model promoted by the European Commission, which is associated with significant challenges but also opportunities for the EU agricultural sector. However, it is still at an early stage of development both in terms of approaches that take place on the field and the relevant EU institutional framework.

GAIA EPICHEIREIN, in the context of its participation in 29th AGROTICA exhibition but also as part of its continuous effort to inform farmers and rural stakeholders in relation to developments in terms of agricultural policy, took the initiative to organize an event on Carbon Farming. The aim of the event was to present and analyze the European Commission’s initiatives, including the carbon related CAP tools, as well as to contribute to the exchange on carbon farming ongoing initiatives and best practices from Greece and other EU Member-States. The panel discussion took place on Friday, October 21, 2022 at the “I. Vellidis” Congress Centre (in HELEXPO facilities) in collaboration with the European think tank FARM EUROPE, the Agri-Food Partnership of the Region of Central Macedonia and the Agri-food Cluster of Central Macedonia (Ag-Cluster) with the participation of important speakers from  the EU institutions, including Pierre Bascou, Director of Sustainability Directorate of DG-AGRI, European Commission and Christian Holzleitner, Head of Unit Land Economy & Carbon Removals of DG-CLIMA, European Commission. A presentation was also made by the co-founder of FARM EUROPE Luc Vernet, while the event was addressed by the Vice-President of COGECA & Board Member of EURALIS Cooperative Group, Bernard Ader, and the President of the Agri-Food Partnership of Region of Central Macedonia, Konstantinos Kiltidis.

Regarding Carbon Farming practices, best practices from France and Greece were presented and discussed. In particular, Benjamin Lammert, Vice-President of the French Federation of Oilseed and Protein Producers (FOP), Board Member of the Avril Group and President of the Green Energy Platform of FARM EUROPE, presented the transition of his farm to low carbon emissions by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fertilization as well as emissions in subsequent stages of the production process and increasing soil carbon storage. For Greece, Anestis Tripitsidis, Project Management Director of NEUROPUBLIC, presented the Ag-Cluster project, which objectives are, among others, the formation and promotion of a system of reduced inputs and low environmental footprint in the agri-food sector, but also the development of certification protocols for “environmentally friendly” agri-food products. The certification will be based on data from the gaiasense smart farming system developed by NEUROPUBLIC, while the methodological approach is to collect data from the entire supply chain, quantify the carbon footprint and provide smart advice to producers in order to be able to reduce it.

All participants agreed that Carbon Farming provides significant opportunities to address the challenge of climate change, respond to societal expectations for more environmental and climate-friendly products, and create additional income streams for farmers. However, supporting mechanisms should be developed, such as technological and financial tools, while research and innovation should be put at the service of producers. Finally, the design and  introduction of a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) framework for carbon reductions and removals, which is expected to be published by the European Commission by the end of 2022, will be an important step towards developing a common and transparent EU framework for voluntary carbon markets.

Following the event, on Saturday 22 October, speakers and executives from GAIA EPICHEIREIN and NEUROPUBLIC visited the Agricultural Cooperative “Neos Aliakmon”, a particularly dynamic Fresh Fruit Agricultural Cooperative in Ammos Veria, which implements the gaiasense smart farming system developed by NEUROPUBLIC, and is also a member of the Agri-food Cluster of Central Macedonia (Ag-Cluster).

The aim of the visit was for the representatives of the EU institutions and farming/agri-cooperative EU organizations to get to know first-hand the scientific, technological and operational dimension of a Carbon Farming practice that uses digital data to enhance carbon footprint monitoring and carbon sequestration, which is based on the gaiasense smart farming system.

The visit started from the kiwi farm of Mr. Stelios Aslanoglou, farmer and member of the “Neos Aliakmon” Agricultural Cooperative, where the gaiasense smart farming system is applied. Ag-Cluster research agronomist, Mr. Theodoros Akritidis, explained how carbon related data are collected enhancing the low environmental/climate footprint farming practices adopted by the farmer, all supporting by smart farming.

The second part of the visit took place at the facilities of the “Neos Aliakmon” Agricultural Cooperative. The participants were welcomed by the President of the Agricultural Cooperative, Mr. Vassilis Galanis, that briefly presented to the uninterrupted operation and continuous development of the cooperative since 1968 with the active participation of approximately 700 member-producers. Regarding the production process, the strong export orientation, and the implemented traceability system, Mr. Andreas Ovezik, Production Manager and Quality Control Manager, gave his insights. The visit concluded with a tour of the Cooperative’s facilities, where the kiwifruit sorting and grading process (2022 harvest) was underway.

The participants expressed their positive impressions regarding the exemplary operation of the “Neos Aliakmon” cooperative in accordance with the highest European standards. They also had the opportunity to address questions to the representatives of the cooperative and to the organizers, while sharing their personal experiences from the implementation of similar practices in the EU.

A Policy Brief with useful information upon Carbon Farming (in Greek) was prepared as supporting material for the Carbon Farming Summit and it is available at the website of GAIA EPICHEIREIN.

The presentations of the Friday 21/10 event have also been uploaded on the website of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, while the video of the event with all the presentations and the video with highlights of the Summit are available at YouTube channel of GAIA EPICHEIREIN.

The Carbon Farming Summit was organized in the context of the Information Measure “CAP4Clima – Knowledge, innovation and digitization for a climate-smart agriculture”, implemented by GAIA EPICHEIREIN and supported by Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission.