Improving soil health by Living Labs

Soil health is an essential element of circular economy when farming is involved. Missions and efforts are launched to improve the soil health in several countries and in the EU research program Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe Soil Mission plans to support 100 soil health living labs in Europe.

Agroecology also includes soil health and embraces a broader perspective when applying ecological concepts and principles to optimise interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment. It is important to include the social dimension to achieve a sustainable food system.

These efforts seem to imply a shift in attention to a more user-driven innovation for the green transition, which also includes circular economy. To boost these kinds of activity there is an ambition to mobilize farmers, advisors, researchers and others with interest and relation to soil and farming.

A method to organise this mobilization is Living Lab which is a tool for organisation of human resources for problem solving. Some conditions must be present if a Lab shall be a relevant tool: There must be a complexity of challenge in the situation; the setting must be enabled; there is a need for proficient facilitation; and finally; energy to make progress in the process.

In the Nordic context, the role of Living Labs in promoting soil health is on the agenda for the Nordic Council of Ministers. This is followed up by a call from Nordic Joint Committee for Agricultural and Food Research (NKJ) for further Nordic cooperation on this topic. Another example of an initiative is a Nordic region workshop in Denmark on agroecology living Labs organised in December 2022.

These initiatives can also strengthen the circular economy if the perspective is not too narrow.

Workshop organised by Aarhus University, the EU-funded project ALL-READY Coordination and Support Action (INRAE) and the Danish extension service SAGRO.

Organisers and speakers at a webinar in December 2022 organised by the Research Council of Norway to mobilize for projects on soil health and living labs.