What is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on SalFar?
So far, the SalFar project can manage quite well. The core business of SalFar is testing of crops in open field labs. These are outdoor activities of smaller groups of people, which were not affected by Covid-19 restrictions. The only concern is “Farmers’ cafés”. Originally, 56 farmers’ cafés were planned (2 x per country per year). Since March this year, working together in groups inside is not possible anymore, so the partners were not able to organize farmers’ cafés this year and will not be able to do so for the coming spring or summer, depending of course on the further development of the pandemic. The good news is that half of the target (28) has already been achieved. In addition, transnational farmers‘ café were arranged during the Saline Futures Conference in September 2019 in Leeuwarden. Two workshops for farmers and / or policy makers were held on that occasion as well, plus a transnational excursion for farmers. Further, a detailed report has been published on the transnational farmer’s café, which was not planned as a deliverable originally.
Apart from that, the number of policy workshops has exceeded the original target (4 more than originally planned), as has the number of participants of those: 352 instead of 200.
We have therefore suggested to the Interreg North Sea Region secretariat to take the report on the international farmers’ café and the higher numbers of workshops for policy makers as a compensation for the farmers’ cafés that are not possible organize in 2020 and very likely in 2021 given the further Covid-19 development.
In general, we think that SalFar can meet all the objectives. For instance, ‘Transnational information and education centers’: Salt Farm Foundation as well as Ökowerk Emden and Stichting De Zilte Smaak have attracted hundreds of visitors to their respective information centres, field labs and cooking workshops. With the Saline Futures Conference in September 2019 a network of ‘Sustainable research and long-lasting knowledge exchange’ has started, which will be further developed to an international knowledge platform for scientists and practitioners.
As for the work package concerning business strategies for eco-innovative food production there might be a delay due to the fact that we are right now processing a project change and on boarding three new Danish partners, of which one will be work package leader.
‘Pilots on saline agriculture in 10 different coastal areas across the North Sea region’ is ahead of schedule. Testing selected crops under site-specific water management conditions and taking into account the different soil conditions and regional practices of farming is going very well, even Norway has now established a test field in a different region on sandy soil in the district “Jæren”, Southwest Norway, which was originally not planned.
In terms of outputs, the number of test fields has exceeded the target of 10 as16 test fields have been set-up in the various regions. The same goes for the number of green products, services and processes piloted and/ or adopted by the project, where the target is 40, but 70 has been achieved. The number of research institutions participating in cross-border, transnational or interregional research projects has also exceeded the target of 38 as 55 has been achieved.
The number of organizations/ enterprises informed about new solutions by project end also exceeds the original target: 500, achieved 1468. Through the Saline Futures Conference, but also individual seminars, excursions, workshops of partners, the number of organizations / enterprises informed by new solutions has increased significantly already two years before the project end.
Motivation of the SalFar partners is still on a high level, communication and transnational cooperation works excellent! Two online partner meetings have been conducted so far, one in April and another one in October 2020. All partners were present and the discussion on results and the next steps in the work packages were very fruitful. In particular, the introduction of three new partners from Denmark worked out flawlessly. With their research expertise, professional skills, and a network of farmers all over Denmark, Food and Bio Cluster Denmark (FBCD), Aarhus University, and SAGRO are a real enrichment for the project.