INIAV – Working with farmers to find solutions
The National Institute of Agrarian and Veterinary Research (INIAV) produces results-based solutions to diseases that affect farmers and foresters, working hand-in-glove with them on the ground.
The National Institute of Agrarian and Veterinary Research (INIAV) is an entity with a strong scientific research component based in Oeiras Valley.
Its mission is to carry out research that supports government and European Union public policies on livestock and food safety.
With a portfolio of over 160 ongoing projects, INIAV carries out research that more than ever seeks to find solutions to problems, not only for farmers but also for the agro-industry.
“The main challenges that agriculture faces today are a subject of many of our ongoing projects,” says Nuno Canada, president of the INIAV. He points to climate change, the circular economy, treatment of emerging diseases and smart farming.
For example, with its project PARRA, INIAV developed a tool that could automatically detect golden flavescence on grapevines, a disease for which there is no cure, diminishing its spread and devastating economic impact on the wine industry.
With the EntoValor project, the organic residues produced by some industries can be reintroduced into the value chain and used by others. The link that allows this connection is the Black Soldier Fly larvae (Hermetia illucens).
A paradigm shift
Nuno Canada, president of the INIAV, says that 90% of its research is developed in partnership with farmers to solve specific problems that they come up against on a daily basis. However, he recognises that achieving growth in the food farming sector needs more public investment in research and development which is essential for the success of companies.
Regarding climate change, Canada says INIAV has several projects that study the best varieties, best production systems, or best use of resources for soil and water, that allows challenges to be mitigated both now and in the future.
“The food farming and forestry sectors are changing rapidly, plus we are facing huge challenges such as climate change, pests and emerging illnesses. There is a need to make more efficient use of water and energy resources, and the transition of the economy from a linear to a circular model which requires science and technology to achieve this,” he explains.
Canada says that in recent years INIAV’s priority has been to focus on transferring know-how and knowledge from research directly to farmers as part of an “up close and on the ground” support policy.
“The way researching was done in the past, researchers would develop a project and only after the results were obtained would others see if they had an application in the sector and this was usually very time-consuming,” Canada points out.
“The new model pinpoints the problems farmers have and works with them and agricultural technicians to solve them, then as solutions arise, the actual technicians transfer that knowledge back to the farmers,” Canada.
The INIAV President says they needed to renovate the experimentation network in order to work more closely with the farmers and meet the needs of the sector.
To support the research projects, the institute competes for all types of possible funding and a great number of the project proposals are partnered with producers’ organisations.
“Nowadays all our research is co-financed by European funds. We are constantly applying to the open calls available for research and innovation – Horizon 2020. All the regional and thematic programs within Portugal 2020, Interreg and FCT are our main sources of funding, now,” he explains.
“They allow us to participate in both national and international consortia addressing the main challenges that the sector faces today,” he adds.
The Rural Development Program (PDR2020) is also a major tool through the operational groups which are now already being implemented.
These projects comprise a partnership of firms, producers’ associations and research institutions, thereby ensuring knowledge transfer and the dissemination of results amongst those who are going to use them.
Besides this, the institute has also prepared a number of proposals (two of which are already ongoing projects) as part of a research and innovation partnership in the Mediterranean region called PRIMA which was set up by the EU Commission.
PRIMA, for example, is a joint programme on the development and application of solutions for food systems and water resources in the Mediterranean basin. In recent years, the agriculture sector has been suffering from severe water shortages and decreasing crop yields. Today, 180 million people in the region are considered water-poor. The lack of clean water and nutritious food and their adverse effects on the health and sustainability of populations are matters these projects seek to address.
Strategy of INIAV hubs
Nuno Canada says that almost all of INIAV’s projects are developed in consortia that join, to the same end, academic institutions, research labs, producers’ associations, cooperatives and private companies, thereby enabling a close interaction between researchers and farmers who use these products.
Funding programs increasingly require close cooperation and activities within the projects to be shared.
“It is no longer enough to undertake a project. You have to show results and share them with those who will use them. That is why our researchers work with all stakeholders from the first when preparing a research proposal,” Canada concludes.