SHINE 2Europe is a partner in a new Horizon Europe project committed to an innovative agricultural ecosystem

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) foresees the need for a 70% increase in food production by 2050, while ensuring environmental protection, particularly with regard to global warming, pollution, biodiversity, erosion and sustainability. However, according to PORDATA (2019), in Portugal, two thirds of the total number of farms are very small and can only be competitive in particular situations, so many will end up leaving productive activity, thus worsening rural desertification and failing in the goal of greater food production.

SHINE 2Europe has been working on issues such as environmental literacy for citizens over 55, promoting urban aquatic ecosystems, training adults to use accessible and sustainable solutions, among other areas to promote more inclusive communities for all. Following this path, the Coimbra-based company ventures for the first time into a project related to agriculture and the promotion of innovative and resilient agricultural ecosystems.

GUARDIANS is the name of this project funded by Horizon Europe at 5 million euros, which was launched in Gijón, Asturias – Spain, on June 21st and 22nd, where its 22 partners were gathered, led by Fundacion CTIC.

Its primary objective is to promote the capabilities of small and medium farms through technological solutions. Ensuring a sustainable food system requires, above all, to entrust primary productions back to the “guardians of the territory”, the owners of these small and medium farms in rural areas. GUARDIANS will focus its efforts on understanding the challenges that farmers face in their daily activities and that make it difficult for them to compete with large food producers. To this end, the project will propose the use of innovative digital solutions to overcome these challenges and bridge the technological gap that exists between small and large producers.

GUARDIANS innovative digital solutions will help create new farming approaches and make farms more sustainable, not only from an economic, but also from an environmental and social point of view.

The aim is to understand the acceptance and difficulties of using 9 innovative digital solutions, involving a total of 95 farmers from small and medium-sized farms, including different types of crops, pastures and livestock from Spain, Italy, Sweden, UK and Czech Republic. SHINE is leading the engagement of the various relevant stakeholders to understand what incentives and barriers need to be overcome for the uptake and adoption of these innovations.

As a result, it is expected that small agricultural enterprises will be more productive, resilient and not doomed to closure in the near future, while empowering farmers to achieve not only their own goals, but also the goals of a healthier and fairer society.