The Global Network of Lighthouse Farms is on a mission to radically redefine sustainability by learning from exemplary farming systems around the world, the group said on a visit to the Devenish Lands at Dowth in Ireland.
Made up of 12 commercially viable farms stretching from Cuba to Indonesia and Brazil to Finland, the group convened on the County Meath farm for its first in-person meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which specialises in healthy food and living environment research, the network of farms aims to create a tangible real-life global outdoor classroom and laboratory, which will advance the scientific understanding of sustainable food production and encourage collaboration between farmers, stakeholders, industry and policy makers.
During the two-day visit, they heard about the global agri-technology company’s research on climate smart farming, biodiversity and human health at the Devenish Lands at Dowth, where trials into sustainable farming practises are being carried out.
They include multispecies swards trials which have proven an increase in grass dry matter yield and animal performance can be achieved with reduced synthetic nitrogen applications.
The Devenish Lands at Dowth have been one of the group’s member farms since 2018 and the company has been an integral part of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms’ research into sustainable agriculture methods.
The group aims to design new farming systems which help the agriculture sector meet global sustainability targets, taking account of a range of soil, climate, culture and local conditions.
Dr Jean Kennedy, Director of the Global Innovation Centre at Devenish, said: “We hugely value our membership of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms and were delighted to welcome our colleagues from across the world to the Devenish Lands at Dowth. Having worked so closely over the past couple of years in a virtual sense, an in-person meeting was long overdue and helped us to connect, share best practise and learn from each other in a way which will further the group’s work.
“We’re immensely proud that the Devenish Lands at Dowth are playing a crucial part in the drive to find radical solutions to address the sustainability challenges which the world of food production faces. Sustainability is engrained at the heart of Devenish and by working as part of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms we are confident that we can leave the industry in better shape for the next generation of farmers.”
Mariana Debernardini, Co-Ordinator of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms, added: “Over the last two years, we have been working together remotely, bringing the voices of farmers to international platforms and providing hundreds of students the opportunity to be inspired by real life farms. We have also secured multiple grants – from both inside and outside of Europe – as well as publishing a number of academic articles, all of which helps illustrate the global impact the network is having.
“Having said that, there is no substitute for in-person collaboration, and we were delighted to finally get together with our hosts at Devenish and learn directly from each other and the land.”
As well as Dowth, Lighthouse Farms are situated in Latvia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Spain, Cuba, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Indonesia, India and Brazil.
Their locations are designed to serve as real-life experimental and educational farms to advance the scientific understanding of the principles and practices of sustainable production in contrasting environments.