DIVERSIFOOD Newsletter #1

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High quality food systems

Enriching the diversity of cultivated plants through a multi-actor approach. This is DIVERSIFOOD, an international project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.



DIVERSIFOOD (2015-2019) will increase the performance and resilience of different agro-ecosystems, and develop new healthy and tasty produce.

By integrating existing experienced networks and using specific and relevant cases across Europe, the project will strengthen food culture to improve economic viability of local chains resulting in a greater diversity of produce with a cultural identity.
This DIVERSIFOOD newsletter aims to inform about the project development and results. It will be published twice a year.  

Learn more about the project

Download the DIVERSIFOOD brochure

Focus: DIVERSIFOOD Coordinator

«DIVERSIFOOD was funded in the framework of the first H2020 calls for proposals in which the European Commission aimed a new approach under the Europe 2020 Strategy to advance EU research and innovation. The objective is to implement European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) in different sectors to increase "interactive innovation model" based on demand-driven partnerships linking farmers, advisors, researchers and businesses. In parallel, an important linked objective is enhance knowledge “exchange” between partners which generates new insights and ideas and integrates existing tacit knowledge. For several topics, such as the one of DIVERSIFOOD, it was mentioned “Proposals should fall under the concept of multi-actor approach”. Now, the Commission should largely disseminate this conception of research which are supposed to” generate innovative solutions that are more likely to be applied thanks to the cross-fertilisation of ideas between actors, the co-creation and the generation of co-ownership for eventual results.”»
(Véronique Chable, DIVERSIFOOD Coordinator)

Breaking News:
DIVERSIFOOD @ H2020 InfoWeek, Bruxelles

DIVERSIFOOD was invited for a 2 days meeting organized by the European Commission on 23-24 November 2015 in Bruxelles, in the context of the H2020 InfoWeek.

The first day is an internal cross-fertilisation meeting on 23/11 followed by a public workshop on 24/11 entitled Interactive innovation in motion: multi-actor approach and thematic networks.

The cross-fertilisation meeting on 23 November would provide an occasion to exchange experiences amongst the coordinators of the very first multi-actor projects, of which DIVERSIFOOD belongs. This meeting remains in the same concept: co-learning and interactive innovation with the implementation of multi-actor projects.

The objective of the workshop on 24 November is to share our experience to new potential applicants for next calls and to show real example cases of multi-actor projects and thematic networks financed under Horizon 2020. The commission is expecting about 100 participants. 

 DIVERSIFOOD recent activities


One of the goals of Work Package 1 (WP1) is to ensure good communication among all the partners. This is important as the DIVERSIFOOD partners have different backgrounds and different approaches to do their work. Biodiversity, resilience, innovation, sustainability, empowerment: all these words can be interpreted in different ways. So far we listed the keywords that all partners find important, finding ways to connect them. The next step is to agree on the definitions of these keywords: for example, a geneticist has a different idea of what innovation means than a community seed bank worker or a social scientist. Accordingly, we also need to connect the biological and social science knowledge in integrated research methods. To understand how to combine different ways of thinking we will look at the links between methods and worldviews (or paradigms). This will be done in an interactive way during the course of the project. The next annual meeting will be an important step where we will work on the definitions and the methods. At the end of the project we will have an overarching interdisciplinary methodological framework, which can also be used by new projects with similar approaches.



The second project Work Package (WP2) uses a combination of approaches to optimise the management of on-farm, multi-actor crop evaluation. It will develop an inventory of underutilised genetic resources for marginal/specific conditions and new uses as well as carry out participatory field trials to evaluate different crop management approaches for associating legumes and cereals in local/marginal conditions.
In summer 2015, there some preliminary trials for certain crops were settled, but the 2015-16 season is when most trials properly start. For crops sown in autumn 2015, partners have planned the accessions they will use and drilling is almost completed at the chosen trial sites. There has been much valuable collaboration in sourcing diverse seed and the efforts of partners has been much appreciated, as this will lay firm foundations for rest of the project. For crops that are due to be sown in Spring 2016, the details of trial plans are generally still being defined at present, but there is sufficient time for this to be firmed up after the autumn crops are drilled. Work on the inventory has also begun and will continue for much of the project.



As important as the discovery and characterization of diverse and untapped genetic resources, their combination and use through the establishment of new populations and their improvement by different breeding methods, is of vital importance. In WP3, DIVERSIFOOD will assess methods and put into practice using several important as well as underutilized crops and vegetables in Europe.
The objectives are to:
  • Create new diversity by choosing the most interesting genetic resources based on previous projects and on WP2
  • Develop or adapt methods and user-friendly tools specifically designed for on farm decentralized participatory breeding, such as statistical analyses focused on genotype by environment/crop management interaction and assessing specific local adaptation.
  • Apply and compare different breeding strategies inspired to previous projects and expertise.
As an example of underutilised forms of major crops, different breeding strategies of maize populations for human consumption will be assessed on their robustness and on the end use qualities. At the same time, new food products will be developed connected with local food culinary heritage. On broccoli and buckwheat, new populations with high genetic diversity will be generated by using forgotten genetic resources. These cultivars will be assessed though a multi-actor approach, to meet the needs of the organic sector, with a strong emphasis on the organoleptic and nutritional qualities.


First activities of WP4 have been mainly devoted to identify a preliminary list of all the experiences working with local varieties and referring as potential Community Seed Banks (CSBs) and to define the work plan for all the tasks. Thanks to two specific meetings among WP4 partners we identified also the crops that will be used as case studies dealing on local production seed systems: tomato, wheat, buckwheat, maize, carrot and potato. The case studies will be organised as cross country analysis, showing the differences between various seed systems, and a joint questionnaire is in preparation. It will serve as basis for the future activities to analyse community seed systems and community seed banks.
Within the framework on CBSs we had an interesting and fruitful meeting in Rome with Ronnie Vernooy from Bioversity International, editor of the new book Community Seed Banks, origins, evolution and prospects (Earthscan, 2015). The first innovation factsheet on Defining Community Seed Banks will be released by the end of 2015.


The objective of WP 5 is to ensure that food diversity based on newly bred varieties - from participatory breeding processes or old cultivars/landraces - can be introduced into the market taking into account regional characteristics. Specifically, the objectives of the work package are to:
  • Describe key processes that affect the success of local or regional commercialization
  • Assess the importance of labelling and communication strategies
  • Identify factors constraining market development,
  • Develop recommendations how to increase the market potential and market access of newly bred varieties, varieties from participatory breeding and landraces.
To carry out a meaningful research on the economic potential, this WP applies a case study approach. The results of the case studies will feed into final recommendations how to increase the diversity of food products.


These innovation sharing events enable advisors, farmer’s communities, breeders and other stakeholders to share their skills, information, and knowledge with each other and project partners. They include activities such as field and farm days, farm walks, field labs/schools and innovation clubs whatever is the most appropriate and worthwhile for a given area. Share Shops also act as a space for discussion of the project results and related topics with farmers. Several share shops already took place during summer 2015, reported here.

FRANCE: Bread wheat, einkorn, river wheat

In France, the Réseau Semences Paysannes (RSP) organized 5 farm field visits in June and July 2015 in different locations, on bread wheat, einkorn, and river wheat species.

ITALY: Wheat and barley

(© Rete Semi Rurali)

In Italy 9 farm field visits were held in June and July 2015 in different regions, organized by the Rete Semi Rurali (RSR). Various species of wheat and barley were tested (Triticum aestivum, Triticum turgidum, Triticum monococcus, Triticum dicoccum, Triticum dicoccum, Hordeum vulgare), and rotation crops. 

SWITZERLAND: Lupin trial

(© C.Arncken, FiBL)

Farmers, researchers, feed retailers and sponsors were invited to the FiBL lupin trial in Rümikon, Aargau, Switzerland, on July 7th 2015. The objective was to spread information on the potential of lupin growing and breeding in Switzerland. 


(© IPC)

On September 3rd 2015 IPC organized a farm day in Alvarenga, Lousada (Portugal). on maize (Zea mays) species. Farmers are currently looking for new activities alternative of maize silage production due to milk crisis. 
Food systems & quality
Cultivated biodiversity
Participatory Plant Breeding
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