ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab
ÖMKi's on-farm research network was awarded the title of "living laboratory" on September 4, 2020 - officially called the ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab - and thus became a member of the European Network of Living Labs – (ENoLL).
What is a Living Laboratory?
Living laboratories can be defined as user-centred, open innovation ecosystems which integrate research and innovation processes in real environments and/or functioning communities, based on a systematic approach to co-creation and collaborative thinking with both users and a range of stakeholders.
As such, the term living laboratory also signifies a particular research methodology, as laboratories are, by definition, practice-oriented institutions which promote open, collaborative innovation, and provide space to study these processes, conduct various experiments, and develop new solutions (products, services).
Living laboratories also function as intermediaries between citizens, consumers, NGOs, research organisations, corporations, private businesses, public administrations, municipalities and regions, to create joint value, rapidly develop prototypes or promote innovation and entrepreneurship. There are certain elements which, if they are not present in a given laboratory, mean that it cannot be designated as a ‘living laboratory’. These include an open innovation environment, a user-centric focus, a co-creation process, and a real environment or multi-stakeholder approach. However, each laboratory is unique, so while these elements are essential, their implementation can take many possible forms.
What makes ÖMKi On-Farm a living laboratory?
In the ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab, we use our national network to test how newly released sustainable and organic technologies, products and practices perform in diverse, everyday farming. Participating farmers receive direct feedback, in the form of their own practical experience using the product or practice, and in the results on their land, which creates opportunities for open innovation, product development and dynamic product knowledge creation with the participation of farmers, researchers and other actors in the value chain.
The products and services launched so far within the ÖMKi On-Farm network which follow the ‘living laboratory’ methodology:
- ÖMKi Landrace tomato seedlings
- ÖMKi living interrow-planting seed mix and ground cover techniques to improving soil conditions
- Expert advisory service for organic farmers
The ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab is at the forefront of research on sustainable crop-growing and agricultural practices in Hungary, which is of direct benefit to farmers, and also has an impact on cultivation practices and efficiency. Overall, it contributes to the sustainability and flexibility of farming systems, helping farmers to adapt to climate change at a local level, and facilitation the transition of Hungarian agriculture to agro-ecology.
The ÖMKi On-Farm Living Lab on an International Level
By joining the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL), ÖMKi’s On-Farm network will be able to focus in particular on innovation possibilities for the transition to agro-ecology at a European level, as part of the ENoLL Working Group on Agriculture and Agri-food Living Laboratories.
In addition, ‘living laboratories’ working on agro-ecological projects in individual European countries will become networked from 2023, as planned by the European Commission, to support the efficient sharing of knowledge and a methodological transition. ÖMKi’s membership of ENoLL also functions as a leg up in a broader sense, since in the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), those countries which are expected to receive the most support in terms of subsidies are those which combine agro-ecological methods most effectively, with a living laboratory approach.
Last but not least, ÖMKi is leading an independent working group in cooperation with Ministry of Agriculture in the BIOEAST initiative, uniting thirteen countries in the Central and Eastern European region, in order to prepare Hungary and neighbouring countries as effectively as possible for the transition to agro-ecology. Thus, with this membership, the ÖMKi On-Farm network serves as an example for agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe, facilitating the spread of agro-ecological Living Labs throughout the region.