John Gibbons and Sean McGloin
The eyes of the biological and organic farming world turned to Carrick-on-Shannon last week as the BioFarm 2020 Conference was broadcast live to more than 1000 ticket holders from around the world.
Across 5 days of presentations, 20 acclaimed experts, researchers, and working farmers offered their vision of the future of agriculture to hundreds of avid online participants.
Organised by National Organic Training Skillnet (NOTS), the Drumshanbo-based training company, the BioFarm Conference is in its’ third year of existence. Billed as “Ireland’s Biological Farming Conference”, the event is usually a 2-day in-person affair that attracts farmers and interested parties from across Ireland’s farming communities. However, this year the pandemic meant that the Conference was moved fully online, and NOTS opted to broadcast it from The Hive – due to the quality broadband and facilities available at the Carrick venue.
For followers of organic and regenerative agriculture, the line up was a “who’s who” of names in the field. The stellar speakers included Allan Savory (Zimbabwe), Dr Christine Jones (Australia), Gabe Brown (USA), Nicole Masters (New Zealand), Greg Judy (USA), Joel Williams (Canada), Richard Perkins (Sweden), Bruno Follador (Brazil), John Kempf (USA), and more. International speakers were joined by working Irish farmers and growers such as the DANÚ Group, Jim Cronin, BASE Group, and Thomas Fouhy, who documented their journeys and brought the academic and scientific presentations of the international speakers into focus for a working farmer audience. Hosting duties across the 5 days were shared by Darragh McCullough and Ella McSweeney of RTE, environmental commentator John Gibbons, and Rock and Roll Farming Podcast host Will Evans.
The online nature of the 2020 event opened up the opportunity for overseas delegates to join in, and more than 150 tickets were sold in 18 different countries outside Ireland to go with the 800 sold within the island.
The speakers focused mainly on how regenerative farming can go further toward improving soil health on farms, and how these practices can lead to climate change mitigation and even climate change reversal – while still providing better on-farm incomes and reducing input costs.
NOTS Manager and Conference Organiser Sean McGloin said “The big takeaway from the event is that biological agriculture is a win-win for farmers and the nation as a whole. It has the potential to achieve all biodiversity and climate change targets while increasing farm incomes through input reduction. It works equally well for organic and conventional farmers, and it has the science to back it up,” added the Leitrim native.
National Organic Training Skillnet plans to build on the success of the event by introducing a series of training programmes in 2021 using some of the BioFarm 2020 speakers as trainers. These courses will be run in both virtual and on-farm practical (COVID-permitting) settings. In September, NOTS are launching a new Masters (MSc) in Organic and Biological Agriculture – and are already putting together plans for a bigger and bolder version of the Conference for BioFarm 2021.
For those of you who missed the Conference last week, you can still avail of access to the recordings of all presentations by going to www.nots.ie. Lifetime access costs just €50 for residents in the Republic of Ireland, and €80 for anyone outside Ireland.