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First SME ORGANICS field visit to the canton of Aargau

On 8 and 9 September, the SME ORGANICS project organised the first interregional field visit in the canton of Aargau, Switzerland, with regional stakeholders and project partners. The visit included parallel workshops on four thematic areas to discuss and exchange experience among peers with regard to which kind of policies and policy measures are most beneficial to support the organic sector at a regional level. The event was hosted by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), which is in charge of developing the diagnosis and the Organic Action Plan for the canton of Aargau along with SME ORGANICS.

The aim was to learn about the policies supporting the organic sector at all the stages of the value chain (from the production to the consumption) and taking into account aspects such as innovation and competitiveness of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), both at Swiss and cantonal levels. The event was attended by 38 participants coming from the canton of Aargau; Aquitaine, Limousin, Poitou-Charentes in France; Lodzkie, Poland; South Ostrobothnia, Finland; North-West Romania; Navarra, Spain; Lombardy and Puglia in Italy and from the European organic umbrella organisation IFOAM EU.

On 8 September, the morning session started with the presentations of FiBL about the Swiss Organic Action Plan guide and production measures with examples of regional Organic Action Plans including the one of the cantons of Fribourg and Jura. The SME ORGANICS activities planned for the canton of Aargau were also presented. Afterwards, FiBL demonstrated some practice examples: projects for regional development (from the Federal Office for Agriculture) and the new regional development policy.

Parallel workshops then enabled participants to discuss and exchange experience with regard to which kind of policies and measures are most beneficial to support the organic sector at a regional level. Four workshops were organised, allowing to focus on different aspects of the organic sector value chain: production and processing (led by Interbio); training and advice (led by FiBL); organic value chain efficiency and governance (led by SEUAS); and commercialization and marketing (led by FiBL).

In the afternoon, the participants visited two organic SMEs that served as examples of good practices: The butcher’s shop “Zentrum-Metzg”, which sells meat that is produced and processed according to the guidelines of Bio Suisse, and Bio Partner, a leading organic wholesaler in Switzerland that also offers an online shop with a wide range of organic products. Bio Partner has its own quality management to ensure the quality and legal conformity of the product range.

At the end of the day, dinner was held at Eichberg, an organic farm producing crops, eggs, vegetables and artisanal food (cookies, cakes, marmalades, pralines, etc.). As part of its multifunctional approach, the farm also runs a farm shop and a health and leisure hotel and restaurant.

On 9 September, the SME ORGANICS field visit continued with a variety of sessions. The production and processing standards and guidelines of Swiss organic and Bio Suisse were described. Also, it was explained what kind of additives are allowed in organic production and how the restrictions influence the sensory characteristics of organic products. In addition, a presentation by the Hightech Center Aargau focussed on how product innovation and SME competitiveness can be promoted by public policy. Lastly, FiBL’s presentation focussed on market development and consumer trends.

A visit to the FIBL facilities was the perfect finish to these inspirational days, where SME ORGANICS partners also took the chance to meet for a short working consortium meeting.
All presentations are available at http://www.interregeurope.eu/smeorganics/.

About SME ORGANICS

The overall objective of SME ORGANICS is to improve policies and programmes under the Investment for Growth and Jobs goal in order to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the SMEs in the organic sector of the participating regions. The project aims both at enhancing entrepreneurship but also at supporting the existing SMEs in improving their performance in order to enforce the growth capacity of the entire organic regional sector in regional, national and international markets.
The project specific objectives are:

  • To conduct regional diagnosis based on a SWOT analysis of the organic sector of the participating regions, evaluating the existing support measures and policies, regulatory framework, SMEs needs, etc., in four large thematic areas: I) production and processing, ii) commercialization and marketing, iii) training and advice, iv) organic value chain efficiency and governance.
  • To mobilize relevant stakeholders at the regional level in the above-mentioned areas in order to include their contributions in the development of the Regional Action Plans.
  • To carry out the exchange of experience and interregional learning among project partners and regional stakeholders in the above-mentioned areas.
  • To carry out the strategic thinking processes at a regional level in order to identify the relevant measures (from the interregional learning process) to be integrated into the regional policies, the activities needed for this integration, timeframe and responsible actors.
  • To identify the synergies and complementarities between different policy and funding instruments (ERDF, ESF, EAFRD) in order to optimize their joint utilization at a regional level.
  • To develop Regional Action Plans with tailored funding and policy mixes, including clarification of the motivations behind the policy objectives and measures, clear and specific objectives, an analysis of the conflicts and synergies of possible policy measures, quantified indicators, monitoring and evaluation procedures.

In order to successfully achieve these objectives over the 4-year duration of the project (2 years to develop the organic action plans and 2 years of implementation), 8 stakeholder workshops will be organised in each region (one per semester) and partners and stakeholders will participate in the field visits of all the regions, where each host region will present the policy measures and programmes relevant to the organic sector. In addition, regional and interregional dissemination events will be organised to transfer and promote the project’s results and outcomes.

SME ORGANICS is led by the Regional Development Agency of Navarra (SODENA) and has an overall budget of € 2’289’834. It is supported by the EU through the Interreg Europe Programme (ERDF funds) with 82.77% co-financing (€ 1’895’914).

Regional governments and development agencies

  • Navarra Government’s Department of Rural Development, Environment and Local Administration and Navarra’s development Agency - SODENA (lead partners) (ES)
  • Lodzkie Regional Marshall's Office (PL)
  • Puglia Regional Managing Authority (IT)
  • North-West Regional Development Agency (RO)

Organic food and farming and enterprise bodies

  • International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – EU Group (IFOAM EU) (advisory partner) (BE)
  • INTERBIO Aquitaine/Limousin/Poitou/Charentes (FR)
  • Union of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Crafts of Lombardy (IT).

Research Institutes

  • CIHEAM MAIB Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (IT)
  • Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (South Ostrobothnia, FI)
  • FiBL Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (Aargau, CH)

Further information

Contact