Two women sitting at a table at the Food Expo with a bag and papers related to the LIVINGAGRO project in front of them

During the Food Expo at the Metropolitan Expo Center in Athens on March 18-20, 2023, Greek stakeholders in the olive, olive oil, dairy, and meat sectors learned about the ENI CBC MED LIVINGAGRO project, Cross-Border Living Laboratories for Agroforestry. Several exhibitors shared their views on the benefits of innovation and agroforestry in the olive sector.

Some suggested to Lisa Radinovsky, who is part of the Greek LIVINGAGRO team at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, that it is difficult to convince people to adopt innovations or return to beneficial traditional agroforestry practices. On the other hand, others were more hopeful that agroforestry and innovation could be beneficial, especially in the face of challenges such as climate change.

A Stylis Olive Producers’ Cooperative representative reported that his grandfather used intercropping with legumes 80 years ago and told him how helpful this was, but said farmers now prefer to use fertilizers. Another company, the Tombazis Estate, does currently co-cultivate olives and lentils. Farmer and Belia olive oil company co-founder Betty Stratikopoulou also said she is learning about agroforestry in olive groves in preparation for intercropping.

Marianna Devetzoglou of Oleosophia mentioned that her team does not actively grow agroforestry crops in their olive groves, but they do allow wild plants to coexist with their trees. This practice was passed down through the generations, and its benefits for the soil were confirmed by scientists contacted through a LIVINGAGRO B2B event. So the Oleosophia team will continue allowing wildflowers to grow, cutting them before the olive trees start blooming, and letting them decompose so the wild plants’ nutrients can feed the soil.

Marigianna Chalkiadaki of Minoan Gaia would like to find out more about agroforestry and “share knowledge with local producers. We want to hear more about this, because they all do things in the classic way, with pesticides, and we’re trying to find out how to be more sustainable,” both for the sake of the planet and for the quality of their products. Chalkiadaki believes “it’s time to do something different. It’s great to hear we have programs in Crete like” LIVINGAGRO.

Ioanna Diamanti of Pellas Nature is also very interested in intercropping and sustainability. In northern Greece, her company is planting new olive trees of the Agios Prodromos olive variety, which can handle a wide temperature range and doesn’t need much water. Looking over the catalogue of innovations from a LIVINGAGRO B2B event in Greece, Diamanti said she would compare that and information on the project’s ICT platform to a paper she has seen about co-cultivation. Her team is now starting to plan for intercropping of aromatic plants with their newly planted olive trees. They are doing research to see which aromatic plants are most likely to thrive between the trees.

Evi Psounou Prodromou of Yanni’s Olive Grove and Propharco claims that their great success with extra healthy olive oil products started from the “first step of gaiasense improving their production and quality while minimizing cost.” Gaiasense is an innovation Prodromou told the LIVINGAGRO project about earlier; it was subsequently presented at LIVINGAGRO B2B events in Greece and Lebanon.

Eleftheria Mamidaki of Anoskeli says her company is considering using an innovation they learned about at a LIVINGAGRO B2B event. They hope to introduce it to a new producers’ group they are organizing, after they address more basic needs in seminars for the farmers that will encourage changes to improve quality and sustainability. “As a company we try to be open-minded,” this young company manager said.

Regarding innovation and the future, Ioanna Diamanti is hopeful: “I think we will have many interesting results in the years to come, because there are many young people, and they like to learn new things and why and how, and this is good.”

This article was made possible by the ENI CBC MED LIVINGAGRO: Cross-Border Living Laboratories for Agroforestry project and work coordinated by the Department of Horticultural Genetics and Biotechnology at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania. Find out more about LIVINGAGRO on the project’s website.

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