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6th Press Release: FrontAg Nexus Survey Reveals Key Insights into Agricultural Technologies Across the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region stands as a prominent global hotspot for climate change, grappling with water scarcity and reliance on climate-vulnerable agriculture. FrontAg Nexus Project responds to this challenge by identifying circular agri-food technologies that increases regional food and nutrition security and protect the environment. 

Survey conducted under FrontAg Nexus, is yielding intriguing insights into Climate-Smart and Water-Saving agricultural practices across the Mediterranean Region. It investigates the determinants of adopting innovative technologies and aims to assess their impacts on water use efficiency, productivity, food security, and ecosystem dynamics within the interlinked framework of the Water, Energy, Food, and Ecosystem (WEFE) Nexus.

A stratified random sampling combined with snowball sampling is employed to sample a total of 634 households in Italy (101), Jordan (120), Türkiye (180), Morocco (120) and Tunisia (120). Utilising the Kobotool Box, data was collected using a structured questionnaire from the wider vicinity of the FrontAg Nexus demonstration case sites in the partner countries. 

Household demographics vary across sample countries, with the average age of household heads as follows: Italy (63), Jordan (51), Morocco (52), Tunisia (58), and Türkiye (56). Female household headship is notably higher in Türkiye and Italy, accounting for about 20% and 16% of households, while the other countries have less than 2% of female-headed households. Family size differs as well, with Jordan and Morocco having the largest average family size (6), while Italy, Tunisia, and Türkiye average around (3). Farm size shows disparities, with Jordanian samples owning larger farms with an average land size of 304 hectares, compared to the average farm sizes in Morocco (14.5ha), Italy (11ha), Tunisia (15ha), and Türkiye (8ha).

Survey respondents were asked to report whether they currently practice technologies like Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), aquaponics, hydroponics, insect farming, agrophotovoltaics and diverse soil and water conservation techniques like soil bunds, agroforestry, water harvesting, and composting.

Out of the 634 sample households, 8 practiced RAS, all of them from Jordan. The same is true with aquaponics where about 30 aquaponic adopters are from Jordan. Hydroponics, on the other hand, sees a wider but still restrained uptake, with 1, 4, 13, and 2 farmers having adopted the practice in Italy, Jordan, Tunisia, and Türkiye, respectively. Insect farming, despite its recognised benefits, is also embraced by only a small fraction of households, with Italy (4), Jordan (3), and Tunisia (1) representing the limited adopters within our sample. The overall adoption rate of these into Climate-Smart and Water-Saving agricultural practices may be higher as the surveys were within the regional vicinity of the demonstration case sites.

Figure 1 – The distribution of frontier agricultural technologies, soil, and water conservation practices across the sample countries.

60% of the respondents reported awareness of at least one technology and are interested in the adoption of frontier agricultural technologies. The most frequently reported constraints are lack of self-financing, lack of access to improved inputs, and lack of information. 

For adopters of at least one frontier agricultural technology, the primary sources of water for these practices were groundwater or well water, followed by municipal or community piped water and rainwater. Electricity from the grid was identified as the primary power source, followed by solar photovoltaic cells. The integration of agrophotovoltaics, a renewable energy source, is noted to enhance the environmental sustainability and economic viability of these practices. Nevertheless, prudence is needed when agrophotovoltaics is used for pumping increased volumes of groundwater as the energy costs are decreased. As FrontAg Nexus is focusing on water-saving agricultural practices, this risk is perceived as low, nevertheless, FrontAg Nexus will monitor and build capacity to address this risk locally.

Climate-smart and water-saving agri-food technologies are familiar to the farmers, but the extent of adoption is still low. This implies that promoting circular agri-food technologies such as the FrontAg Nexus project, is crucial as the traditional linear farming system struggles with water scarcity and limited land availability. 

In summary, while awareness of climate-smart and water-saving technologies is evident among farmers, their actual adoption remains minimal. This underscores the importance of initiatives like the frontier agri-food technologies in promoting these innovations, particularly as traditional farming systems face constraints such as water and energy scarcity as well as limited arable land availability.

Initiated in May 2023, FrontAg Nexus, supported by the EU’s PRIMA program, tackles climate change and food insecurity in the Mediterranean. This innovative project employs climate-smart and water-saving technologies like hydroponics, aquaponics, insect farming, vermiculture, and agrophotovoltaic aiming for sustainable food production in areas such as Israel, Italy, and Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and Türkiye. Led by Prof. Gertrud Buchenrieder, from UniBw M, it’s a leap towards ecological balance, improved living standards, and robust, year-round food sources.

To learn more about the FrontAg Nexus project and stay up to date, visit https://frontagnexus.eu and follow us on social media: 

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Stay tuned as we continue to push the boundaries of sustainable agriculture and foster innovation for a greener, more resilient future. 

Disclaimer

This publication reflects the views of the author only. The European Commission and PRIMA Foundation cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

This project (GA n° [2242]) is part of the PRIMA programme supported by the European Union.

FrontAg Nexus at a glance

Instrument: PRIMA, the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area 

Total costs:  € 3.206.895,00

Duration: 3 years, 1/5/2023 – 30/4/2026

Consortium: A total of 10 partners from 8 countries (Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Türkiye)

FrontAg Nexus Homepage by PRIMA: https://qap.mel.cgiar.org/projects/1828 

Project CoordinatorsProf. Gertrud Buchenrieder
Dr. Wubneshe Biru
Universität der Bundeswehr München
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Project CommunicationDimitris Fotakidis
Foodscale Hub Greece
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