top of page
  • Taskscape Associates

Farmer Clusters 2023

Throughout 2023, the FRAMEwork network of Farmer Clusters was abuzz with activities!

Our consortium and Farmer cluster network were promoting biodiversity, sharing knowledge with our communities, and implementing sustainable practices.

From monitoring wildlife to organizing workshops and events, here's a roundup of the noteworthy activities that took place. 

Wildlife Monitoring and Research

Robust data is vital to the Framework approach and monitoring biodiversity formed the basis of numerous cluster activities and meetings throughout the year. 

In June, Framework farmers in France were trained to use endoscopic cameras to monitor bat populations in their orchards.   

Fundación Artemisan conducted a successful programme of small game monitoring to evaluate the impact of project actions on various species. An important focus was the red-legged partridge, a species under severe decline owing to intensive agriculture conducted in the olive groves, both for the mechanical farming and pesticides used. 

Our Netherlands cluster gathered a great deal of useful data on yard planting and natural pest control over the year. Martine Schoone has written up some of the conclusions they were able to draw about the important hoverfly population, the peak seasons for field edges, and optimum plant species. 

Meanwhile, our partners in Austria began a new roll-out of monitoring training programmes with their clusters in light of their government’s new OPUL scheme. 

Of course, the link between Citizen Science and biodiversity monitoring continues to form an important part of Framework’s research and there were several successful examples of this at work throughout the network.

In July we covered the great work of our Austrian cluster, and our Dorset cluster have since also held well-attended events in May and June where volunteers from the local community were trained in monitoring small mammals and pollinators. One volunteer emailed to say:

“I learnt so much which I look forward to putting to practical use soon. It is very impressive to hear about what you have already done and plan for the future, and the knowledge you have collectively is amazing.” 

Stakeholders visiting the Aguilar Cluster to see sustainable measures in action | © ARTEMISAN

Cluster Knowledge Exchange Events

In May, our Aguilar Cluster hosted a fantastic knowledge exchange event, inviting network members from across Europe to observe their work restoring biodiversity to the region’s olive groves. We wrote up the highlights here

In July, the James Hutton Institute hosted an action-packed day highlighting their work on the long-term impacts of an integrated cropping system on whole-system sustainability. Attendees were able to observe some of the institute’s tech initiatives, including a monitoring robot from Small Robot Company and vertical growth towers managed on site by Intelligent Growth Solutions. It was a day of full of great discussions and future-thinking.   

In September, there was a lively exchange of ideas when the  Austrian Farmer Cluster and scientists from Raumberg Agricultural School convened to visit farms, observe biodiversity initiatives, and discuss sustainable practices. This was followed by the "Cultural Landscape Then and Now" event in Straßwalchen, which provided our farmers with insights into a different region and its challenges, and the techniques used by farmers there to create new habitats and species-rich meadows. 

In England, Framework partner the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust organized a cluster meeting in November at Crichel House to discuss the benefits of water quality sampling, and share techniques for conducting it.

Similarly, French partners INRAE, GRAB, and GRCETA invited farmers for a winter meeting in December to evaluate the data collected through the season, discuss observations of the bat boxes, flower strips and bird nests, and plan for the upcoming season.

The close of the year saw our Mostviertel cluster host a Christmas nest box building workshop that brought the community together and resulted in 24 new nesting opportunities for local birds. 

Our Mostviertel Cluster with their bird boxes | @ HBLFA

Engaging Technology and Communities

Exploring useful tech was a continued priority throughout the network. Earlier in the year, we covered the widespread uptake among the network of the iNaturalist tool and since then several more Bioblitz’s have taken place using the app. During 2023, BioBlitzes were held in Estonia, Italy and Scotland.

Consortium partner Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, who support our Italian 'Val Graziosa' Farmer Cluster, helped hold a Bio Blitz in April. The events saw over one hundred people participating, including local families, who made 430 sightings of a total of 199 species. These numbers allowed the initiative to rank eighth in the Italian classification of the City Nature Challenge! Biodiversity walks took place in the Calci Olive Groves' area, during both day and night, with expert scientists accompanying participants and describing species observed along the way. 

SSA also conducted several training sessions on digital monitoring for farmers in the Monte Pisano region. A key focus was the Poderi app which can be used for rationalising agronomic practices and integrates field monitoring functionalities with decision support systems. These sessions allow local olive growers, allowing become active in collective regional olive fruit fly monitoring. Helping them to gain insight and provide scientific evidence bases for management decisions.

To participate, growers first monitor the flight of the olive fruit fly using a pheromone trap and reporting their data in the app. Then they observe the oviposition holes of the olive fruit fly (100 olives per field every week) to monitor the infestation level of the first summer generation of the pest. This is a simplified inspection that can be done without the use of particular instruments (e.g. stereomicroscope) and it is non-destructive, meaning that the olives are not picked up from the plants - something the farmers appreciate!

© Estonian University of Life Sciences

In May, local students visited Estonian Cluster farm Väike-Hauka to have on-the-ground conversations about biodiversity, ecosystem services and food production. Two groups of high school and nursery school students were trained to use iNaturalist and recorded plant and animal species,  supported by scientists from The Estonian University of Life Sciences. This was made into a game where students competed for a prize rewarding the most scientifically useful observations spotted in the Kanepi kihlkund Farmer Cluster.

Our Buchan Farmer Cluster in Scotland also took part in a Bio Blitz during August at Aden Country Park, Aberdeenshire. Activities included bird surveys, soil health and vegetation surveys and were attended by Buchan Cluster Farmers and members of the general public supported by the James Hutton Institute. Participants  were shown how to use iNaturalist to record their observations and young attendees were given stickers to mark their progress with a final sticker celebrating them becoming a “Citizen Scientist’ on completion of the course.

Have a Very Happy New Year

We wish you, and all those involved in the project, all the best for the winter holidays and a happy 2024! Project activities across our Farmer Clusters this year underscored the network's commitment to promoting agrobiodiversity benefits, implementing sustainable practices, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders.

Ongoing projects include the installation of Framework info boards to inform the public about biodiversity and sustainable grassland management on farms, the cultivation of rare arable plants, and our Luxembourg cluster’s ‘Adopt a Tree’ scheme which provides an opportunity to support the preservation of old fruit cultivars and biodiversity - so keep an eye out for updates next year.

As we move forward, continued engagement and collaboration like this across networks will be key in addressing environmental challenges and building a more sustainable future for our food system - one that works for farmers and increases knowledge about the value biodiversity brings at every step.

To read more on the ground updates from our Farmer Clusters head to, the online home of our network.


bottom of page