Youth, traceability and circular economy projects win agri co-op awards

Co-ops in Spain, Poland, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden were picked by judges for Cogeca’s European Award for Cooperative Innovation

Six co-ops in the European agriculture and forestry sector have been honoured in this year’s European Award for Cooperative Innovation.

Now in their fifth edition, the awards are organised by EU farm co-op apex Cogeca and supported by the Spanish cooperative bank Cajamar Caja Rural, to recognise innovations that deliver value under the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability.

More than 100 agricultural and forestry co-operatives submitted projects for consideration, and Cogeca says the number and the quality of submissions show that agricultural transitions are under-way in all domains, driven by co-operatives.

The awards went to two Spanish, one Polish, one Irish, one Belgian and one Swedish co-operative.

  • Mans cooperative (ES) won the social value creation award for their actions towards people with difficulties, especially young people at risk of social exclusion.
  • The Belgian association of fruit and vegetable cooperatives (BE) won the award for traceability and consumer information for its project Care4Growing, a multifunctional platform around data gathering and digitalisation creating new analytical capabilities that enable co-operatives and their members to optimise their performance in the supply chain.
  • The Glanbia co-operative (IE) won the prize for support to farmer-members for its Twenty20 Beef Club project, an innovative beef production model that is integrated right across the supply chain and has at its heart the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of its farmer members.
  • The Okregowa co-operative (PL) won the prize for innovative product for its unique valorisation of whey protein that are upgraded to create a fresh whey protein consumer cocktail. It is the first and only such product on the Polish market.
  • The Camara Arrosera co-operative (ES) won the bioeconomy and circularity prize for its ORYZITE project, a plastic substitute made from rice husks. This new material is the result of a circular economy project and the valorisation of rice by-products after more than 10 years of research.
  • Lantmännen (SE) won the natural resources and biodiversity award for its ThermoSeed project, a unique biological method that treats seeds to make them free from seed-borne infections, reducing the need for pesticides within agriculture, benefiting the environment as well as reducing costs for the farmer.

Cogeca president Ramon Armengol said: “I was truly impressed by the number and the quality of the entries. It was really hard for the Jury members in some categories to make a choice. When I see all these concrete initiatives, I can’t avoid drawing a link with the discussions that are currently taking place at European level.

“While we are working on a high number of initiatives in the framework of the European Green Deal, European Agri-Cooperatives are already contributing to transforming the food systems and the forestry sector they are operating in. I invite everyone to carefully check what our cooperatives are doing on the ground.“

Eduardo Baamonde, president of Cajamar Caja Rural, added: “The winners and all cooperatives that have participated in the award are demonstrating, once again, their driving force to move the agri-food and forestry sectors towards an enhanced sustainability, creating positive environmental, social values for farmers while preserving farmer members economic benefits. I was truly delighted to be able to reward fellow co-operators.’’