Agricultural areas provide habitat for a wide range of species with many species also depending on this agro-ecosystem. At the same time, agriculture depends on ecosystem services provided by species in the system, such as pollinators and natural pest controllers. Other organisms contribute to disease or weed suppression or to nutrient cycling and water management. The groups of organisms that provide these ecosystem services are known as "functional groups". This report provides an overview of how to promote beneficial organisms for pest control and pollination in open crops. Read More
- How we work
- Pilot areas
- Financial support for farmers
FABulous Farmers is a European project designed to support farmers in the transition to more agro-ecological practices on their farms. The project aims to reduce the reliance on external inputs, like chemical fertilisers and pesticides, by encouraging the use of methods and interventions that increase the farm’s Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). These are targeted measures of biodiversity in and around the field to improve pollination, pest management, soil and water quality on the farmland.
One example is to attract beneficial pest-eating insects by planting strips of wildflowers in the same fields as cereal crops. Another example would be to break the routine of single-crop production; a rotation of crops has a beneficial effect on soil quality, the impacts of weeds are reduced and production yield increases. The project assists the farmers in identifying and adopting relevant FAB-methods specifically for their farm. Networking sessions will be organised in which the farmers can exchange ideas and experiences. Several demonstration fields will show the effects of particular FAB-measures so that farmers and others can come and see how the measures work.
The effect of some FAB-measures taken on the farm can be improved further by similar actions in the surrounding area. That’s why we are active in 14 pilot areas in 6 countries (BE, NL, LUX, FR, UK and DE) in which we cooperate with other stakeholders, e.g. landowners and municipalities, to come to an integrated FAB-landscape-integration plan. At the same time, the local community will be involved and engaged with educational materials, practical and fun activities and the use of citizen-science tools to help monitor the effects of the interventions. The community activities will be tuned to needs and environment of the 14 pilot regions.
The results of the trial fields and on farms overall will be communicated to European and regional policy makers. In this way the evidence-based lessons learnt in this project can be implemented in ambitious but realistic European and regional agricultural policies. This will lead to an economically viable and buoyant agricultural system that is resilient to climate change.
To deliver this project and achieve these objectives we have a team of 15 project-partners each with their own expertise.
South Plaza Marlborough Street
Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation
Association of Chambers of Agriculture
Atlanpole la Géraudière
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
North Star Avenue
18 Ilse Velde
Province of Antwerp
22 Koningin Elisabethlei
Agricultural Technical School Ettelbruck
72 Avenue Lucien Salentiny
Own Capital of the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
92 bus 1 Burgemeester Van Gansberghelaan
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
1 Heelis, Kemble Drive
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics / University of Amsterdam
904 Science Park
Landscape park De Merode
ZALF (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research)
84 Eberswalder Straße
Fodder beet is back in the spotlight more and more. In five years, the acreage in Flanders has increased by some 20%. In the Netherlands, the area has even increased sixfold in that period! Due to their value in crop rotation, variety trials for fodder beet were conducted as part of FABulous Farmers. In this article, these were bundled with the results of other variety trials from Flanders. That way, you can choose the variety that best suits your farm! Read More
ZLTO (Zuidelijk Landbouw en Tuin Organisatie, NL) presented their policy paper to the agricultural deputies of Zeeland and Brabant during a visit to the farm of arable farmer Pieter Maris. Maris is one of the three West-Brabant demo farms in the FABulous Farmers project. He applies several FAB measures, such as non-inversion tillage and cover crops. You can find the article here (Dutch only). Read More
Wico Dieleman from ZLTO (Zuidelijk Landbouw en Tuin Organisatie, NL) was interviewed by the magazine 'Proef'. He explains what the FABulous Farmers in Brabant and Zeeland do. He also explains how ZLTO monitors the results of the taken FAB measures, for example by counting insects and butterflies. You can find the article here (Dutch only). Read More
Hooibeekhoeve (BE) and Boerennatuur Vlaanderen (BE) had the opportunity, on the occasion of the day of agriculture, to present FABulous Farmers in an article for the Belgian news paper 'De Morgen'. You can find the article here (Dutch only, ©Mediaplanet). Read More
Two researchers from ILVO (BE) and Hooibeekhoeve (BE) wrote an article about the FABulous Farmers project. This article was published in 'Bodem', a magazine about sustainable soil management. Within this article they explain the different FAB measures and show how the project aims to build a (international) farmers netwerk and wants to raise awareness about FAB in the larger society. You can read the full article here (Dutch only). Read More
After almost 5 years the Interreg NWE project FABulous Farmers is coming to an end. During the project we’ve built a solid partnership and worked closely with farmers, citizens, policy makers and other stakeholders in our 14 pilot regions.
At the Closing Conference we’ll share a flavour of the many activities we organised and the outcomes we achieved during the project.
Partners, associated partners, farmers and everybody interested in the outcomes of the project are all welcome to join us!
On monday the 26the of June at 10H, l'Association des Chambres d'Agriculture de l'Arc Atlantique organise a webinar on 'How to support the implementation of functional agro-biodiversity measures?'
A detailed programme will follow.
We invite you to register to receive the information and the connection link: Registration
(This webinar will be organised in French)
On Friday the 16th of June a masterclass will take place on ‘How to make a business model out of your FAB*-measure?’. This masterclass will be organized by the NWE Interreg FABulous Farmers team and will elaborate on the opportunities of creating added value to your products or services through FAB-measures. We will demonstrate this using some examples of business cases. The goal of this masterclass is to inspire farmers and value chain actors with the possible opportunities of collaborations to market products or services produced through FAB-measures.
*FAB = Functional AgroBiodiversity (more on FAB-measures on www.fabulousfarmers.eu)
This masterclass will be organised in English.
Come and visit pilot regions Zeeland and West-Brabant!
During this FABulous Farmers exchange farmers and project partners are welcome in the Netherlands. During the 2-day-event we update you on the work done in FABulous Farmers, combined with field visits. On Wednesday we visit an arable farmer in Zeeland. We end the day with a nice dinner in the city of Goes. On Thursday we visit trial fields and a dairy farm in West-Brabant.
Fodder beet, back from nowhere ... In five years, the area under this crop has increased by about 20%. The (practical) research did not stand still either. So time to come out with the results!
During this webinar, we take a closer look at the usefulness of fodder beet in crop rotation plans. You will learn all about variety choice, diseases, storage and valorisation on your farm.
A good flower strip attracts many beneficial insects, including natural enemies that can control pests in adjacent agricultural crops. We call this useful and free service from nature functional agrobiodiversity or FAB.
Join North Wales Wildlife Trust, the Welsh Dee Trust and Ben Raskin from the Soil Association for a farm tour of Argoed Farm near Mold, looking at the utilisation of trees, woodchip and soil health on a dairy farm.
Functional agro-biodiversity deserves its place in Flemish agricultural policy - Policy recommendations and demonstration (Dutch), Haebeeckhoeve, Herseltseweg 11, 2430 Laakdal, Belgium
The Flemish consortium of the Interreg-NWE project 'FABulous Farmers' invites Minister Brouns together with farmers for a site visit in Laakdal. Many farmers apply Functional Agrobiodiversity (FAB) measures. By doing so, they increase the biodiversity in and around their fields and also enjoy the benefits themselves in their operations. FAB thus makes it possible to combine productivity and sustainable agriculture. During this explanation and demonstration, we show what drives farmers and the added value for society. With the 10 policy recommendations, the consortium wants to encourage the minister to pay more attention to FAB in policy. Encouraging FAB measures lowers the threshold to invest in FAB. Minister of Agriculture, Jo Brouns explains the vision of the government. During the site visit, project results as they are now will be explained.
Masterclass - how to start with reduced tillage?
For this masterclass we will start with an introduction on the topic; Why should you start with reduced tillage? What are the costs and benefits? Both financial and in terms of eco-system services? How to start with reduced tillage? what types of reduced tillage and related machinery exist? As main experts we have invited Frédéric Thomas (FR), farmer and expert on conversation agriculture and John Lee (UK), farmer with experience in strip till.
During this masterclass we aim for an in-depth discussion about the most successful strategies to effectively use organic matter within the tolerable legal limits. Dr. Ir. Gera van Os (AERES Hogeschool, NL), expert on sustainable soil management in the Netherland will introduce the topic. Dr. Ir. Koen Willekens ILVO, BE) expert on Soil management in Belgium will discuss the challenges of on- farm composting. Finally we have invited farmer Clive Baley (UK) to share his practical experience with organic matter input on his farm.
Collect, deepen and share knowledge on FAB
There is an urgent need for increased resource efficiency in farming systems to make the transition to more circular agro-ecosystems, which depend less on external iputs and censerve natural resources (soil, water, biodiversity). A very promising concept in this regard is Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). FAB refers to the application of farm management practices that enhance and exploit elements of biodiversity for their role in providing ecosystem services (e;g; pollination, biological pest control, soil erosion control, water retention...) and supporting sustainable agricultural production. Although a lot of research has been done, knowledge on FAB is still very fragmented and has not resulted in practical on-the-farm tools to assist farmers in their decision-making for implementation of FAB in their farming activities. This is why we develop a FAB solution toolkit in order to improve the effective use of FAB-solutions for dairy, arable, open filed vegetables and mixed farms. We gather and enhance currently dispersed knowledge and we adapt available but underused development support tools, methodologies and monitoring systems to ready-to-use material.
Widen uptake of FAB solutions by farmers through demonstration and support
In this work package the knowledge gathered in WP1 will be brought together in a FAB action plan, created with and for the farmers, for each pilot area. the plan is dynamic and will be adjusted based on the knowledge build through demonstrations and implementations on the farms. Demonstration of FAB actions on a growing number of farms, discussion about the effects in the regional network sessions and advice by teh flying experts and kitchen table talks will ensure the uptake of FAB-actions by farmers.
Embed FAB in the local society
In all pilot regions local stakeholders will be closely involved by regional project partners to increase the long term support and effectiveness of measures taken by farmers. To embed FAB solutions whitin landscape management a regional FAB-landscape integration plan will be developed in each pilot area.
Tools and methodologies will be selected and implemented in the pilot areas for embedding FAB in local communities. With the aid of citizen science tools for monitoring FAB, citizens will assist farmers' decision-making on FAB-solutions. The results of the monitoring by citizens and farmers will be discussed in FAB-farmer-citizen meetings. The objective of these meetings is to foster community building and reconnect farmers with the wider society.
Partners of all pilot areas will work together to produce policy papers, that describe the benefits of FAB-solutions for their policies and list possible policy measures. In this way the use of FAB is assured for the future!
Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB)
FAB is the biodiversity that is usefull for agriculture. Think of pollinators, soil life... When they are implemented actively, it is named a FAB-measure or FAB solution. So these are targeted measures of biodiversity in and around the field to improve pollination, pest management, soil and water quality on the farmland.
10 FAB solutions
In FABulous Farmers we aim for 10 measures:
- Non-inversion tillage
- Crop rotation
- Mixed crops
- Cover crops
- Organic matter input
- Modify manure quality
- Hedgerow management
- Field margin management
- FAB-supporting action: physical and biological crop protection
More information on these FAB solutions you can find in our digital one-stop shop where all practical information is gathered.
The effect of some FAB-measures taken on the farm can be improved further by similar actions in the surrounding area. That’s why we work in pilot regions in which we cooperate with other stakeholders, e.g. landowners and municipalities, to come to an integrated FAB-landscape-integration plan. At the same time, the local community will be involved and engaged with educational materials, practical and fun activities and the use of citizen-science tools to help monitor the effects of the interventions.
The pilot areas will serve as an axample for other pilot areas regarding to certain FAB solutions and by extension to the rest of the NWE region.
The 14 pilot areas are spread over 6 countries, as shown on the map. In each area the farmers can choose from a list of 10 FAB-solutions to implement on their field.
The pilot areas are:
- De Merode (Belgium)
- Het Pajottenland (Belgium)
- Pays de la Loire (France)
- Ouest et Brocélian Bretagne (France)
- Eure Normandie (France)
- Stausee Ouwersauer (Luxembourg)
- Hoeksche Waard (The Netherlands)
- West-Brabant (The Netherlands)
- Zeeland (The Netherlands)
- East of England (United Kingdom)
- Pembrookshire (United Kingdom)
- South West (United Kingdom)
- West Midlands (United Kingdom)
The contact persons for the pilot areas, you can find here.
In crop rotation a diversity of crops enters the field one after the other and over the years, this in contrast to mixed crops where multiple crops co-occur at the same time on the field. By using different crops, the risks are spread for the farmer, but it also has a positive influence on the soil. Because the crops change every (few) year(s), the development of soil pathogens is limited. Diverse rooting ensures a better development of the soil life. Finally we also see a reduction of the weed pressure.
Some testimonials on crop rotation by farmers who implement these measure, are listed below:
Mixed crops are multiple crops that co-occur on the field. This can range from herbal pastures over crop mosaics to crops in lines. Aim is the positive influence of the crops on each other. This can occur in a direct way in which the combination of crops leads to higher total yield than the individual crops, but also indirect. For example clover in grass can fixate nitrogen, diversity of roots in herbal leys lead to a better soil structure or beneficial insects can always find shelter because parts of the soil are always covered.
Through the links below, you can find interviews with farmers who apply herbal leys as a FAB measure within their farm:
When we think of field margins, in the first thing we think of are flowering margins that attract beneficials (insects that that eat pests, pollinators). A second important function of the field margins is the use as buffer strip. This is a strip between the field and the watercourse which is not fertilized and the use of pesticides is not allowed. Aim of the strip is to avoid the leach of nutrients or pesticides to the watercourse.
Below you can find interviews with a farmers who have sown flower strips in between their crops and WOCAT file with information on field margins:
- Farmer Steven Dumortier - Pajottenland (BE)
- WOCAT file Field margin strips Hoeksche Waard (NL)
- WOCAT file Flower strips on paths Brabant (NL)
- Farmer Steven Dumortier Pajottenland (BE) - WOCAT file Field margin flower strips - Pajottenland (BE)
The function of hedgerows is multiple. Hedgerows provide habitat to insects that benefit cropping (pollinators, insects that eat pests). Often it concerns the hibernation spot of these beneficiaries. A suitable combination with field margins gives the perfect habitat!
Just like for flower strips, also for field margins an informed choice need to be made concerning the species to avoid the attraction of harmful insects.
Below you can find more information on hedgerow management.
Agroforestry is a cultivation system in which agricultural crops or cattle farm are combined with the production of trees at the same parcel. Different layers, above and under the ground, give a more efficient use of light, water and nutrients. The use of trees leads to a healthier soil, higher yields and homes for wildlife.
These farmers take about the pros and cons of agroforestry:
The aim of a cover crop is to minimise exposed soils, which can lead to soil erosion and loss of soil organic matter. Additionally, a cover crop can catch nitrogen from the soil. In this case the name 'catch crop' is used, since it avoids the leaching of nitrogen.
Cover crops can be sawn on different moments. Sawing after the main crop is most common. In combination with a late harvest this gives a limited choice in crops and the later they are sawn, the porer the development of the cover crop. That is what makes sawing the cover crop between the main crop interesting (e.g. grass between mais). In this case the cover crop can be sawn together or after the main crop. This gives an early growth of the cover crop and a better development of this crop. In addition the cover crop protects the soil during the harvest of the main crop.
Some testimonials on cover crops by farmers who implement these measure, are listed below:
With non-inversion tillage, the soil is not ploughed, but only loosened. This has a positive effect on soil life: there habitat is not disrupted every year. A stable soil life ensures a good soil structure, which leads to an airy soil and increases the water retention. Therefor the soil can absorb more water in wet periods and this water is longer available in dry periods.
Below you can find testimonials of farmers who minimise the use of tillage on their farms:
Manure appears in a range of forms. Important is that the manure can be taken in the plant, to prevent leaching of nutrients. A better intake means a better crop and less leaching! This can be achieved by implementing the manure near the plan, using diverse manure types (mixtures, digestate) or by changing the sowing distance.
Organic matter input increases the sponginess of the soil: the higher the content, the better moisture can infiltrate in wet periods and the longer the moisture stays available in dry periods. It also has a positive influence on soil life. The organic matter content can be increased in several ways: working-in of harvest residues, use of farmyard manure, compost, woodchips…
More information on organic matter input, you can find below:
This is not a FAB-measure on itself, but can reinforce the other FAB-measures. The use of physical and biological crop protection instead of chemical crop protection has less negative impact on the beneficial organisms that settle in and around your field. The attendance of these beneficial organisms has a positive effect on the control on plagues, thereby reducing the needs of interventions at field which creates a virtuous circle.
The FABulous Farmers team wrote an EU policy paper to combine their recommendations towards European policy makers. Based on the project findings, seven policy recommendations have been formulated that will support the uptake of FAB measures by farmers and establish the policy conditions necessary to realize the agricultural, ecological and societal benefits of FAB.
You can find the full paper here.
On the 11th of June 2021 the FABulous Farmers' team presented their EU policy paper in an online conference. Here you can (re)watch our policy event as a whole or some parts of it:
The EU policy paper was adapted for the policy context at national level of each country (BE, NL, FR, LUX, UK). These papers were presented at the policy makers at national policy events.
You can find the full papers of the different countries below:
During the project several masterclasses are organised. By a simple click on the links, you can watch the presentations given during this masterclasses!
- How to deal with cover crops?
- Field margin strips to improve pest control
- How to make your crop rotation a succes?
- Agroforestry on your farm?
- Mixed crops for forage
- How to use organic matter most effective and efficient within the legal limits?
- How to start with reduced tillage?
- How to make a business model out of your FAB*-measure?
- How to multiply the benefits of FAB through organic certification?
For scientific data gathered through the project, we are using WOCAT, a global network on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) that promotes the documentation, sharing and use of knowledge to support adaptation, innovation and decision-making in SLM.
The FABulous Farmers partners have published some articles on WOCAT. These articels are based on knowledge the partners built in the past. In this way all information is collected in one place. The next step will be to bring all the knowledge (past and new) together on a technical sheet. You can see the data here:
In the project 5 digital market places are developed. Each marketplace will support uptake of at least one of the FAB Measures as defined by the FABulous Farmers project, this may be as part of a whole agroecological system practised on farm. In order to verify delivery of ecosystem services and functional agrobiodiversity the verification of measures must include both the evidence of practices in place e.g. photos, maps, self-assessed verification by farmer. In addition, the monitoring of environmental outcomes. This could be carried out by a third party or in some cases self-assessed by the farmer depending on audit requirements.
The partnership developed 2 reports on this:
- A shortlist of possible metrics and indicators to assess the FAB measures in detail, along with methods and the capacity needed for verification and assessment. The use and application of these measures will vary across the platforms across the NWE regions however there is a standardised agreement around the value of these measures to determine the outcome of the FAB measures. You can read the full report here.
- An overview and comparison of the verification approaches for each platform. Detailing where metrics and approaches harmonise and overlap. Additionally, how the approaches verify FAB measures. You can read the full report here.
For practical information on the FAB-solutions and join the FABulous Farmers network, we like to refer to our digital one-stop shop.
One of the principle goals of the FABulous Farmers project is the implementation of FAB-measures on the pilotfarms and to evaluate these towards their ecological performance and economic profitability, with the aim of reducing the dependence on external inputs. Making a sustainability evaluation at farm level means “taking a picture” of the farm in a defined way and at a precise moment! The result of first sustainability evaluation at the project start could thus provide a baseline about the sustainability level on the farm and in the region. This allows to identify possible weak points on the farm and in the region as well as the comparison of regions in the project. On this basis, FAB-measures to be implemented in each region can be specifically adapted to the situation in the project region.
You can read the complete report here.
We've worked hard to give an overview of usefull tools for farmers to decide which FAB measurement gives the best results on their farm or situation. You can find all this bundled in this FAB Farm Decision Support Toolkit.
If you want some extra tips on how to plan change and track impact of the FAB measures on your farm, have a look at this monitoring leaflet. Here you can find some extra tools on mapping and planning, soils and biodiversity.
Within the FABulous Farmers project a report was made on the effects of the 10 FAB measures on the environment, on the farmer field as well as on the surroundings. The aim of this report is to:
- Review methods to measure the environmental performance of FAB solutions. The focus is on biodiversity, soils and water quality.
- Identify scientific approaches that could be used at the farm level and implemented by farmers or extension workers.
- Determine if and potentially how these measurement approaches could feed into and support regional or national monitoring.
You can read the full report here.
An important part in broad embedding of FAB is the participation and cooperation of the community. During the project we made a review of good practice tools and methodologies that can be used to stimulate the engagement of the FAB community, serving ultimately a triple goal:
- fostering the development of a good relationship between the citizens and the farmers, based on mutual understanding,
- educating the citizens on the role they can play in the sustainable management of FAB, and
- creating a favourable environment for the adoption and implementation of FAB solutions by the farmers.
The full report is available here.
In the FABulous Farmers project four types of indicators and tools are distinguished:
- Performance indicators: measuring the effect of the implemented FAB measures
- Economic performance - profitability: cost/benefit (yields)
- Ecological/environmental performance: external input use (pesticides, fertilizers) and effects on natural resources (water, soil & biodiversity)
- Tools to support farmers’ learning processes: indicator sets that provide insight into overall farm sustainability and the positive impact of FAB.
- Decision support tools: practical on-the-farm tools to assist farmers in their decisionmaking for implementation of FAB in their farming activities
- Citizen science tools: community engagement tools and methodologies.
A report was made on the second type of indicators: tools to support the farmers’ learning process about overall farm sustainability and the positive impact of FAB. You can read the full report here.
This document lists twelve innovative business models based on functional agrobiodiversity measures, that have been implemented and tested by farmers across North-West Europe, in the pilot areas of the Fabulous Farmers project.
You can read the full report here.
The establishment costs for some FAB measures are high and pose a real barrier for farmers. To enable farmers to access external funds to support their FAB measures, digital platforms are being developed, where citizens and companies can invest in the ecosystem services delivered by the measures. The ecological effects will be monitored and verified.
Although the main idea is the same, the implementation of the marketplaces differs in each country – have a look!
Agora Natura - Germany
AgoraNatura is Germany’s first online marketplace for certified nature conservation projects. Since October 2020, AgoraNatura enables anyone who manages land and wants to implement a conservation project to finance it through crowdfunding or partnerships with companies. Private investors and companies can promote biodiversity and ecosystem services by investing in nature conservation certificates. Each project's ecological impact is ensured through an external certification.
Organisation: ZALF, contact: email@example.com
Go 2 Positive - The Netherlands
Go 2 Positive wants to connect companies and organizations with climate ambitions with farmers who practice carbon farming and thus remove CO2 from the air and store it sustainably in soil or biomass. In this way, companies can offset their CO2 emissions or even become climate positive. The ambition is to also expand Go2Positive with other ecosystem services such as biodiversity.
Organisation: ZLTO, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Soil Association Exchange - United Kingdom
Soil Association Exchange is a new platform being launched in Autumn 2022. The vision for Exchange is that it becomes the industry standard for measuring and rewarding regenerative farming and forestry practices. The platform will enable farmers to
- Improve and
- Get financial rewards
for the ecological health of their farm.
Organisation: Soil Association, contact: JGridley@soilassociation.org
Belgium: Under construction
Organisation: Boerennatuur Vlaanderen
Yapla (Solenat) - France
The online platform Yapla offers diverse services to promote and fund associations and their projects of general interests (crowdfunding, newsletters, website, membership subscription, data management…). Solenat is a farmer association which is already animating Payment of Ecosystem Services schemes and that will take the opportunity to widen its offers online thanks to Yapla and the FABulous Farmers project. As a zero-cost platform Yapla will help limit the transaction cost of the schemes while remaining a highly customisable solution to develop an online identity for Solenat and its various offers (pollinators sponsorship, hedges carbon credits…).
Organisation: AC3A, contact: email@example.com
Keep you updated? Please fill in the information in this link, so we can send you the information on the country/countries of your interest!