The role of education and advisory services in the transformation process of agriculture - in the context of climate change, food security and social requirements
The 62nd IALB, the 12th EUFRAS and the 9th SEASN regular annual conference and network event was held at the Dresden Congress Centre, Germany between September 10 and 14, 2023 with the above title.  
The choice of topic was justified by the global and regional challenges in almost all areas of economic and social life. The dramatic events of recent years have shown that, in addition to the structural changes taking place in farms, agriculture is also exposed to other international influences (e.g. war). In addition, the acceleration of climate change and, as a result, the availability of natural resources require a new type of environmental awareness. The need for safe food production and the availability of agricultural raw materials has shown consumers the “systemic importance” of the agri-food industry. Society’s expectations regarding the preservation of resources in local and regional value chains, the maintenance/improvement of animal welfare, and sales through the short supply chain (SSC) have continued to grow. As a result, people working in agriculture also want access to need-oriented education and advisory services.

The conference sought answers to the topics raised above within the framework of Saxony. 25 years have passed since the last IALB conference in Saxony, so it is possible to measure the changes and the specific development that have taken place over time. At the conference, it was established that during this period education and advisory services themselves underwent a profound change. This change was promoted by the Saxon State Office for Environment, Agriculture and Geology directly, by supporting interdisciplinary knowledge transfer.  
On the first day of the conference, the AKIS workshop held a discussion entitled “Strengthening the role of advisors in supporting innovation, improving the flow of knowledge, and building collaborations within the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS)”.
Agriculture and forestry face major challenges that require a transition to more sustainable, “climate-friendly” and resilient systems. An effective AKIS is key to addressing these challenges and successfully implementing the CAP and achieving the visionary goals of the European Green Deal.

Advisors will play a crucial role in the AKIS by connecting farmers with other stakeholders and supporting grassroots innovation and the overall modernization of the sector. The workshop presented a series of practical case studies from across Europe that illustrated the more effective integration of advisors into the AKIS. A further aim of the workshop was to provide a platform for advisors and other AKIS actors to map the expected new role of advisors in innovation support services. It provided the participants the opportunity to learn about tools and methods for promoting interactive innovation and co-creation. The workshop analysed the results of the AKIS-relevant Horizon projects, particularly i2connect and modernAKIS, as well as ATTRACTISS.

In parallel with the meeting, the posters related to product or service innovation from Europe were exhibited in the poster section, including posters from NAK, ÖMKI, SZIE,Mofa ,KGZS, IPS and SEASN .

During the site visit of the conference, the Fachschulzentrum Freiberg-Zug Education and Training Center in Saxony was presented. Since 1877, the Center has been an important and recognized educational location for agricultural professions. It is an important and recognized educational centre that specializes in vocational training for business economists and home economics managers. All further training programs provide students with free state vocational qualifications, known and recognized throughout Europe. At the school, specialist knowledge is imparted to the students in a practice-oriented manner. In addition to obtaining vocational instructor qualifications, it is also possible to obtain an advanced vocational school diploma.

The conference also offered an opportunity for so-called cross-visits, provided among others by Agraset Agrargenossenschaft eG Naundorf (Rochlitz). With more than 5,000 hectares of agricultural land, Agraset is one of the largest cooperatives in Saxony. Agraset as a whole (cooperative and 4 subsidiaries) is a versatile, sustainably economic organization that is open to social and regional developments and has strong support in the region.

During the visit, animal welfare-oriented stables (dairy cattle, pigs), the close relationship between producers and consumers, multiple crop rotations aimed at preserving soil fertility, potato production and distribution concepts, as well as modern human resource management, education and training experiences were presented and shared with interested parties.  https://www.agraset.de/

You can find out more about the activities of advisory organizations by clicking on the link:
International Academy of Rural Advisory Services (IALB), 
European Forum for Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services (EUFRAS)
NAK’s poster theme is available HERE, and ÖMKI’s poster theme is available HERE

Ágnes Jakab, Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture (NAK), Hungary