The free online course is the result of a collaborative effort led by the environmental foundation Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) and the technology company Reaktor, and is based on the Carbon Action project, which was launched with support from Sitra and the Finnish Meteorological institute. The course was created in collaboration with farmers, researchers, and operators in the Finnish food chain.
Regenerative agriculture is a significant tool for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Research has shown that this approach to agriculture has multiple benefits: it increases productivity while also protecting climate, waters, and biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture enhances soil health thus improving food security and helping food production adapt to extreme weather caused by climate change.
The new online course provides 60 hours of diverse learning materials and farming practices that can be applied on the farm. The aim is to have 5,000 farmers attend the course in the first year, which is roughly 10% of Finnish farmers.
"Regenerative agriculture is a rising phenomenon around the world. Our online course makes the most up-to-date knowledge available to tens of thousands of farmers. Since online training makes large-scale implementation of the methods possible, the course has sparked widespread international interest even before the it has been officially launched," said Niko Kavenius, lead designer at Reaktor.
More carbon is stored in the soil than in the atmosphere and all vegetation combined. Climate change can be mitigated by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil through agricultural practices. If all of Finland's farms on mineral soil would succeed in sequestering carbon through regenerative agriculture, five megatons of carbon dioxide could be removed from the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions from the entire country's personal car traffic.
"Climate change is the greatest of the threats facing the Baltic Sea. We have reason to be hopeful because the same agricultural practices can mitigate both climate change and the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, while also improving the profitability of agriculture. The E-college offers all Finnish farmers an equal opportunity to improve their yield and set an example that can be copied anywhere", said Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, managing director at BSAG.
The Carbon Action project, launched in 2017 by BSAG, Sitra and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, researches and develops ways to accelerate soil carbon sequestration and verifies the results scientifically. Cutting-edge research and practical trials within food production is carried out in collaboration with farmers and companies. The E-college makes the results of the work done on 100 pilot farms available to all.
"Yields and crop security have improved since I began applying the principles of regenerative agriculture. Costs have decreased and the handling of animals has become easier with rotational grazing. It is easy to first test these methods on just a few fields," said Tuomas Näppilä, course attendee and farmer from Kestilä, Urjala.
The E-college is backed by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, agricultural producer unions, and several large operators in the Finnish food chain who have committed to ambitious sustainability targets in the production chain.
"Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to people but making sustainable choices is difficult in practice. It is important for us to train our dairy producers in order to achieve carbon neutrality in the whole milk chain in the future. This way we can offer consumers Finnish products that are produced using regenerative farming practices," said Juha Nousiainen, director of the unit carbon-neutral milk chain at Valio.
"Regenerative agriculture proves that practical solutions to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis exist. Finnish farmers can be at the frontline supporting biodiversity and sequestering carbon into soil. Sitra wants to facilitate this important work," said Mari Pantsar, director of sustainability solutions at Sitra.
In addition to Sitra, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Valio, the partnership behind the course includes ProAgria, Fazer, S Group, Atria, City of Lahti and Viking Malt. The course is also sponsored by MTK (the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners) and the SLC (the Central Union of Swedish-speaking Agricultural Producers in Finland). The course, available in Finnish and Swedish only, launched on February 9, is free of charge to all participants.