Last May, UF Agroecology organized the first Agroecology International Symposium (link here), welcoming, amongst other institutions, a representative from Agrocampus Ouest Rennes, a French engineering school of agronomy (link here). Early in the discussion it appeared that Agrocampus Ouest and UF Agroecology had a lot in common, prompting the idea of a deeper collaboration between the two institutions.
To explore further this possibility, Diane Rowland director of UF Agroecology and Romain Gloaguen, coordinator of the program went to France a few weeks ago to visit faculty and administration at Agrocampus Ouest. They got the chance to visit several research installations at the INRA research farm. One of the trials was a long term experiment looking at organic matter content and gaz exchange at the soil level using automated hermetic chambers. They were also shown the cattle farm and a new rotating milking robot at the dairy farm.
The next day they visited an organic farm near Rennes, which integrated multiple productions: dairy cows, pigs, horticultural crops, row crops and a bakery. The farmer was very aware of the challenges agriculture is facing, and understood the value of diversifying his production and switching to agroecological management practices. He also has a small shop on site, where he can sell directly his products to customers. “It was very interesting to see a concrete example of a successful farm using agroecology principles. The farmer was very upfront about the fact that he still had difficulties to overcome, but that diversifying his production helped him gain stability” observed Romain Gloaguen.
These few days of visit reinforced the feeling that UF Agroecology and Agrocampus Ouest had a lot in common in their approaches of Agroecology. The decision was taken to try and develop a dual degree program between the two schools. Indeed, Agrocampus recently launched an “Agroecology semester” all in English, which would be a great fit for UF students. Discussions are now directed towards initiating this project, and hopefully launch it in a near future! In the meantime, both institutions are encouraging their respective faculty to seek research synergies between the two schools.
After such a successful trip, UF Agroecology is looking forward to collaborating further with Agrocampus Ouest !