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European Award for Co-operative innovation

Four Irish co-operatives are among 18 finalists shortlisted from a competitive field of leading co-operatives from across the European Union, in the European Awards for Co-operative Innovation, it was announced today.

Organised only every three years by COGECA, the European Association of Agri-Cooperatives, the awards are considered the ‘Oscars’ for innovation in co-operative industries, marking outstanding innovation and excellence in the agri-food, fishery and forestry sectors.

The Irish Co-operative organisations shortlisted are Dairygold, FRS Network, Glanbia and the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. The theme of this year’s award is focused on sustainability-driven innovation including the creation of new products and services, markets, processes and business models driven by economic, social or environmental objectives.

Dairygold is shortlisted for its Sustainability Bonus Payment, in the “Economic Value Creation – Support to Farmer Members” Category. The focus of this initiative is improving herd health and increasing herd productivity through the promotion and facilitation of milk recording among farmers and encouraging their participation in a herd health programme. Combined, these actions help to reduce milk suppliers’ usage of antibiotics, avoiding the risk of antimicrobial resistance and reducing veterinary costs as well as resulting in increased milk yields and quality. This has in turn seen a 5.5% reduction of Carbon Emissions per litre of milk produced by participating herds.

FRS Network is a finalist for its Member Benefit Scheme, in the “Social Value Creation” Category. The FRS scheme offers subsidised skilled labour in the event of an accident or sickness of the main family farm operator, providing protection to ensure that their business can continue to operate effectively in any such event.

Glanbia has been shortlisted for its Twenty20 Beef Club, again in the “Economic Value Creation – Support to Farmer Members” Category. This is an innovative model of dairy calf-to-beef production, which combines a guaranteed market and premium pricing, with a technical support programme and advanced payment options to assist farmers with cash flow. The initiative is designed to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy and beef production, and is delivering with a combined reduction in the order of 20%, as well as ensuring the highest quality animal welfare standards.

The National Federation of Group Water Schemes, was named as a finalist for their Source Protection Pilot Project, in the Category of “Environment Value Creation – Natural Resources and Biodiversity”. The project involves the examination of water quality and impacting factors. It works with farmers and the wider public to raise awareness of source protection and the impact of pesticides both on water and biodiversity. Through this initiative, farmers are embracing weed-wiping in an effort to reduce the use of pesticides; farming families have installed beehives; and various education and awareness initiatives have captured public imagination with school children and community groups planting over 8,500 trees and installing bee hotels.

Jerry Long, President of ICOS said, “Innovative strategies and programmes help to foster sustainability and viability which is essential in dealing with the challenges and opportunities facing co-operatives today and into the future. To have four Irish co-operatives shortlisted for these flagship awards, among the top co-operatives from across Europe, highlights the quality of Irish co-operative innovation and delivery in the interests of their members. We are very proud to showcase the added value generated by co-operatives in this way. The initiatives also highlight the concrete investments that are being made by co-operatives and their prioritisation of environmental, climate and animal welfare considerations, all of which are key pillars of our future sustainability.”

The winners of the awards will be selected by a panel including European Parliament Agriculture Committee Chairman Norbert Lins and Maria Angeles Benitez Salas, Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate for Agriculture and Rural Development, and will be announced in early summer.

Cogeca represents 22,000 European co-operatives and their 7 million farmer members.