Large amounts of biomass, especially manure, are produced in Finland annually. Biomasses are rich in nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. These valuable nutrients should be separated from the biomass and recycled, instead of letting them wash into waterways where they cause eutrophication. Biomasses can be turned into biogas, and their nutrients utilised as raw material for fertilizers.

Nutrient cycling has been one of the Finnish government’s key projects. Progress has been made, and new innovations and businesses have been developed. However, decision-making processes do not adequately take into account the regional differences in the amounts and types of biomasses produced. As a result, Finnish biomasses still contain a lot of unused potential.

Baltic Sea Action Group, together with Finnish Biogas Association and Finnish Association for Biological Waste Treatment, has written a joint statement concerning the sustainable and efficient use of nutrient-rich biomasses. The goal is to get regional differences in biomass accumulation addressed in the upcoming government programme. Cooperation between decision-makers and officials from different sectors should also be increased.

”Manure and other nutrient-rich biomasses are not waste, but valuable raw materials. Economically viable nowaste-solutions have already been developed and put to use in other countries, processing manure into energy and fertilizers. This can also be achieved in Finland with methodical planning, proper decision-making and concrete action”, says BSAG’s Project Director Riku Venhola.


BSAG’s work towards sustainable agriculture began ten years ago with the JÄRKI project and we are happy to announce that the work will continue in the future. The two main financiers of JÄRKI project, Louise and Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation and Sophie von Julin Foundation have decided to continue the financing over the years 2019–2023. The future work of BSAG’s sustainable agriculture leans on JÄRKI activities and Carbon Action pilot. During the first ten years (2009–2018) of JÄRKI, BSAG and The Nature and Game Management Trust Finland have managed the project together. From 2019 onwards, it will be purely a BSAG project. However, the close cooperation with The Nature and Game Management Trust Finland will continue.

Sustainable agriculture requires the consideration of ecological, economic and social aspects. The aspects are all connected to each other forming a basis for the production of quality food, a clean environment, income and wellbeing. Soil management is the core of BSAG’s work towards sustainable agriculture. Healthy soils provide bigger yields, carbon sequestration from atmosphere to soils, functional water economy and adaption to climate change. In addition, sustainable soil management increases biodiversity both under and above the ground. Finally, healthy soils hold nutrients and soil particles in the field, preventing them from leaching into the waterways and the Baltic Sea.

JÄRKI and Carbon Action projects are based on the cooperation with farmers. Without the cooperation, it would be impossible to find viable solutions and action models for farmers to implement. Carbon Action involves another key element: high-quality scientific research, coordinated by Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Photo Eija Hagelberg
Photo Eija Hagelberg

BSAG has long experience of cooperating with administration, politicians and companies. In the spring 2019 a novel form of cooperation with Valio will be launched: the producers of Valio dairy cooperative will be trained as carbon farmers.  In addition, the cooperation will go on with advisors and other agri-environmental and agricultural projects. Totally new and fresh openings are more than welcome!

During the next five-year period, BSAG’s work for sustainable agriculture will include, for instance, training carbon farmers and widening the network of carbon farmers.  BSAG’s approach to sustainable agriculture is holistic, including not just environmental aspects, but also economic and social ones. New innovations and information will be disseminated to all Finnish farmers.

The agenda of BSAG’s agricultural work, includes influencing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2021–2027. The CAP will affect farmers’ decision making and it’s therefore crucial that the measures in the next agricultural finance program are sustainable in all ways and easy to implement on farms.

In addition to the financing mentioned above, we are happy to announce that Carbon Action has received financing from Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation for the detailed education of the first hundred carbon farmers. In addition, MTK foundation has decided to support the analyzing of soil samples of a hundred carbon farmers, which is also as part of Carbon Action pilot project. The start-up financing of Carbon Action, provided by Sitra, will continue partly in 2019.

 

For more information:

Project Director Eija Hagelberg

Baltic Sea Action Group

Tel. +358 500 609 526

eija.hagelberg@bsag.fi


Malting company Viking Malt has renewed their commitment to BSAG. Viking Malt is the largest malting company in the Baltic Sea Area, with production plants in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and Poland. The cultivation area of malting barley adds up to about 2 600 km2, and as such, Viking Malt has a big opportunity to positively impact the Baltic Sea through sustainable farming.

In Viking Malt’s previous commitment, a supplier audit system was introduced in Finland, to encourage and help farmers and suppliers to further improve their cultivation methods from environmental point of view. In the renewed commitment, the audit system will be introduced also to Lithuania and Poland, where Viking Malt has strong contract farming positions.

“With the very skilled supplier base of farmers we have in Viking Malt and their commitment to lowering unnecessary use of pesticides and fertilizer we do believe we are contributing to the increase of the quality and productivity of locally grown malting barley, which is in line with our clients demand for sustainable production”, says Group Sourcing & Procurement Manager Jacob Andersen.

“We are especially glad about the new commitment’s internationality. The Baltic Sea has a large and heavily populated catchment area, and it is important to get all surrounding countries to join forces in saving the sea”, says BSAG’s Senior Advisor Riku Venhola.

During the new three-year commitment, Viking Malt will also examine possibilities to participate in the Carbon Action pilot project. Carbon Action is a joint project between BSAG and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and it studies soil’s capacity to sequester and store carbon from the atmosphere.


SATs sparked lively conversation as BSAG travelled to Brussels to convey the message about reduction of ammonia emissions from agriculture to policymakers and other key stakeholders on the EU level.

On November 26th, BSAG organised a seminar on the potential of slurry acidification to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture. The seminar, held at the Copa-Cogeca Secretariat, was attended by stakeholders in EU organs, national farmers’ unions representatives in Brussels, environmental organisations, researchers, and industry. The programme gave the audience an introduction to ammonia emissions and policy and covered a variety of different perspectives on slurry acidification.

Ammonia emissions transform into nitrogen, which, through atmospheric deposition, ends up in the Baltic Sea and other waters, causing eutrophication. Almost all ammonia emissions in the Baltic Sea Region come from agriculture and they can be reduced using slurry acidification techniques, also known as SATs. BSAG is one of the 17 partners of the Baltic Slurry Acidification project, aimed at reducing ammonia-nitrogen emissions through the adoption of SATs. BSAG is responsible for the communication of the project.

Susanne Lindahl, from the Clean Air unit of DG Environment of the European Commission, spoke about ammonia emissions and EU Clean Air Policy. Ms Lindahl compared the 400 000 annual premature deaths caused by air pollution to the wiping out of the city of Tallinn, each year. She also remarked that the reduction targets for ammonia are in fact quite modest in comparison to other pollutants included in the NEC directive, yet it seems that the countries won’t be reaching the targets set for 2020 and 2030.

Ms Lindahl pointed out that large farms are responsible for almost 80% of ammonia emissions from agriculture. Targeting the emissions of these farms would therefore be reasonable from an environmental perspective, and since SAT investments pay off when slurry quantities are quite large it also creates potential for economically viable activity – a clear win-win situation.

Commenting on slurry acidification Ms Lindahl stressed the precautionary principle and expressed concern about possible unintended effects of SATs further down the line. She, however, concluded that when used right SATs can be a useful part of the toolkit employed in the abatement of ammonia emissions. The presentations following Ms Lindahl’s demonstrated the long-term research and two-decade long practical experience of using SATs.

Baltic Slurry Acidification project leader Erik Sindhöj took the issue from the EU level to the Baltic Sea region and from policy to the actual techniques. Mr Sindhöj presented the principles of slurry acidification, the three different types of techniques and the project activities. In a retrospective presentation of research related to acidification of slurry professor Sven Gjedde Sommer from Aarhus University presented the significant potential of SATs to reduce ammonia emissions. He also pointed out that slurry acidification also reduces the formation of greenhouse gases significantly.

As Ms Lindahl remarked, ammonia emissions are very sector specific meaning that reducing emissions is largely the responsibility of the farming sector and the subject can be quite touchy. Therefore, Baltic Slurry Acidification aims at working in good cooperation with farmer communities in the Baltic Sea Region. This is the way BSAG operates in all projects related to agriculture. BSAG participates in the promotion of SATs because they’re quite an economic way of significantly reducing emissions, especially on large farm where slurry amounts – and emissions – are large. In Denmark, where SATs have been used for over a decade, slurry acidification is often provided as a contractor service. Mathias Tillback, from the agricultural contractor company Br Göransson, gave insights into the experience of implementing slurry acidification. Br Göransson has introduced slurry acidification services into an entirely new market with challenging conditions since the economy of farms tend to be strained. Personal interest in new technologies and concerns for the environment tend to be what drives farmers to try out the slurry acidification services despite the economic challenges. For the abating of ammonia emissions to take off new policies are needed.

Henning Lyngsø Foged from Organe Institute, also a project partner, gave an overview of the policies related to SAT implementation in different Baltic Sea region countries and pointed out specific regulations that can support or prevent implementation. Mr Foged also presented potential environmental and economic benefits slurry acidification could have on the environment and the economy of the Baltic Sea region if the whole potential of slurry acidification could be fulfilled.

The seminar participants gave their input throughout the afternoon and all presentations were lively discussed. The contributions made for a fruitful and interesting dialog. During the seminar a film produced by Baltic Slurry Acidification and BSAG was launched. The film functions as a popularized introduction to ammonia emissions and SATs.


Breakthrough for nutrient cycling business ecosystem (RaKi Ecosystem) was started back in 2016 to advance BSAG´s goals for achieving a good ecological balance of the Baltic Sea. Business Finland (BF, former Tekes) funded RaKi Ecosystem for almost two and a half years until last summer when the official funding ended. Even though the funding from BF ended, BSAG´s work with nutrient cycling continues. BSAG will continue to work with the former ecosystem projects, search for new nutrient cycling related Commitments and work with several different nutrient cycling related projects.

In a nutshell RaKi Ecosystem was a symbiotic partnership network created to coordinate companies related to nutrient recycling and create joint effort towards sustainable and competitive business models in nutrient management. Over 50 organizations were part of the ecosystem which gave the ecosystem diversity needed for creating innovations, new alliances and competitive concepts. RaKi Ecosystem main goals have been to prevent nutrient leakages into the Baltic Sea by creating new business opportunities and increasing the value of nutrient related business.

RaKi Ecosystem business areas
RaKi Ecosystem concentrated on four business areas with a solid linkage to nutrients

Based on the positive reaction from the field RaKi Ecosystem succeeded in its work. Ecosystem was advancing almost twenty company driven business projects (i.e. Bihii, Tracegrow, HSY, VTT, Noireco, Soilfood, Axolot, UPM-Kymmene) related to nutrient cycling and many of these projects have moved towards profitable nutrient cycling related business concepts. In addition to company driven projects new business concepts have been created regionally in the Punkalaidun, Lapinjärvi and Åland Islands area. By using regional operating models, even small operators can form functional entities around nutrient recycling by creating added value for themselves and the surrounding society.

One of the most important roles of the ecosystem has been to bring actors in the industry together and enable effective networking. RaKi Ecosystem frequently organized networking events during the operating period. Additionally, RaKi Ecosystem concerned especially on communications. Internal communications played an essential role in creating cohesion and information exchange. External communications on the other hand enabled ecosystem participants to act on the field with better credibility.


The Baltic Sea will be a prominent theme in the Helsinki International Boat Show next February. BSAG collaborates with the Boat Show, as Boat Show will support BSAG’s work and raise the issue of cleaner Baltic Sea in its program. People attending the Boat Show can choose to by a special Baltic Sea ticket that donates part of the sales to BSAG.

The Baltic Sea is badly eutrophied, and there are large oxygen-depleted areas at its bottom. Cyanobacterial blooms (also called blue-green algae) covered large areas of the sea’s surface again last summer, causing worry to boaters, swimmers and other people spending time on the sea.

”The Helsinki International Boat Show is a natural collaborator for BSAG, as boaters no doubt have a special appreciation for cleaner Baltic Sea. The sea is shared by us all, and we can also save it if we work together. Our goal is that future generations of boaters can enjoy the uniqueness of the Baltic Sea”, says BSAG’s Managing Director Johan Schmidt.

Helsinki International Boat Show is aimed at boaters, fishers, and watersport enthusiasts. It is held on 8-17 February 2019 in Messukeskus, Helsinki.


Baltic Sea Action Group, together with MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE) and MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP), organized a breakfast seminar in the European Parliament on November 27th. The seminar focused on soil’s capacity to mitigate climate change and reduce nutrient loads that cause eutrophication, and healthy soil’s importance in ensuring food security. Nutrient cycling was presented as an important way to improve soil quality and maintain good soil health.

BSAG’s Content Director Laura Höijer introduced the participants to the seminar’s main subject, soil. She illustrated the multiple benefits provided by healthy soil, and the cooperation between different actors. Jari Liski, research professor from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and research coordinator for the Carbon Action pilot project presented arable land’s capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon, and the ongoing research to verify carbon sequestration and storage scientifically. Carbon farmer and Carbon Action steering group member Juuso Joona told about practical work done in the fields.

Carbon farmer Juuso Joona tells about practical work done in the fields.

An important viewpoint in the event was the European Union’s opportunities to advance carbon farming and to expand soil carbon storage through agricultural policies and climate policies. Policy expert Nicola di Virgilio from the European Commission’s agricultural department, and policy expert Josiane Masson from the Commission’s environmental department represented the Commission’s viewpoint, and also provided comments for the other speakers.

The seminar’s hostesses Jäätteenmäki and Pietikäinen also acted as chairpersons of the event. In her opening statement Jäätteenmäki emphasized that the future of humankind depends on our ability to take care of the soil. Pietikäinen highlighted the importance of systemic and holistic thinking to help us ask the right questions. In the seminar’s closing discussion, scientifically proving the soil’s capacity to store carbon was seen as central in order to bring about systemic change. This is why research done by the Carbon Action project, as well as close collaboration with carbon farmers, were seen as holding international significance.

Jari Liski from Finnish Meteorological Institute talks about soil carbon storage.

The breakfast seminar was part of BSAG’s Course to save our soils, which informes decision makers about the importance of healthy soil. It is funded by the Finnish government’s key project funds.


eQ Asset Management and Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) have launched a cooperation enabling Baltic Sea protection combined with fund investing. eQ will directly channel 85% of the management fee from investments in the BSAG series of Mutual Fund eQ Blue Planet to fund the Baltic Sea protection activities of BSAG.

An investor can choose BSAG series with an annual management fee of 1.75% p.a. upon subscription in eQ Blue Planet fund. A BSAG series investor pays 0.25% more in annual management fees compared with the standard Blue Planet series fees of 1.5%. This additional annual management fee expense goes directly to BSAG. Furthermore, eQ will pay 1.25% of its management fee to BSAG, which multiplies the donation given by the investor in this series by six times. By investing 10,000 euros in the eQ Blue Planet BSAG series, the investor pays an extra 25 euros annually in management fees, but BSAG will get 150 euros in total directly to support the future of The Baltic Sea and our planet.

BSAG and eQ believe in innovative solutions in combating environmental challenges and aim for leadership in protecting our vital environment. The financial model created in cooperation with eQ is an example of such an open-minded initiative – a fund investment simultaneously becomes an investment in a good cause benefiting all. For BSAG, this opens two alternatives for supporters of BSAG, invest or donate.

”Collaboration with eQ is a new way to get people involved in saving the Baltic Sea, and also serves as an example of BSAG’s operations model. An open-minded attitude towards new initiatives, as well as cooperation between a wide variety of actors speeds up the work for our slowly recovering sea”, says BSAG’s Managing Director Johan Schmidt.

“Out of the wide range of eQ’s mutual funds, eQ Blue Planet fits thematically very well with the cooperation between eQ and BSAG – Blue Planet is a sustainable technology fund”, tells Mikko Koskimies, the Managing Director of eQ Asset Management Ltd. eQ Blue Planet invests globally in stocks of companies strategically positioned to improve the sustainability of the usage of critical natural resources. “The fund suits environmentally minded investors aiming to participate in the development of data usage, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) by investing in the leaders of technological transformations making our planet smarter in combating climate change”, says Koskimies.


Baltic Sea Action Group will start collaborating with the dairy company Valio to mitigate climate change. In spring 2019, BSAG and Valio will begin training dairy farmers to become so-called carbon farmers: the farmers can learn new ways to sequester carbon in the soil and can share the good cultivation practices already in use. The cooperation is part of Valio’s more extensive project portfolio the food company has in its effort towards a carbon-neutral milk chain.

Climate change and population growth pose a significant challenge to the world’s food production. There is a need to produce more food, yet simultaneously the environmental impacts of food production must be significantly reduced. Merely reducing emissions is not enough to stop the rise in average global temperatures; we must also eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

– Carbon is transferred into the soil by photosynthesis and, depending on the condition and functioning of the soil, it is either quickly recirculated or stored in the soil in permanent forms. That is why farmers who take care of soil condition hold one set of keys to climate change, emphasises Saara Kankaanrinta, Chair of BSAG’s Board of Directors.

– Overly one-sided farming practices have, in places, weakened field conditions and their ability to sequester carbon. Crop rotation, high grass species diversity, and maintaining a year-round grass cover are examples of ways that farmers can promote the sequestering of carbon into the soil. Porous soil is also good at holding nutrients and prevents their run-off into water systems. That is why environmental work and protecting the Baltic Sea go hand in hand, Kankaanrinta says.

The BSAG, Finnish Meteorological Institute, and Sitra’s Carbon Action project has involved 100 Finnish farms in testing practical carbon farming over the past year. Valio’s dairy farms have also been included. In spring 2019, Valio and BSAG will together launch training teams tailored specifically for Valio farms. During the next two years, 200 farms will have the opportunity to learn carbon farming. Ambitious scientific research will be conducted alongside the practical work.

– The collaboration with BSAG is great, because we will be able to give tested cultivation methods to our farms as soon as next spring. A big number of our milk producers want to solve environmental problems and at the same time improve the profitability of farms. It’s our job to provide them with knowledge and support quickly. Valio’s long-term goal is a carbon-neutral milk chain, meaning that the carbon footprint of our products is zero, says Valio’s Juha Nousiainen, SVP for Primary Production and Milk Procurement.

– As a big and influential player, Valio can accelerate the change and encourage farms to cultivate carbon. The example a big player sets obviously influences in other ways and is something that also consumers pay attention to. We are very pleased with the launch of the collaboration, Saara Kankaanrinta notes.

Valio is owned by 5,300 dairy farms through its co-operatives, and it produces 80 percent of Finland’s milk.

– We are committed to training all Valio dairy farms in carbon farming by 2035. Environmental action groups play an important role in pushing companies: the best outcome is all of us learning from each other, says Anu Kaukovirta-Norja, SVP, Research and Technology, Valio.


Baltic Sea Action Group is organizing a breakfast seminar in EU parliament on 27th November in co-operation with MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE) and MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP). The theme of the breakfast seminar is to discuss and learn about the importance of healthy soil in mitigating climate change, securing clean water and building resilience in food production.

During the seminar, the ability of soils to store carbon will be explained with fresh examples from research and actual agricultural fields. The discussion aims at introducing ways to enhance the adaptation of scientifically proven soil health building and carbon storing practices in the EU-level.

The speakers are:

Anneli Jäätteenmäki, MEP, ALDE

Sirpa Pietikäinen, MEP, EPP

Josiane Masson, Policy Officer on soils, European Commission, DG Environment

Nicola Di Virgilio, Policy Analyst, European Commission, DG Agriculture and Rural Development

Jari Liski, Research Professor, Finnish meteorological institute

Laura Höijer, Content Director, Baltic Sea Action Group

Juuso Joona, Regenerative Farmer, Tyynelän tila

 

Please register here: https://e.eventos.fi/events/bsag/breakfast-seminar-how-to-save-our-soils-while-mitigating-climate-change- 

For more information, please contact: pieta.jarva@bsag.fi


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