INCREASE Annual Meeting 2022 - Towards the decentralised conservation of plant genetic resources: the first in-person consortium meeting was a great success
From 12-15 September, the INCREASE consortium came together in Ancona, Italy, for the very first in-person project meeting since its launch in 2020. The meeting was hosted by Università Politecnica delle Marche, the INCREASE coordinating institution, in the beautiful and historic Mole Vanvitelliana, one of Ancona’s signature buildings right at the heart of the city’s harbour. While the presentations and discussion panels were held in the main auditorium, the dedicated INCREASE team of the Università Politecnica delle Marche set up additional exhibitions and events in other spaces of the venue. During the entire meeting duration, an open exhibition and networking space in the so-called Sala Polveri invited to literally get in touch with legumes – one could stick a hand in a bag of lentils, chickpeas or beans like Amélie Poulain – and learn more about them and the INCREASE activities through a range of scientific posters, products and legume-based art.
The meeting started off with the public opening event “Agrobiodiversity for sustainable and healthy diets”. During his opening opening talk Prof. Roberto Papa (coordinator of the INCREASE consortium, Università Politecnica delle Marche) launched, on the basis of the firsts results of INCREASE, the innovative proposal of developing a decentralised system of conservation of plant genetic resources to the plant genetic resources communities and to leading representatives of Italian and international institutions such as Gisela Quaglia (European Commission), Maurizio Martina (Deputy General Director of FAO) and Marina Sereni (Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), who shared their perspectives on participatory approaches in research for plant genetic resources in Europe and beyond within a framework of international cooperation. The video recording of the event is available here on the INCREASE YouTube channel.
The morning of the second day was dedicated to the progress and developments of the seven INCREASE work packages. After the lunch break, the meeting opened up to include members of the INCREASE Stakeholder Consortium, who were invited to listen to the presentations of the second half of the day. The afternoon sessions were dedicated to scientific talks and discussions relating to the work carried out in the different work packages in the frame of INCREASE.
The third day of the meeting kicked off with a panel discussion with the INCREASE Advisory Board. The Advisory Board Chair Susan R. McCouch (Cornell University and DivSeek International Network) congratulated the consortium on the results achieved and for the vison towards the innovative concept of decentralised conservation of plant genetic resources further developed thanks to the outstanding outreach of the INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment and the project’s stakeholder engagement. It triggered first discussions about the conservation of the Intelligent Collections. After that, the meeting again opened its doors to the invited Stakeholders who joined for presentations and discussions about the INCREASE crops chickpea, lentil and lupin and other core topics of the project, such as the INCREASE web portal. The day closed with different talks on the topic of legume-related food science followed by the public citizen science event “Pizza & Birra with Food Legumes”. For this event, citizens from Ancona and beyond were invited to try different innovative specialities based on legumes, such as pizza and beer made of lentil or ice-cream made of chickpea. They shared their feedback on the taste and other aspects of the products in form of questionnaires.
The fourth day of the meeting started off with a consortium-internal workshop, during which different potential pathways for exploitation and sustainability of project results were assessed and discussed. The discussion focused on the Intelligent Collections, and how these will be conserved and shared after the end of the project. The rest of the day, again open to INCREASE Stakeholders, was dedicated to presentations and discussions around the common bean and the INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment.
After four intense days, everyone agreed that the meeting was a huge success. Hosting open spaces for exhibitions and satellite events and involving stakeholders as well as the general public, the INCREASE Annual Meeting was truly held in the participatory, open-science spirit of the project.
A particular thanks goes to everyone involved in the organisation of the event and all consortium-internal as well as external speakers who made time in their busy schedules to contribute to its success.