Food Legumes Project INCREASE Comes Together in Italy for Annual Meeting

In mid-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 everyone to get in touch with legumes – in some cases, quite literally by sticking a hand in a bag of lentils, chickpeas or beans. A range of scientific posters, products and legume-based art completed the exhibition.

The meeting started off with the public opening event “Agrobiodiversity for sustainable and healthy diets”. During his opening talk, Prof. Roberto Papa (coordinator of the INCREASE consortium) launched an innovative proposal on the basis of the first results of INCREASE of developing a decentralised system of conservation of plant genetic resources. Members of leading representatives of Italian and international institutions such as the European Commission and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation 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 on the INCREASE YouTube channel.

During the four-day meeting, partners had ample time to discuss the progress and developments in the seven INCREASE work packages. The participation of the INCREASE Stakeholder Consortium and the Advisory Board provided valuable insights throughout. The Advisory Board Chair Susan R. McCouch (Cornell University and DivSeek International Network) congratulated the consortium on the results achieved and for the vision of a decentralised conservation of plant genetic resources that was further developed thanks to the outstanding outreach of the INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment and the project’s stakeholder engagement.

A public citizen science event “Pizza & Birra with Food Legumes” rounded off the annual meeting by inviting citizens from Ancona and beyond to try different innovative specialities based on legumes, such as pizza and beer made of lentils or ice cream made of chickpeas. They shared their feedback on the taste and other aspects of the products in form of questionnaires.

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.

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