Lighthouse Farms

Promoted by the University of Bologna, Coldiretti, Novamont and the Polytechnic University of Turin, the Re Soil Foundation aims to boost real change starting with soil protection and the key concept of territorial regeneration.
This ambitious goal is taking shape through the link between agriculture and research, fostering dialogue and collaboration between virtuous companies from the perspective of ecosystem services and soil management: lighthouse farms.
According to the definition given by Wageningen University Lighthouse is “an existing, commercial, real-world embedded farm that is already in 2050 in terms of its ability to provide food and ecosystem services in a sustainable manner.” Such a farm demonstrates what can be achieved by harnessing bio-physical and socio-economic solutions.
Lighthouse farms were also selected according to different types of land use: agricultural and livestock, forestry, protected areas, and urban and peri-urban soils.

Re Soil Foundation aims to monitor and communicate good agricultural, livestock and forestry practices, in favour of healthy and functional soils, practiced by virtuous farms in the network with the aim of aligning with the goals of the Soil Mission to restore the health of European soils.

With what purpose?

  • Monitor and highlight cutting-edge production realities where soil protection and functionality are at the heart of farm practices in Italy
  • Communicate the main good practices practiced by Lighthouse farms and their effect on soil functionality both within the Lighthouse farms network and to other farmers and key stakeholders
  • Promote and replicate good soil practices operated by Lighthouse Farms to other farms in the territory, actively contributing to the specific objectives identified by the European Commission’s Mission A Soil Deal for Europe, i.e., to be activators on the territories of the transition to less impactful systems
  • Implement and acquire new knowledge related to good practices, including through the participation of Lighthouse Farms in funded projects, participation in moments of technical-scientific sharing (conferences and thematic meetings) and the activation of reward systems
  • Fostering the exchange of knowledge, experiences and innovations within the Network and between the Network and the main actors involved in the all-round soil (research, production, institutions, civil society)
  • Promote the adoption of best practices monitoring and soil functionality as well as the economic, environmental and social effects of protecting healthy soil through the relationships between Network, research and civil society


According to the definition of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms, sponsored by Wageningen University, a Lighthouse Farm (LHF) is an existing, competitive, real-world integrated farm that is “already in 2050” in terms of its ability to provide food and ecosystem services in a sustainable way. Such a farm demonstrates what can be achieved by taking advantage of innovative solutions that can generate positive biophysical and socioeconomic impacts. Lighthouse farms are defined according to different types of land use: farms, forests, industrial areas and urban areas.

Specifically, lighthouse farms are:

  • pioneering farms where innovative models of soil and environmental protection are adopted, reducing impacts;
  • infrastructures of change in agriculture, promoted by the European Commission’s Mission “A Soil Deal for Europe”;
  • the laboratories on the ground where innovative techniques developed by the Research infrastructures (The Living Labs) for soil and environmental protection are put into practice;
  • the meeting points and territorial hubs for stakeholder awareness;
  • production realities related to and typical of a given territorial context, which want to influence and inspire other realities and territories, leading to an overall increase in the sustainability of soil management practices;
  • promoters and implementers of research promoted by Living Labs, with whom they dialogue to apply new knowledge in the field;

The Re Soil Foundation welcomes the definition, role and purpose of LHFs as characterizing elements of the network of LHFs that will be promoted in the Italian territory.

The European Commission’s Mission A Soil Deal for Europe is one of five missions that the European Commission has launched since 2020, with the aim of solving some of the major challenges of our time: fighting cancer; adapting to climate change; healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters; smart cities; soil health and climate.
The specific goals it sets with regard to soil regeneration are:

  • reduce soil degradation: up to 50 %;
  • increase the stock of organic carbon in soils: by 0.1 to 0.4 %;
  • reduce soil pollution, i.e., particularly by eutrophication, pesticide use, anti-microbial substances, and other contaminants (by 5 to 25 %);
  • increase organic farming and food on 25 % of the area;
  • prevent erosion on 30 to 50 % of soils prone to erosion;
  • improve soil structure to improve habitat for biota and plants;
  • reduce overall footprint: 20 to 40 % on imported food and wood obtained on degraded soils;
  • align with UN SDGs, particularly those related to soil (SGD2, 6, 13 and 15);
  • promote and replicate good soil practices on their farms, actively contributing to the specific objectives identified by the European Commission’s Mission A Soil Deal for Europe, i.e., to be activators on the territories of the transition to less impactful systems;
  • implement and acquire new knowledge related to good practices, including through participation in funded projects and activation of reward systems (e.g.: carbon credits);
  • develop and incentivize soil quality monitoring activities (monitor and measure innovative practices developed to reduce impacts on soil);
  • foster the exchange of knowledge, experience and innovations at national and European levels;
  • raise awareness of soil and food quality among civil society
  • quantify the environmental and social impacts of the activities developed;

The LHFs are identified starting from a nationwide monitoring carried out by the Foundation’s members, which has made it possible to select companies/realities that are virtuous, in terms of cultivation techniques and management of the soil resource in the context of the specific territory in which they are located.
Along with these realities, spontaneous applications were also received from companies, interested in becoming LHF.
The selected companies are representative and an expression of excellence not only of the different Italian agricultural realities, but also of non-agricultural land use and protection (parks, protected areas, forest areas).
For each of the candidate farms to become LHF, a sheet was compiled summarizing the main characteristics, cultivation methods adopted, good practices activated and relations with research and the territory.
The Technical-Scientific Group (item 8) for LHFs will select LHFs from the identified virtuous farms/realities through the application of defined criteria. The list of LHFs will be submitted for approval to the Technical-Scientific Committee of the Re Soil Foundation.

The realities on the territories must meet the following 6 criteria to qualify as LHF:

  • Adoption of good agronomic practices to improve soil and environmental quality according to the objectives outlined by the Mission “A Soil Deal for Europe”
  • adoption of innovations and activation/promotion/participation in collaborative research projects with research stakeholders
  • successes achieved with quantification (cost-benefit, risk-opportunity) of the outcome of adoption of good agronomic practices and innovations
  • monitoring of good practices
  • socio-economic environmental impacts of practices and/or innovations
  • communication and awareness-raising activities related to the adoption of good practices to the territory

Key characteristics of LHFs are:

  • Strong push toward innovation and research (curiosity, relationships with research institutions, participation in projects)
  • global sustainability as a driver of land production/management
  • willingness to share and communicate results
  • aptitude for networking
  • strong relationships with the territory

The ReSoil Foundation acts as the facilitator and coordinator of the network and in particular the main activities will be:

  • promote through communication actions the LHFs and the good practices adopted by them
  • network LHFs with each other to increase comparison and exchange of knowledge on good practices and solutions adopted in different territorial contexts
  • create and foster interactions with other LHF networks present at the international level to increase exchange and comparison
  • network LHFs with private and public research actors, promoting the use of new technologies and methodologies, and contextually giving the possibility to research institutions to activate research and internships in LHFs
  • promote and foster training and technical assistance actions towards LHFs, through the links created with research centers and actors (public and private) of innovation, for the continuous improvement of LHFs themselves
  • encourage the participation of LHFs in projects funded at the regional, national and European levels

In addition, thanks to the experiences gathered from LHFs, the Re Soil Foundation aims to:

  • Propose innovative solutions for soil protection to policy makers that can help reduce the barriers that limit the adoption of such practices (policy shaping)
  • Communicate at various levels the environmental, social and economic effects of the practices adopted in LHFs, through the involvement of civil society (local communities first and foremost)

The Foundation also aims, in the Italian territory, to compile a list of experimental farms and trial fields where long-term experiments are being conducted to verify the impacts of crops, agronomic practices and anthropogenic practices on soils, with the aim of collecting, highlighting and communicating the main results obtained. These results will be able to facilitate legislators in better understanding soil impacts and risks that can be mitigated with good practices.
The Foundation will take steps to find means for economic support of experimental activities deemed a priority (if this is necessary).

The Technical-Scientific Group for LHFs is an inter- and multi-disciplinary group of experts, who, jointly can contribute to the analysis and development of innovative sustainability models for soil protection, with the objectives of:

  • select LHFs in the country and review the composition of the network every two years
  • draft scientific protocols related to the measurement of good practices adopted by LHFs
  • validate the documents produced by the network of LHFs
  • provide scientific technical support to the Foundation for technical aspects related to best practices, technical data, and existing legislation

Infrastructure for research and co-innovation through participatory and transdisciplinary mode. Various stakeholders concur in creating LLs
Scale: Regional o territorial
Activity: Research and testing of innovative solutions and their dissemination in LHs

Farm capable of producing food and ecostystem services in a sustainable way, with great attention to soil. Model and benchmark
Scale: Farm at the local level
Activities: Experimental and demonstration

Living Lab

LLs are the place of innovation; they pertain to coordinated multi-site areas of experimentation, which may be distributed regionally or spatially.
They are the place where the collaboration of different research partners operating on a regional or sub-regional scale is made explicit.
LHFs are thus the physical location, the farms of excellence for the fielding of practices aimed at soil protection. They are thus the virtuous accelerators of the innovation created in LLs.

A major goal of the Mission is to create 100 LHFs and 100 LLs as tools to guide the transition to healthy soils by 2030. Re Soil foundation is a partner in a major EU project “PREPSOIL” that aims to help the mission create a European map that identifies potential candidates to join the 100 LHFs and 100 LLs. This will be achieved through the co-creation and implementation of tools and spaces for interaction, knowledge sharing and co-
learning, as well as through inventory and dialogue to understand how regional assessment of soil needs, supported by harmonized monitoring mechanisms, can then lead to action
through Living Labs and Lighthouses for soil health.
One of PREPSOIL’s tools is to create a European map identifying potential Living Labs and Lighthouses for soil that exist in Europe. RE SOIL’s Lighthouse farms will be eligible to apply to become one of these at the European level.