July 1 - 3, 2013 - University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture, Croatia
Rural areas in Europe and specifically the Danube region are under more and more pressure. Young people try to leave and gather in cities and their vicinity in the hope of better employment chances. The rural areas urgently need economic chances for development. One of the opportunities could be the implementation of the bio-based economy. The value of biomass is steadily increasing – not only food supply but energy and raw materials for industrial production are needed.
The aim of the 4th CASEE Conference 2013 was to discuss the potentials and options of biomass and food production in the Danube region, aiming at new concepts and technologies; Agricultural intensification alone cannot be the solution. Preserving soil and water resources and their sustainable use is one of the great challenges when increasing biomass production.
The conference was hosted by the University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture, one of the oldest and biggest universities in South-Eastern Europe. The Faculty of Agriculture is the leading higher education and science institution in the field of agriculture and related sciences in the Republic of Croatia. Thanks to the special conference date all participants had the opportunity to welcome Croatia as a new member of the European Union and to take part in the celebrations.
Nearly 110 participants from 10 countries (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Serbia) registered for the conference, including rectors, vice-rectors and deans from the most relevant Universities of Life Sciences in the Danube region.
The opening ceremony was chaired by the host rector, Prof. Aleksa Bjelis, and by Prof. Martin Gerzabek, the President of CASEE and Rector of BOKU, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Prof. Davor Romic, the conference chair of the Faculty of Agriculture, Dean Prof. Tajana Kricka and Dean prof. Milan Oršanić from the Faculty of Forestry, started the row of high level welcome addresses and were then followed by:
prof. Ružica Beljo Lučić, Ministry of Science, Education and Sport
Hrvoje Dokoza, Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection (tbc)
Simon B Heath, ICA Secretary General.
The first keynote speech of Dr. Erhard Busek, chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM) and former Austrian vice-chancellor, gave a general overview on the historical development of the Danube region. He underlined the importance of scientific projects in this region and congratulated Croatia on its EU-membership.
The second part of the morning session offered a more scientific approach: Prof. Gerhard Glatzel (BOKU, Vienna) focused on “Biofuels from forests – chances and constraints”, Dr. Luca Montanarella (European Commission, DG JRC) elaborated on „Challenges of soil protection in Europe and the Mediterranean region“ and Prof. Ramona Franic (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb) gave insight at a local level: „Food production and rural development – Croatian perspective within European context“
On July 1 and 2 a total number of 25 oral presentations, divided into 3 thematic workshops were held:
• The workshop "Soil protection and the Danubean perspectives" was chaired by Walter Wenzel (BOKU, Vienna) and Pavel Tlustos (CULS, Prague)
• The workshop "Food and biomass production - a challenge and chance for rural development" was chaired by Marijan Susnjar (University of Zagreb) and Carmen Socaciu (USAMV Cluj-Napoca)
• The workshop “Agriculture, water use and protection in the Danube region“ was chaired by Milan Mesic (University of Zagreb) and Davor Romic
In two other workshops CASEE members deepened their collaboration within the network:
• In the workshop on Education, chaired by Barbara Hinterstoisser (BOKU, Vienna), the final concept of the joint master programme “Sustainability in Agriculture, Food Technology and Production in the Danube Region” (Danube Agri-Food Master) was decided so that the agreement between the CASEE partner universities could be signed during the final session.
• A meeting of the CASEE experimental research station coordinators, chaired by Herbert Weingartmann (BOKU, Vienna) offered new opportunities for further collaboration.
In addition to the workshops, PhD students presented posters with their research outcomes in a guided poster tour.
The full scientific programme was combined with a number of very attractive social events:
on Sunday evening the participants of the conference attended the Welcome reception at the University which was organized as part of the celebrations of Croatian entry into the European Union. After the reception, guests joined the welcome celebration on the main square. Monday morning was reserved for a traditional Croatian dinner at a family farm and restaurant near Zagreb and on Wednesday an excursion to the north-western part of Croatia was organized. The first point on the excursion was the city of Varaždin and one of the biggest Croatian food companies: Vindija group. The excursion group was one of the first groups ever to be allowed entry into one of the most modern milk processing facilities in Europe, and a visit to the meat industry Koka, all owned by Vindija. After the visits to the facilities, the excursion group was welcomed by the owner, founder and CEO of Vindija – Dragutin Drk. After the presentation of the Vindija business group, guests had a chance to taste some great Vindija products.
From Vindija, the excursion continued to Varkom d.d., a company which manages water supply and waste management in the city of Varaždin, and northern Croatia.
After the welcome addresses by the directors and representatives of Hrvatske vode, the public entity for water management in Croatia, some short presentations of Varkom and Hrvatske vode were organized.
After the presentations, the participants enjoyed traditional Croatian food and music in great ambient surroundings.
From city of Varaždin, the excursion finished in the town of Krapina with a visit to the modern museum Kraneamus – a museum of Krapina Neanderthal, one of the oldest Neanderthal findings in the world.
The accompanying persons programme consisted of a city tour on Tuesday and visit of the Picasso exhibit.
Further information is also available on the conference site created by the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Zagreb.