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InsuranceGrass Retreat at ETH Zurich

by Julia Kunkel

InsuranceGrass project team at the "Dozentenfoyer" of ETH Zurich

After a year of online collaboration, Birgit and Julia met with the InsuranceGrass  project team in Zurich for a two-day retreat to get to know each other and their work packages better, discuss future collaboration between work packages, and set the overall project goal. We started the programme with internal presentations to update each other on our current work.

In the afternoon we held workshops on the overall theme of our project: how to cope best with impacts of extreme events on grasslands. We started with presentations from Valentin Klaus and Sergei Schaub where we learned about slurry fertilisation as a response to drought in grassland and its impact on groundwater quality, as well as the concept of differentiating grassland farmers into net sellers and net buyers of hay and how they are differently affected by drought yield losses. With this food for thought, we then split into breakout groups to discuss the impact of drought on grassland and how this can be addressed by insurance companies and policies.

On the second morning we brainstormed how to link our work packages and what possible common outputs of the project could be. We also planned a series of webinars to involve stakeholders in our project. The afternoon was dedicated to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is a concept where a community organises and finances a farm with fixed membership fees and in return shares the farm's harvest. This concept transfers the risk of production from the farmer directly to the consumer, who pays not for specific products, but for their share of the farm's harvest.

Hanna Frick introduced us to Ortoloco, the oldest CSA farm in Switzerland. They have cows and produce some meat, but their focus is on vegetables. To find out about the specifics of grassland CSAs, we then made an excursion to the Basimilch farm. This is a CSA that only shares dairy products between its members. Here it became clear that it is much more difficult for grassland CSAs to pass on production risks to consumers, as dairy cows have to be fed even in bad weather conditions, making it difficult to respond with lower production levels that can be passed to consumers.

In addition to the professional aspects of the retreat, there was also plenty of opportunity for informal exchanges. In particular, the "Dozentenfoyer", the ETH lecturers' canteen, offers a fantastic view of Zurich and the surrounding area as far as the Alps, making it a wonderful place to relax over lunch. All in all, the retreat was professionally and personally enriching and helped to move the project forward and we are already looking forward to inviting our colleagues to Leipzig next year.

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