Optimising the global performance of agricultural holdings

Award winner
Challenge: 3rd edition of the Action for Water Resources call for projects
Awardee(s): The IRSTEA research centre in Bordeaux

© Scott Goodwill

The project aims to finalise the development of a method to qualify the global performance of agricultural holdings.

The IDEA method: qualifying the sustainability of agricultural holdings

The IDEA (as Indicateurs de Durabilité des Exploitations Agricoles, or Farm Sustainability Indicators in English) method enables farmers to measure their global performance in the three dimensions of sustainability (agro-ecological, agro-territorial and economic performance) and supports players who help farmers in their move towards a more sustainable agriculture.
Based on an approach that is both instructive and operational, the method has been developed by a group of researchers and teachers, from multi-disciplinary backgrounds, and engineers from technical institutes.

The three successive versions of the method have taken account of new knowledge and the feedback from the field on its various applications (teaching, agricultural development, local agro-environmental conservation projects, etc.). IDEA’s scientific committee finalised version 4 of the method at the beginning of 2017 (Zahm at al., 2016). The method is organised into 54 indicators: 20 agro-environmental indicators qualifying agricultural practices, 23 socio-territorial indicators and 11 economic indicators.
The IDEAv4 method supports farmers as they change their farming practices in order to protect water quality (catchment, etc.).

Discover the interview with Frédéric Zahm, an agro-economist at the IRSTEA (in French only):

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A promising and educational initiative

The project is structured around the development of two complementary tools: a methodological guide and an automatic indicator calculator that can be downloaded free of charge. This project has two goals:

  • to provide the world of agricultural training with an instructive teaching method to support training in the agro-ecological transition.
  • to help farmers as they shift towards sustainable agriculture by developing a method based on operational and accessible indicators for a more sustainable agriculture.

The winning team

The National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture  (IRSTEA) is a research organisation that has been working on the major issues of responsible farming, sustainable regional development, water management and the corresponding risks, the study of complex ecosystems and biodiversity and their interrelations with human activity for more than 30 years. IRSTEA’s research centre in Bordeaux contributes especially to the development of methods to assess, monitor and predict the quality of aquatic ecosystems.


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