Reflections on Explorations #05 The manure economy

Specialists from agricultural economics, farming, innovation and sustainable environmental development met with eco-social designers on June 1, 2019 (the first sunny day!) to discuss the state of the art of the “Manure Economy” in South Tyrol as a means to develop new ideas. The results? A unique collective mapping of the Milk Economy showing its relationship to the Manure Economy that reveals the latter economy is underexploited and its networks underdeveloped. From these realisations the participants were able to develop two innovative concepts, rooted in the territory, to utilise the manure by levering local resources and potentialities.

To open the workshop several experts – Dr. Walter Huber, President, h2-southtyrol for Biogas Wipptal; Thomas Prünster and Christian Plitzner, BRING; Wilhelm Haller, Südtiroler Bauernbund; and farmer Andreas Stockner of Schnagerer Hof, Brixen – gave their perspectives around manure practices and uses in South Tyrol. This was followed by a talk by Prof. Alastair Fuad-Luke exploring links between milk production and manure production in South Tyrol from a design perspective. Local designer Martina Dandolo and Prof. Fuad-Luke then facilitated a mapping session, using a Multi-level Perspective (MLP) analysis tool for the visualization of information and knowledge about the economy of milk and manure. Key local, regional and supra-regional actors and stakeholders were identified then assigned to the micro, meso or macro levels of the MLP diagram. They were further organized into primary and secondary producers and consumers, institutions and privileged observers. Discussion ensued about the maps generated.

In the afternoon time was dedicated to brainstorming and scoping concepts that could be developed to exploit the manure better as a valuable resource. Participants switched between the two groups to nourish the process. Two exciting concepts were born.

The first concerns a  service offered by a social enterprise that collects and transforms the raw manure materials into a product with standardised characteristics for the nursery, gardening and horticulture market. Inspired by the circular economy, the activity also benefits tourism, the conservation of biodiversity and soil, and water management.

The second concept, inspired by the Museo delle Merda (Shit Museum) in Piacenza Province, proposes a distributed, experiential museum that could be hosted on different farms and/or be a travelling museum around the territory of South Tyrol. The museum is dedicated to the biological processes of the living world and its transformations. It connects in a new form the world of the visitor with the world of the farmer.

As always, the informal and pleasant context of a semi-rural and convivial place (Bistro Wiesl) where the workshop was held, fostered brainstorming, exchange of knowledge, the building of fruitful relationships, analytical approaches from different perspectives and collective creativity.

Muu-baa will probably host a follow-up workshop on the Manure Economy in autumn 2019 to further develop the concepts and to enable others to contribute their voices and expertise.