Outdoor Laboratory

The Global Network of Lighthouse farms is based in the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University and Research (WUR). The network functions as an outdoor classroom and laboratory, from which staff and students (PhD and MSc) can learn from and exchange with the lighthouse farms. We work together through a diversity of projects and partners from around the world.

Climate Farm Demo is a pan-European network of Pilot Demo Farmers covering 27 countries to accelerate the adoption of Climate Smart Farming practices with 65 partners across Europe. We will help develop a network of Climate Lighthouse Farms with one lighthouse farm focused on climate smart practices in each country involved in the project. This project received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation program.

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Contact: Mariana Debernardini (

2022 - 2027
Building a European Network for the Characterisation and Harmonisation of Monitoring Approaches for Research and Knowledge on Soils (BENCHMARKS) will co-develop, within 24 European Case Studies, a multi-scale and multi-user focused soil health monitoring framework that is transparent, harmonised and cost-effective. This project received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation program.

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Connecting cuban farmers to the Lighthouse network

This project brings together exemplary farms in Cuba that have found radical solutions to sustainable food production. These “lighthouse farms” are entrepreneurial initiatives—economically viable farms pioneering cutting edge business models and leading agricultural innovations—and will form the Cuban Network of Lighthouse Farms. The purpose of this project is to showcase best practices to both exemplary farmers and regular farmers. This project is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, managed by the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland.

Coexistence of Agriculture and Nature: Optimization and Planning for Integrated Ecosystem Services (CANOPIES): Brazilian farmers are integrating trees into their croplands in various ways, ranging from relatively simple to highly complex agroforestry systems. While complex systems are more effective in the mitigation of climate change, trade-offs with scalability need to be resolved for agroforestry systems to deliver on their potential. The Brazilian-Dutch CANOPIES project aims to advance knowledge on what soil conditions influence the ecological performance (Carbon, nutrient cycling, water storage) of agroforestry systems and the impact of management complexity on labour demand. A network of 30 agroforestry systems was established in the state of São Paulo, Brazil with the help of local partners from the University of São Paulo (USP), Embrapa and pioneering farmers. CANOPIES is structured as a PhD project with supervisors from WUR and USP but also acts as a platform to connect innovative agroforestry farmers and researchers.

More information:
 Wageningen World article (2020)
IPCC sixth assessment report WG III: Mitigation of Climate Change, textbox on CANOPIES ch. 7 p. 66
Contact: Jonas Steinfeld (

2019 - 2023
The HeartLand project has been developed to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative PhD graduates. Investigating how to create economically and environmentally sustainable livestock products of enhanced nutritional value through pasture-based production systems in Ireland at the Lands at Dowth. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme

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Brightspots in Ethiopian Agroecosystems

2021 - 2025
This research will investigate the main characteristics of the positive outliers ,also known as “bright spots”: communities that have made better progress than expected. A “bright spots” framework will be applied, which uses positive outliers to understand how to achieve quick restoration and sustainable management of agroecosystems and the transition pathways that other communities can learn. To this end, the research will; 1) define key features of the“bright spot” land restoration communities; 2) compare the transition pathways of community groups with different performances; 3) investigate the effects of change in local resource governance on the restoration performance of the communities and 4) build scenarios for the future trajectory of the performance groups. Ultimately, this thesis will contribute to the scientific knowledge on the restoration and sustainable transformation of stressed agroecosystems."