Giuseppe, our father, always loved to try new things and surround himself with people from backgrounds different from his, people who could contribute stories, ideas, skills and knowledge.
So it was that we, his children, Alberto and Chiara, learned to be curious about the future.
That’s why we set up three projects in particular, all sustainable, and one of which is also socially sustainable!
The Individual at the Center
Virtuous example of a business network, Cascina AlbaTerra is a cooperative project born of the experience of hospitality by the Associazione SULLE ORME and the Cooperativa Sociale MULTIFORME Onlus, developed through the years with our company.
These three very different enterprises pooled their resources to make their respective skills available to one another so as to restore the individual to the center through a project of social agriculture, secure in the knowledge that the entrepreneurial network would be a turning point for the development of a new economy.
Through the combined benefits of a process of social integration and contact with the soil and with farm animals, the project was able to achieve the rehabilitation and reintegration of people affected by situations of social, physical and economic hardship, focusing on the acceptance of diversity, eco-sustainability, respect for the environment and an organic approach to agriculture. Cascina AlbaTerra is a multifunctional farm where we raise about sixty sheep and goats whose milk is processed in a small dairy, and where olive trees hundreds of years old give us their oil. We have a small synergetic vegetable garden that supplies the accommodations and our family-style restaurant “Cinque Pani e due Pesci” (Five Loaves and Two Fishes) and, an adjacent vineyard where we produce two wines in “natural” style: “El Bianco” and “El Frissante”.
Our Brogna sheep
At Cascina AlbaTerra, we raise Brogna Sheep of Lessinia, chosen for their close ties to the area and for their ability to preserve it naturally, by grazing between the vines and on the hillside pastures of our farm.
The Brogna is the only autochthonous breed of sheep of Lessinia and a proud example of the history and artisanal tradition of the Verona area.
The Alpine chamois goat
Our project in favor of biodiversity is further enhanced by our herd of Alpine chamois goats, so named for their ruddy color reminiscent of the Alpine chamois. It is a breed of goats well known throughout the Alpine region, medium-large in size, sturdy and able to withstand the most diverse climatic conditions.
It is particularly prized for its milk production, and at Cascina AlbaTerra, the chamois goat will also contribute the raw material with which we produce various types of goat cheese.
Reducing the risk of erosion and improving soil management
Raising crops in hilly and mountainous locations like ours, requires extremely heavy use of economic (and human) resources, much more than on the plains. Even quality vineyards, cultivated in the best growing zones of the area, well maintained and highly competitive from the economic standpoint, can be vulnerable to phenomena of more or less severe hydrogeological erosion, with possible fallout also on the urban areas of the plains. There are many causes contributing to create these critical situations:
- the geomorphological conformation of the land;
- the ongoing processes of climate change;
- the methods used for cultivation of the grapes and/or management of the terraced areas.
Italy is a particularly complex territory from the geomorphological standpoint, subject for centuries to floods and landslides. Added to this intrinsic fragility, we now have the problem of climate change with extreme weather events: precipitation is heavier than in the past, more intense, brief and localized.
These circumstances led to the creation of the SOiLUTION SYSTEM project (https://www.soilutionsystem.com), with the Coffele Agribusiness as the founder, coordinated from the scientific standpoint by Prof. Paolo Tarolli of the University of Padua, with several partners. The project develops an integrated system of sustainable actions and technologies, from the environmental and economic standpoint, that should serve to reduce the risk of erosion and improve soil management in hilly and mountainous areas at high hydro-geological risk
Goals of the SOiLUTION SYSTEM project:
- To provide innovative technological tools for monitoring the area with drones and aerial laser scanners and creating high-resolution 3D models of vineyards located on steep slopes in order to better understand the processes of instability (erosion and landslides). These data will then be completed with further monitoring on the ground of erosion phenomena, with post-event readings analyzed, where possible, in real time;
- To develop innovative tools in support of specific and effective actions on the soil, to monitor and mitigate the processes of erosion, in the context of climate change;
- To test innovative prototypes for low environmental impact mechanization able to work on steep slopes and provide technical innovation for the consolidation of dry-stone walls and verges using economical methods with low environmental impact;
- To introduce agronomic techniques and conservative agricultural procedures focused on improving soil management with a view to reducing erosion risk and evaluating the anti-erosive action of grass cover using autochthonous blends of grass species that also serve as a working support in the integrated battle against harmful insects. Also, to evaluate the efficacy of the integrated management model proposed by the project in a view of conservation and increasing the biodiversity of an area.
For reducing the runoff risk
Traditional agriculture on sloping fields has always had to combat the loss of soil due to runoff, mainly through very labor-intensive practices such as the construction and maintenance of terraces. On some modern farms, however, strongly oriented toward mechanization (as ours is not):
- inter-row grass cover has to be used to slow runoff;
- organic material has to be added frequently to improve the structure of the soil and penetration of water;
- passage of the tractor between the rows has to be eliminated: only overturning the topsoil to a shallow depth in late fall every 2-3 years; this process also improves the subsequent growth of the grass cover;
- country roads have to be built following the direction of the rows, to interrupt the flow of runoff and direct it to the appropriate pond or drainage system on the farm itself.
The regional authorities have to supply clear, simple recommendations for the organization of the drainage system on the farm, and supply and maintain the drainage system at a higher, multi-farm level.
Political leaders have to recognize and support efforts to prevent runoff at all levels.
At the level of the farm, management of the grass cover is fundamental to prevent and reduce runoff.
In order to rate the effectiveness of different kinds of grass covering, work is ongoing to evaluate four types of management between the rows:
- “Standard” management by the grower;
- continuous overturning of topsoil, simulating inter-row clearing;
- single clearing between the rows once a year in late fall;
- planting of autochthonous grasses to simulate a natural long-lasting grass cover;
- nectariferous grass cover, i.e. blends of grass species capable of attracting insects and thereby increasing biodiversity.
The first results show that continuous overturning of the bare soil generates runoff rich in suspended solids, but the main disadvantage of this option is the formation by the tractor of deep tracks and the difficulty of transiting on them when muddy.
Clearing once in late fall is an interesting option, because it leaves no tractor tracks and improves later regrowth of the grass cover; if done in late fall (November), during the wet season, there is no risk of runoff because the topsoil layer is soft and even the most intense rains can soak into it.
The use of autochthonous species is interesting and is a simple and economic method, available for vineyards. It is important to note that a single planting is seldom sufficient to replace the mixtures of commercial seeds in use for many years, however in case of new vineyards, using autochthonous species can be strongly recommended to increase the diversity of the grass cover.
The nectariferous blend is interesting because it grows very rapidly in mid-autumn and by the end of winter the coverage is 100% so the risk of runoff is very low, as in the case of the single ploughing. It is important to note that this mixture should be used every two inter-rows and a roller-crimper should also be used in a timely manner in late spring to prevent interference with protection of the grapes.
The ability to increase biodiversity, in particular of insects, is proportionate with the extent of use of this mixture, so only its use in most of the vineyard can have significant effects.
In 2020 total precipitation was 1,271 mm in 85 days of rain, very close to the average for the last 27 years (1,308 mm (340 standard deviation) in 95 days of rain) (ARPAV, firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the Soave district, where the slopes are very steep (>20%) there were a total of 8 rain/runoff events, showing that runoff is a rather common event in hilly conditions.
In the vineyard used in this study by our farm, only 1 runoff event was recorded between August 28-31, 2020, after a very heavy downpour: the maximum intensity was 9.2 mm/5 min, and the total rainfall was 136 mm. It is important to stress that the vineyard studied is not very prone to runoff because the slope is slight and the soil is rich in sand and organic material, so only extreme precipitation could cause significant runoff.
Scientific publications in international reviews
Tarolli, P., Pijl, A., Cucchiaro, S., Wei, W. (2021). Slope instabilities in steep cultivation systems: process classification and opportunities from remote sensing. Land Degradation & Development, 32, 1368–1388, doi:10.1002/ldr.3798.
Tarolli, P., Straffelini, E. (2020). Agriculture in Hilly and Mountainous Landscapes: Threats, Monitoring and Sustainable Management. Land Degradation & Development, 1, 70–76, doi:10.1016/j.geosus.2020.03.003.
Cucchiaro, S., Fallu, D.J., Zhang, H., Walsh, K., Van Oost, K., Brown, A.G., Tarolli, P. (2020). Multiplatform-SfM and TLS Data Fusion for Monitoring Agricultural Terraces in Complex Topographic and Landcover Conditions. Remote Sensing, 12, 1946, doi:10.3390/rs12121946.
Presentations at international scientific conferences
Straffelini, E., Otto, S., Pijl, A., Marchesini, E., Gottardi, S., Tormen, N., Pitacco, A., Tezza, L., Tarolli, P. (2021). The role of inter-row grass cover in steep viticulture: understanding soil erosion combining in-field observation and remote sensing. EGU General Assembly 2021, EGU21-2158, doi:10.5194/egusphere-egu21-2158.
Tarolli P., Straffelini E., Mattiello C. M., Lorenzoni A. (2020). SOiLUTION SYSTEM: innovative solutions for soil erosion risk mitigation and better management of vineyards in hills and mountain landscapes. EGU General Assembly 2020, EGU2020-3689, doi:10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-3689.
Some digital models of soil produced with the SOiLUTION SYSTEM project using Lidar and Drone techniques.
The vineyard in 3D: the digital models and mapping of surface processes.
Realization of a fixed installation for the treatment of vineyards
This project has close ties with the mountain vineyard culture, known as “heroic”, or extreme, of the Veneto region, particularly the Soave district, which has earned official recognition as a “Historic rural Italian landscape” by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.
SAFEGUARDING THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE LANDSCAPE is the heart of the project, which proposes to build an effective phytosanitary defense system through the use of a fixed installation for the treatment of the hillside vineyards, where often mechanization is impossible and the difficulties of cultivation generate high production costs (as much as 10 times higher than those of a vineyard in plains).
The advantages of a fixed treatment plant are:
- the reduction of drift and exposure of the operators and residents to the phytosanitary products, which are combined with actions using electrolyzed water;
- elimination of grave hazard connected with the rollover of tractors forced to operate on steep slopes under conditions of particularly slipper terrain;
- lesser compression of the soil as the passage of tractor and spray equipment are unnecessary;
- no soil and wastewater contamination connected with cleaning spray equipment;
- lower consumption of tractor fuel;
- availability of a georeferenced database about the products used thanks to inclusion of the LA.VI.PE. platform.
The main goal is make mountain vineyard cultivation a sustainable and low-impact practice, contributing to maintain the richness and beauty of the Veneto landscape.