By Sarah Weber, Research Program Coordinator for the Biodynamic Association
A groundbreaking event, the 1st International Conference on Biodynamic Research, was held in early September 2018 at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. While biodynamic research has been ongoing since the time of Rudolf Steiner’s 1924 Agriculture Course, this was the first such gathering at an international scale. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this historic occasion on behalf of the Biodynamic Association. What I learned is that research about biodynamic agriculture is alive and active across the globe and has a unique contribution to make.
The conference contributions are now published and available in a booklet containing abstracts of most of the papers and posters presented by over 100 researchers from all over the world. We encourage you to browse the descriptions and learn about some of the innovative research being carried out today.
The conference brought together a cross section of over 180 scientists, farmers, educators, and interested individuals from 26 countries. Presentations were welcomed both as formal research and as observation papers, giving space for farmer contributions. At the BDA, we are aiming to emulate this approach in our invitation for research posters for the 2019 North American Biodynamic Conference in New York this November.
The warm, collegial atmosphere in Dornach last September provided an ideal setting for meaningful conversations and exchanges. Ueli Hurter (co-leader of the Section for Agriculture) framed the event beautifully in an inaugural address “Which Research for Biodynamic Agriculture,” recognizing the principle of individualization as central to the development of biodynamics and to how research is framed and carried out.
Content throughout the event ranged from traditional scientific agronomic research, on the physical level, to explorations of the living etheric realm and the role of animals, society, and the level of the individual. Some highlights that stood out for me were the multiple findings showing biodynamic preparations and practices improving soil conditions and food nutritive quality, the possibility of affecting the quality of agricultural products and water with eurythmy, and the openness to new ways of thinking. The title of this interview with two of the conference organizers summarizes it well: “We need analytics as well as spiritual science.”
Presentations were balanced by a series of “Experience the Living” exercises and a World Café in which all conference participants were invited to formulate the research agenda for the future and to consider how can we move forward together as a research network for biodynamic agriculture and nutrition.
The conference was organized by the Section for Agriculture in partnership with the University of Kassel (Germany), the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL, Switzerland) and the Forschungsring (Research in Biodynamic Agriculture, Germany) with active support from Demeter International. Biodynamic researchers will next gather just prior to the IFOAM World Organic Congress in France, September 2020.
If you are interested in finding out more about biodynamic research, please visit our Biodynamic Research References Portal. You may also subscribe to our Biodynamic Research email list (about halfway down the list choices).