A New Start for NORSØK

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture (NORSØK), which now again is an active national centre of expertise in Norway.

Article from NORSØK

This is a good time for NORSØK to once again start its own research, development and information activities, says Turid Strøm – the centre’s managing director since 4 January 2016.

It was politically decided to re-establish NORSØK as a national centre of expertise. Its current staff of 13 is highly qualified, and includes numerous experienced researchers and consultants who are working on projects aimed at further developing organic agriculture.  

When the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) was established on 1 July 2015, it was decided that NIBIO was not to promote any specific farming method, such as organic agriculture. As of 1 January 2016, staff and assignments were transferred from NIBIO to NORSØK.

Focus on organic farming needed

- This is really perfect timing for the re-establishment of a national centre of expertise for promoting and developing organic agriculture in Norway, Ms. Strøm explains.

- There are important tasks ahead in research, development and information. The consumption of organic food has increased, but domestic production hasn’t. Improving this requires an all-round effort, and NORSØK will now be able to make important contributions.

Turid Strøm knows the institution well. Previously, she has been the Centre Director of Bioforsk Organic, the predecessor of the ”new” NORSØK. Since its original establishment 30 years ago, the unit’s activities have always been located on Tingvoll gard, a farm in the village of Tingvoll in northwestern Norway. She admits that this is a challenging job, but is also pleased to have so many experienced employees on board. More than half of the staff are researchers; four of which have doctorate degrees and two are senior scientists. Otherwise, NORSØK’s staff have at least Master level qualifications, and most have experience as coordinators for large national and international projects.

Expecting growth

NORSØK has divided its activities into four main categories: food, agriculture, environment and energy. Most of the employees will continue to work on ongoing projects from their previous portfolio. In addition, NORSØK was granted NOK 5 million from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to promote organic food production and consumption.

- We aim to expand our staff rather quickly, but of course this depends on securing enough projects and a number of other factors, says Ms. Strøm.

She is convinced that being a small, but efficient and competent private foundation can be an advantage when implementing research, development and information projects. However, she underlines that they naturally are totally dependent on good cooperation with universities, colleges, other institutes and the agricultural extension service.

- When it comes to such cooperation, we will continue to build on already established, successful traditions. The staff now ”inherited” by NORSØK has developed extensive national and international networks throughout the past 30 years. Several of our employees were among the founders of the original NORSØK back in 1986.

A unique environment

Turid Strøm has considerable ambitions and a strong faith in the future of the national centre of expertise in Tingvoll.

In addition to NORSØK’s 13 employees, numerous other knowledge-based companies and institutions have offices in the same building on Tingvoll gard, including a group of three environmental consultants, the regional agricultural extension service and a regional business development organisation. Last but not least, NIBIO will continue to maintain a staff of 22 at Tingvoll.

- The professional environment here in Tingvoll is unique. This accumulation of highly qualified experts is definitely fit for the future, and is able to contribute significantly to Norway’s ”Green Transition”.

- Tingvoll gard is an ideal location for NORSØK. Here we have access to both the farmland and the herd of an organic dairy farm, a modern barn and a biogas plant for doing research and other tests. Furthermore, there is the solar and bioenergy centre, lots of rough grazing land and an organic demonstration garden. All in all, these are excellent arenas for the entire scope of our activities.

NORSØK in Brief

The private, independent foundation NORSØK (Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture) is a national centre of expertise for the development of organic agriculture through interdisciplinary research. NORSØK is also responsible for the management of Tingvoll gard, which is to be run as an organic farm. The foundation’s work is based on the four principles of organic agriculture: health, ecology, fairness and care.

NORSØK was established at its present location in 1986. In 1989, NORSØK was granted status as a national centre of expertise for organic agriculture, and in 1997 the foundation was approved as a research institute, thus receiving funds via national budget allocations. In 2006, NORSØK was merged with the research institutes Planteforsk and Jordforsk and thus became part of the newly formed Bioforsk.

When the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) was established on 1 July 2015, it was decided that NIBIO was not to promote any specific farming method, such as organic agriculture. As of 4 January 2016, staff and assignments were transferred from NIBIO to NORSØK, which thus now is re-established as an autonomous centre of expertise for organic agriculture.

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