Living Labs – what does that actually mean?

Joseph McDonagh

One element of the SmartDairy project which will be carried out by the team in Ireland, is the use of Living Labs to study the potential of voluntary carbon markets. Observing how sustainability measures are implemented and carbon emissions measured on working farms, will give a good insight into the potential for carbon mitigation in the dairy sector.  

Living Labs are a relatively new research method, with their popularity taking-off since the mid 2010’s. Starting as a way for companies to expand their innovation process and move outside the office, they have since become a valued tool for researchers to gain insight directly from individuals. They allow those effected by a particular challenge to combine their expertise in order to create a solution to benefit everyone. Not only do Living Labs provide information for researchers but they can also lead to the development of new products or services.  

What sets a Living Lab apart from other types of research and innovation?  

One aspect is the ‘real-life context’, which means that rather than studying a controlled laboratory setting, experimentation takes place in a live setting, in the case of SmartDairy, on dairy farms. Living Labs involve a variety of participants or stakeholders from a range of backgrounds: researchers, producers, industry, government and consumers. Not only are each of these groups consulted but each has an active part to play in creating the solution, this element of ‘co-creation’ is key to the functioning of Living Labs. Participants use a variety of methods to bring their various expertise together, and always consider the wider picture and how different aspects of the challenge impact one another.  

What do Living Labs mean for agriculture?  

Well, it allows farmers to choose their own path when trying to solve challenges, choosing the methods that work best for them rather than being forced to implement one solution. Data gathering and information sharing allows farmers to react to the success and setbacks experienced by themselves and other participants. It also gives farmers a voice in terms of building a solution and allows information to be shared by all stakeholders: farm advisors, private industry, consumers and the government.  

What does a participant in a Living Lab do? 

Living Labs can vary significantly in terms of their day-to-day activities, depending on the exact problem they are trying to solve, but at their heart all involve participants meeting to discuss the problem and any potential solutions, implementing the proposed solutions or prototyping a new tool, and examining the results.  

Living Labs in SmartDairy 

SmartDairy’s Living Labs implement voluntary carbon trading on a small scale. Farmers voluntarily implement greenhouse gas mitigation measures on their farm, which they feel are best suited to address the problem and generate carbon credits.  These can then be sold to participating companies.  

The voluntary carbon market is due to start later this year, and we will post updates.   






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