Mathias Bergman, BSAG, presented the case that business in ecosystems, such as the breakthrough of nutrient cycling in Finland, should be done by states, not by small foundations. In this case, the political commitment for financing was delayed but eventually made it into policy and funding. The process called a breakthrough in nutrient cycling, was divided into four topic areas:

  1. soil power – adding organic material to the soil,
  2. manure as the brown gold – lots of nutrients in lots of manure produced in Finland,
  3. biogas innovations – where Finland lacks experience but is learning from others,
  4. fertilisers of the future.

Around 50-60 companies were in communication on this breakthrough process, with a nucleus of 20 enterprises and their most advanced projects. BSAG was able to bring some big companies on board, while helping small companies that often don’t have capacity to follow what is going on in the EU. The success shows that these processes really can work. In terms of circular thinking, the participants in this ecosystem are really delivering the EU’s circular economy action plan. The way to tap into the resources of society is to get people by their own will to turn their activities into sustainable activities.

The discussion highlighted that EU (any external) funding shouldn’t be and indeed isn’t always necessary – there are many companies that realise circular economy principles are in their own best interests.

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Annika Steele of the Submariner Network for Blue Growth presented compensation schemes for ecosystem services as part of the Interreg project Baltic Blue Growth. The first question to be addressed is whether compensation schemes for mussel farms are feasible as ecosystem services and whether there is legal backing. There is already a variety of land-based measures for nutrient leakage, e.g. the nitrate directive, but these are not fully implemented in many countries. There is therefore a need for other opportunities to absorb nutrients in the sea itself, like mussels as a system of nutrient uptake: mussels next to a fish farm to absorb nutrients to clean the water. These mussels can also be turned into feed.

There is a range of EU directives and legislation but two key directives acknowledge mussel farming as an ecosystem service, both aim to protect and restore clean and freshwaters, set environmental targets and action plans to meet them. However, possible negative impacts of mussel farming are also recognised and other directives can have an impact.

There is also the possibility that agri-environmental services under the Common Agricultural Policy could be considered a blueprint for financing farms. However, calculation methods are still being worked out.  With funds like the CAP becoming relevant, there is an array of opportunities for seafarmers, including the need for alternative protein sources for feed.

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Ing-Marie Gren, Uppsala University, focused on payments for ecosystem services. Economists have focused on this question and the calculations have been made already. The question is if and how to pay for activities that provide both market and non-market ecosystem services in the Baltic Sea? If the social net value of market and non-market good is greater than the private net value of market goods, then we as the public should pay for it – mussel farms are an example of this argument. A 2009 study on social and firm net value of a small mussel farm in the south Baltic, determined a net loss for a mussel farmer. When promoting technologies, the choice is between paying for costs or paying for outputs. CAP is a cost-based system; however, profits are higher in an output-based system.

There can be significant differences between social and private net benefits of technologies with market and non-market services. Multifunction technologies need support for implementation but though a cost-based system can be relatively simple, an output-based system would bring more benefits. The most difficult factor in the equation is determining the monetary value of ecosystem services as it is very hard to put a value on the demand side.

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Anna Saarentaus of the John Nurminen Foundation presented the option of crowdfunding for reducing eutrophication, such as with the initiative “Nutribute”. The starting point was seeking cost efficient measures for cleaning the Baltic Sea, independent of economic or political interests. Launching the Nutribute initiative was a way to find voluntary financing of nutrient reduction projects. It is donation- and reward-based and is a useful fundraising tool for projects, a platform where stakeholders can present their activities to reduce nutrient discharges, and the general public and organisations can participate free of charge. The benefit to project owners is awareness and fundraising. Donors are able to support concrete action to protect the Baltic Sea, and know where their money goes and what is achieved.

The method is that project owners prepare a campaign pitch, leverage networks to get supporters, keep supporters up to date. The testing round was successful: By funding treatment of waste water in Belarus, Helsinki was able to offset its own wastewater phosphorous discharges, therefore becoming the first city in the Baltic to become phosphorous neutral. The projects are judged by a (varying) expert panel of volunteers with expertise in the appropriate subject depending on the “pitching” project. This platform could act as intermediary between municipalities and private companies that are often unable to finance each other directly.

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Workshop presentations:

Watch the Better off Blue conference video!

Better off Blue video

 A SUBMARINER Network project

A SUBMARINER Network project

 A PA Nutri flagship project

A PA Nutri flagship project