Graduate students from Dr. Giacomo Branca’s “Food Policy” course embarked on an insightful field trip to Consorzio di Bonifica Litorale Nord (CBLN) and Maccarese S.p.A., a prominent dairy farm in the Lazio region. This excursion aimed to provide a practical understanding of water irrigation and management practices within the Lazio region and their integration into national and international policy frameworks, as well as to showcase the agricultural operations that benefit from these practices and contribute significantly to Rome’s food system.

Consorzio di Bonifica Litorale Nord is a crucial part of ANBI, the National Association of the Agricultural Water Board. ANBI encompasses public facilities engaged in water management, contributing to irrigation, land reclamation, and environmental protection across Italy. CBLN’s operations extend over approximately 50% of Italy, maintaining over 200,000 kilometers of irrigation channels, 342 hydroelectric power plants, and more than 16,000 kilometers of river and sea embankments.

The students visited the CBLN headquarters in Maccarese (Rome), a key facility responsible for managing and distributing irrigation water and operating a sea defense system. This system mitigates the impact of climate change, including managing barriers to the sea, reclaiming land, and addressing challenges such as rainstorms, rising sea levels, and seawater intrusion into freshwater sources.

During the visit, students engaged with Dr. Andrea Renna, CBLN Director, and several principal engineers, including those involved in an innovative water desalination project. They also met Dr. Raffaella Zucaro, Director of the Canale Emiliano-Romagnolo (CER), another water association under ANBI operating in northern Italy. This facilitated a comparative discussion on regional water management practices. Additionally, Dr. Francesco Cavazza from CER delivered a seminar on the relationship between ANBI and the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), emphasizing water use regulations and compliance measures.

The tour included a visit to the pump house, where chief engineers demonstrated the regulation of water flow between the sea and irrigation channels. This session highlighted ANBI’s role in helping Italy meet CAP’s cross-compliance measures, such as protecting water from nitrates, establishing buffer strips along watercourses, and safeguarding wetlands, as well as in implementing voluntary water-related schemes, including on-farm irrigation investments and socio-economic development in rural areas.

Field Trip
Food Studies

\The second part of the tour involved a visit to Maccarese S.p.A., one of Italy's largest farms, which relies on CBLN for irrigation, desalination, and land reclamation. Spanning approximately 3,240 hectares and housing over 3,600 cows, Maccarese primarily focuses on dairy production but has recently ventured into almond cultivation, a high-value crop. The farm efficiently manages water using precision agriculture, particularly in its almond groves, where irrigation is meticulously controlled.

Dr. Francesca Pau, a biologist overseeing Maccarese’s outreach program, guided the students through the farm. The tour included an overview of Maccarese’s history, a visit to the dairy operations led by an animal production expert, an exploration of the almond groves, and a tour of the historic castle on the property. Furthermore, Maccarese's commitment to a circular economy was showcased through its bioenergy facilities, which convert unusable waste into renewable energy.

This field trip gave students a comprehensive understanding of the intricate relationship between water management, agriculture, and national and EU policy frameworks. The experience at both ANBI and Maccarese demonstrated the integration of technology and innovation in sustaining Rome’s food supply and offered a practical perspective on large-scale farming in Italy.