Keynote speakers

Chris Blok
Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands

Chris Blok

Chris Blok is a prominent scientist working at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). He has thirty years of experience in professional research on soilless cultivation in the greenhouse horticultural industry with papers, scientific articles and patents on growing media and irrigation technology. His present research focuses on innovation with (conglomerates of) private companies for reciruculation of nutrients (ion specific control); resilient growing (enhancing functional groups); circular fertilisers (including organic fertilisers) and circular growing media. He is specialized in rooting media quality measurements, method development, propagation, irrigation and fertigation strategies.

Topic of the speech: Aspects of circularity; recirculation, more circular fertiliser concepts and control over resilience in time

Deborah Neher
The University of Vermont, Canada

Deborah Neher

Dr. Deborah Neher is a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. She is a soil ecologist and her recent research focuses on biological communities in compost and their role in disease suppression by natural mechanisms. Dr. Neher has 30 years of experience as a researcher, educator, and graduate student mentor. She has published more than 85 peer reviewed articles and 20 book chapters on topics of biological indicators of soil, ecotoxicology and biotechnology risk assessment, climate change and soil biological crusts, plant pathology and sustainable agriculture.

Topic of the speech: Biological indicators and compost for managing plant disease


Miguel Sánchez-Monedero
Spanish National Research Council, Spain

Miguel Sánchez-Monedero

Miguel A. Sánchez-Monedero is a research scientist working at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). He is a chemist by education and is interested in the recycling of organic waste through composting. His main areas of expertise include C and N dynamics during composting and after soil application, with particular emphasis on their relationship with composting performance, the stability/maturity of the end product and the environmental impact of the process, with specific concern for gaseous emissions. His most recent activities are focused on the potential of pyrolysis as a waste management strategy and the role of biochar as an additive in composting.

Topic of the speech: Biochar as an additive in composting: Impact on process performance and on the agronomical quality of the end product


Ellen Graber
The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, Israel

Ellen Graber

Dr. Ellen Graber is a Senior Principal Scientist and Group Leader in the Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences of The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, Israel. She has been long engaged in multi-faceted and cross-disciplinary research in agriculture and the environment, with research that cuts across the groundwater-soil-rhizosphere-plant-atmosphere continuum along multiple disciplines. In the last decade, her major research efforts have been directed towards the pyrolysis/biochar platform from a variety of agricultural and environmental aspects. These include soil fertility, crop production, plant resistance to pathogens and tolerance to abiotic stresses, and remediation of contaminated soils.

Topic of the speech: Mysteries and musings at the biochar-plant-stress-growing media interface


Massimo Pugliese
University of Turin, Italy

Massimo Pugliese

Massimo Pugliese is Associate Professor at the Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (DISAFA), University of Torino and professor at the School of Agriculture and Veterinary Science (SAMEV) of University of Turin. He actively collaborates with the Centre of Competence AGROINNOVA in research activities, technology transfer and in coordinating R&D projects. He is author of over 70 research papers, 3 patents and the promoter of 2 start-up companies. His main expertise is on biofertilizers, circular economy and biocontrol and in particular on: assessment and valorization of quality of biofertilizers, biostimulants and biopesticides; suppressiveness of compost and organic fertilizers (silicon, biochar, digestate...) against soil-borne pathogens; selection of biological control agents from biofertilizers; climate change effects on plant diseases; impact of biofertilizers on soil microbial communities.

Topic of the speech: Use of compost in nursery as pre-planting substrate to control soil-borne pathogens on vegetable crops in field conditions.