The history of CREA is the history of research and experimentation in agriculture and has its roots in the Risorgimento, starting with the establishment in 1850 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade of the Kingdom of Sardinia and its reliance on Camillo Benso Count of Cavour. He was a politician, agricultural entrepreneur and founder of the first fertilizer industry in Italy, as well as the founder of the successive Ministers of Agriculture in our country.
Given the predominantly agricultural vocation of the economy until the 20th century, it is not surprising that, starting with a project by Cavour, agricultural meetings were established in 1866 in each provincial capital, with the obligation to create and maintain itinerant agricultural chairs; these ones were entrusted to the commitment of individual scholars who went to disseminate scientific knowledge in agricultural areas with high territorial suitability. This is the first example of ante litteram technology transfer.
Always on this path, from 1870 the Agricultural Stations of Turin, Modena, Rome and Forlì were born, then in 1907 we can mention the Experimental Stations such as that of oenology of Gattinara (VC), cereal cultivation of Rieti, Frutticoltura of Acireale (CT), chemical laboratories, experimental cellars of Barletta, Riposto (CT), Noto, Velletri, Arezzo and Palermo, etc.
Subsequently, the Osservatori Agrari (Agricultural Observatories) were also set up, whose collaboration with the agricultural schools was really intense and fruitful, to the point that some of the directors of these observatories also directed the schools at the same time.
The law of 5 June 1930 places the experimental stations in a unique context, giving them technical-administrative and financial autonomy. Subsequently, the network was enriched by other stations such as the Conegliano station for viticulture and oenology (1923), the experimental zootechnical station in Rome (1923), the floriculture station in Sanremo (1925), etc. up to 1967, under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture, with the foundation of the IRSA – Istituti per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione agraria (Institutes for Agricultural Research and Experimentation), comprising 28 independent institutes and 54 peripheral sections.
In order to put the many competences delocalized on the territory in a system, in 2005 the CRA – Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricolutura (Council for Research and Experimentation in Agriculture) - was established, consisting of 15 Research Centres and 32 Research Units, coordinated by a single control room, becoming the largest national research body dedicated to agriculture.
In an innovative perspective of agriculture firmly linked to the needs of the consumer, who is increasingly attentive to healthy eating, in 2012 the CRA brought together INRAN, the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, founded in 1936 as the National Institute of Biology and later (1958) called the National Institute of Nutrition (INN). The Institute, dedicated from its inception to research and study of our food system, is responsible for Italy to draw up guidelines for a healthy diet, the only institutional guidance directed to the healthy population.
In 2010, the Ente Nazionale delle Sementi Elette (ENSE) and the Istituto Nazionale Conserve Alimentari (INCA) merge with INRAN.
With the new millennium, agriculture is increasingly being affected by European planning and must respond to Community policies, which also impose new guidelines on research in the sector.
With this in mind, in 2015, INEA- Istituto Nazionale di Economia Agraria (National Institute of Agricultural Economics), merged with CRA. Since its foundation in 1928, INEA has carried out studies and surveys on agricultural economics, adapting its activities to the emerging needs and transformations of the Italian agri-food system.
In the 1960s, with its active participation in the establishment of the knowledge tools of the Common Agricultural Policy, it made a decisive contribution to the formation of a culture of agricultural accounting in Italy, acting as a link between the Italian State and the European Commission in the creation and management of the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN).
On 1 January 2015, following this latest merger, the CREA – Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agrarian (Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy) - was created.