First, in-person, Farm-to-Fork conference
validates scale of opportunity for biostimulants
The first in-person edition of the Farm to Fork Europe Conference, with high-quality and topically relevant content provided by EBIC, was held between 21- 23 June 2022.
With delegates from all areas of agriculture and the food industry, as well as EU policy makers attending along with a diverse representation from all over Europe and the Americas, the conference debated key issues facing agriculture. Discussions focused on the geopolitics of food and agriculture, and the challenges and opportunities created by recent developments - tightening food supplies, increased climate variability and unprecedented fertiliser shortages.
Extensive space was devoted to the expo section which had EBIC, its members, and companies from all over the world showcasing their products and services for sustainable agriculture in booths.
Farm to Fork Europe covered four themes: geopolitics of food and agriculture, biostimulants and climate change, soil health, and lastly, food for all.
The role of biostimulants in addressing each of these was firmly established by expert speakers from around the globe. From policymaking to product marketing, delegates improved their understanding of the biostimulants industry, its regulatory framework, its contribution to global sustainability and the business opportunities available to the sector.
Biostimulants industry focuses on managing geopolitical challenges for agriculture
EBIC President Luca Bonini, in his opening address, spoke about biostimulants and their contribution to mitigating current challenges leaving delegates in no doubt of the importance of biostimulants to the future of sustainable food systems.
The speakers and panellists at Farm to Fork Europe, all experts in their fields, included Michaël Tanchum, who considered the implications of current world events – both disruptions and opportunities – for food and agriculture, including the biostimulants industry.
Considering that risk management will be key to future food security, Bor Boer then looked at investment trends and what they can tell us about future food systems, and Nikos Manouselis, explained how artificial intelligence can be used to scan and predict food supply chain risks on the horizon to strengthen food safety.
The first panel discussion debated how to be better prepared in future in the context of covid-19, supply chain bottlenecks, war in Ukraine and the return of high inflation. The panellists exchanged views on what companies can do to identify risks and prepare for them, and what lessons have been learnt over the last two years.
A highlight of Farm to Fork Europe is the unique ‘sense-making’ session, after every session, facilitated by Sarah Verplancken and Kristen Sukalac from Prospero and the EBIC secretariat, , which helps participants identify real world applications for what they have learned. Some of the key take-aways for the day:
A ‘fireside chat’ for a limited number of delegates with Juan Verde, a policy expert, corporate strategist, advocate for the Green Economy and a fundraiser/advisor/consultant to several U.S. presidents, brought the first day’s session to a close with strategic insights into how plant biostimulants can contribute to a sustainable future for the world.
The fireside chat was followed by a rooftop welcome reception for all delegates.
Environment top of the agenda
Day two focused its attention on climate change and soil health. Delegates from all aspects of agriculture and the food industry, as well as EU policy makers, discussed the role of biostimulants in mitigating environmental challenges.
A thought-leader keynote address from Juan Verde addressed opportunities presented by the Green Economy, and was followed by a discussion on carbon farming and what it really means for agriculture and where biostimulants fit in. Presentations from FBSciences, ICL and the European Commission shed light on the technical and implementation aspects of the use of plant biostimulants to support carbon farming.
A wide-ranging panel discussion considered whether carbon farming lives up to its hype, debating whether it helps or hinders the fight against climate change. Clear conclusions were identified by the panel on how to make carbon farming a reality, with panellists outlining the need for agreement on indicators to accurately quantify carbon emissions and carbon sequestration alike, as well as finding a way to reward farmers for these services and therefore incentivise them to do so.
Continuing the environmental theme, the afternoon session was all about soil health. It is well known that soils have degenerated over recent decades to the detriment of food production and biodiversity. Speakers included Ronald Vargas who gave a live video presentation on the importance of soil for the future of our planet.
Experts from Yara International, AlgaEnergy and Fertinagro Biotech shared their thoughts on the contributions different biostimulant products make to soil regeneration, whilst a second panel discussion focused on why soil health is declining and how the problem can be addressed. Five panellists, including a Greek farmer and a professor at the Agricultural University of Athens, debated the question in a lively exchange – but all agreed on the importance of farmer education; the need for accurate data; and collaboration from all players, from farm to fork, to achieving better soil health.
The day’s sense-making session provided a lot of food for thought, uncovering a number of opportunities for the industry, including:
Biostimulants confirmed as major contributor to food for all
On the final day the role of biostimulants in delivering on food for all was highlighted. Arne Pingel introduced Ann Tutwiler who gave a thought-provoking keynote address on this highly topical subject. All delegates left the conference with a thorough understanding of what Food for All means, following a lively panel discussion featuring growers from Greece and Ukraine. Alice Toderi rounded off the session, considering ten ways in which biostimulants contribute to food security and nutrition for all which you can find on Twitter here.
Luca Bonini hailed Farm to Fork Europe 2022 as a resounding success. “We were pleased to be able to meet in person to discuss some very serious issues. A broad cross-section of the agriculture and food industries were represented, which led to some very interesting debate. I think it’s clear that biostimulants are now recognised as a major contributor to the food supply chain and a key enabling technology for the sustainable transformation of food systems and this conference confirmed the scale of the opportunity.”
The Farm to Fork Europe conference was preceded by a well-attended regulatory workshop on plant biostimulants, which aimed to help stakeholders finalise preparations for the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) application and to get ready for what comes next.
Jérémy Pinte, from the European Commission, presented the FPR’s fundamental concepts and status for plant biostimulants and walked people through the process. He was followed by Céline Durieu on the conformity assessment procedure in practice and application of the CEN Technical Specifications on claims in particular. A panel discussion followed, with the Notified Body CerTrust (Gábor Tasnádi), and with two candidate Notified Bodies CAAE (Juan Carlos Pérez) and Sohiscert (Francisco Javier Carmona) who shared their experience with dossiers so far and answered practical questions from the audience on the conformity assessment procedure. This provided delegates with rich insights into the requirements for placing plant biostimulants on the European market under the new Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) just a few weeks before its application on 16 July.
Participants were then invited to brainstorm on their most pressing areas of concern with the implementation of the EU FPR for plant biostimulants and share their experience with the regulation so far.
The rich, high-level discussions and the insights gleaned thereon will inform EBIC planning for its next workplan and mid-term strategy including positioning plant biostimulants at a much higher level in terms of their contribution to global food security and sustainability.
EBIC hopes to see all members at the next edition of the Farm-to-Fork conference, next year, more information about which will follow soon.
For those who missed being at the conference, it is still possible to watch recordings of all the sessions. Please contact Carmen.Hernandez@newaginternational.com for details.
The Farm-to-Fork was preceded by EBIC's members-only strategic summit on 20 June. Read about it here