More systems thinking is needed to make food systems more sustainable, but plant biostimulants are an important new tool

 

 



 

Although helpful tools, no agtech innovation is a silver bullet, for ag sustainability. Perhaps the biggest innovation that is needed is for mindsets to change and for all actors to think more holistically about how their innovations fit into the complex biological, socio-economic, and political systems in which agriculture is embedded.

These were the conclusions drawn from three days of expert panel discussions, interactive Q&A sessions, keynote presentations, and participative sense-making exercises in EBIC and New Ag International’s first Farm to Fork Europe virtual event, which took place from 22-24 June 2021. Despite that caveat, there was wide recognition that plant biostimulants provide farmers with exciting new tools to improve crop quality and yields, nutrient use efficiency, and crop tolerance to difficult and volatile growing conditions.

The Farm to Fork Europe event tackled an array of subjects over the three days, including the investment arena; farmer perspectives on the next-gen food chain; disruptive agtech; policy strategies; and the use of integrative systemic solutions such as blockchain technology for traceability. The conference sessions, discussions, and complementary online sense-making were designed to distill out key takeaways for use by participants, EBIC, and its members in their future work.

Day 1 focused on the investment arena for biostimulants, bringing key players in the industry together to discuss access to investment and financing, the role of sustainability, and the need for increased collaborative platforms so that companies can join together to make the investments they require to push their business forward and make it more sustainable. The participative sense-maker session on investment identified several compelling ideas for future exploration, including the significant importance of a place like Farm to Fork Europe for critical players to come together on an annual basis to achieve a more sustainable food chain for the benefit of all.

 
 



 

Day 2 turned to disruptive innovation in next-gen food production, including a direct Q&A session with a conservation farmer and a biostimulant producer to shed light on the concrete incorporation of products such as biostimulants in a farmer’s toolbox. Sessions also featured other disruptive agtech such as next-gen robotics, which enable “per plant farming” that provides highly targeted use of inputs, including plant biostimulants, and allows for new approaches such as electric weed control, resulting in healthier soils and higher and more sustainable yields.

Day 3 opened with Luis Vivas Alegre, policy coordinator for the Farm to Fork Strategy at the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety explaining how programmes under the F2F Strategy can provide concrete support and funding for agrifood innovation. The Deputy Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Beth Bechdol, delivered the closing keynote presentation on efforts to put the entire global food system on a more sustainable path. She highlighted the potential biostimulants have to offer in sustainable, climate resilient areas and climate adaptable agriculture. She was candid about FAO’s past difficult relationship with the private sector and its commitment to work together as investment partners on the ground.

 
 



 

The next generation voices included Slovenian apple farmer Doris Letina, Vice President of European Young Farmers, explaining what young farmers require to be part of the sustainability transition. Participants mentioned the strong voice of farmers as one of the most valuable aspects of the #F2FEU conference. Christine Gould, CEO and Founder of Thought for Food, inspired participants by describing the work of the 60,000 young entrepreneurs her organisation has identified in 175 countries. She advised companies on what they need to change to engage successfully with Millenials and Gen Z, who are motivated by collaboration and purpose-driven work.

The event’s Q&A sessions were moderated by Kristen Sukalac, who also facilitated the participative sense-maker sessions alongside Sarah Cayrafourcq, both consulting partners at Prospero which manages EBIC’s secretariat and supports the organisation with consulting services. Their expertise delivered real analytical insight to participants. Interactive exhibition and networking opportunities also kept participants busy over the three days of the virtual conference.

We would like to thank our sponsors and exhibitors supporting the event.

 
 



 

Gold sponsors: AlgaEnergy, Hello Nature, Lallemand, Tradecorp, Valagro, Yara

Silver: Idai Nature, Sicit

Bronze: Grabi

 

Entitled “Emerging opportunities and trends in European agri-food & the role of biostimulants in the next-gen food chain,” the virtual event was the culmination of a series of roundtables hosted by EBIC and New Ag International on various issues since the outbreak of the pandemic related to the food chain. It attracted hundreds of participants worldwide, including agrifood industry representatives, investors, farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The next edition is scheduled to occur in Athens as an in-person event in 2022.

If you would like a taste of the #F2FEU series of discussions, you can still watch our virtual roundtables free-of-charge by following the links and creating an account:

The digital roundtables are a free taste of the new Farm to Fork Europe conference that EBIC and New Ag International launched as an interactive, digital event on 22-24 June 2021. Follow the #F2FEU hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with new developments and follow future debates and events.