EIT Food hosts conference to explore how to build a resilient and sustainable agrifood ecosystem
In order to build a resilient and sustainable agrifood system, we need to work together to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by stakeholders from across the whole food value chain.
EIT Food’s “Building a Resilient, Sustainable Agrifood System” event, explored our need for a transformed agrifood sector that is able to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges of feeding a growing global population sustainably. This networking and consortia-building event was organised by our North West and West regions and took place in Edinburgh, UK, 10-11 May 2022.
Innovation and technologies are essential to transform the agrifood sector
Shannon McLaughlin of Queen’s University Belfast presented the EIT Food C-Neutral Farming project during the event
Our agrifood sector is inundated with economic, environmental, and social challenges from inefficient food production methods to high levels of food loss and waste. The challenges might seem great, however the agrifood community is using these as opportunities to optimise and develop innovations and technologies which address a number of the issues we are currently facing. For instance, some of those presented at the event included:
- C-Neutral Farming project – which aims to develop a decision support tool which will measure and help mitigate environmental footprint in livestock farming.
- Get Wasted project – which is developing an online marketplace that brings together local suppliers and buyers of food that would otherwise go to waste.
- Nordic Cereals project – which aims to valorise the side streams produced during the processing of oat to be converted into products used to create aquaculture feed.
- Grow Workshops - educational workshops on emerging trends and technologies to encourage technology adoption for regional and European networks of farmers.
- New European Bauhaus - new solutions that boost the transformation of cities, peri-urban and rural areas by bringing individuals and communities closer to nature.
Agrifood stakeholders share similar challenges
The EIT Food event bought together key stakeholders across academia, research, social enterprise, investment and industry that work within in the agrifood sector. Importantly, many different stakeholders have shared challenges when undertaking food systems innovation. These include:
- Growing and scaling-up businesses that offer innovative solutions
- Understanding what funding schemes and activities are available to participate in
- Finding other companies to collaborate and form consortia with
The event explored some of the solutions to these challenges, including:
- Using public-private partnerships to help promising new companies to grow and scale. This was presented by Chris Danks, Innovate Lead at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
- Awareness of who the key agrifood funders are and what schemes that have available. This was presented by David Telford, Head of Agrifood at Innovate UK KTN
- Discovering network organisations that facilitate consortia-building in food systems innovation. For example, EIT Food’s community brings together key players from farm-to fork and works closely with other membership organisations.
Michiel De Ruiter, Chairperson of EIT Food’s Supervisory Board said:
“It was great to participate in my first EIT Food conference. As Chairperson of the EIT Food Supervisory Board I believe it’s important to get a full understanding of whats going on in the field. Listening to the presentations and discussing with the partners gave me precious insights. Thank you for the great organisation and positive energy that was certainly in the room.”
The importance of collaboration to innovate the agrifood system
CEO of IntelliDigest Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu pitched her company at the event
Inclusive collaboration is key in developing solutions that can help to transform our food system. Bringing together stakeholders from different background paves the way for new, diverse consortia to form, based on people and companies with different skills and capabilities.
Frances Bycroft, University of Cambridge said:
"Thank you for the warm welcome at the event in Edinburgh. It made such a good opportunity to meet up with people in person and it was good to meet some new faces.”
An ideation and consortia-building session at the event enabled collaboration between participants to envisage new and optimised solutions for a resilient and sustainable food system. There was also an opportunity for companies to pitch in-front of other delegates to encourage new connections and collaborations to form. This included pitches from:
- Agri-EPI Centre – a UK Agritech centre that accelerates the research, development and adoption of precision agriculture and engineering technology.
- Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) – a research institution focused on training and education in agriculture and life sciences.
- EnvoPAP – a startup that creates innovative packaging and paper that’s kind to the planet.
- Soil Capital – a programme that reward practices and management that capture carbon and deliver public goods, generating long term business income.
- Agricolus – an agritech platform created to simplify and enhance the work in field of farmers and operators of the sector, focusing on environmental and economical sustainability.
- Multus Biotechnology – a startup that is developing the key ingredient, the growth media, to make cultivated meat affordable and profitable.
- IntelliDigest – a startup that leverages nature to address the food waste crisis through cutting-edge research and innovation.
- Niskus Biotec – a startup that helps food businesses create innovative, sustainable, high value and healthy food products from process side streams.
- Food Futures – a project that is creating a holistic sustainability platform for Northern Ireland’s agrifood sector.
- Grow it Yourself - a social enterprise that supports people around the world to live happier, healthier and more sustainable lives by growing some of their own food.
Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu, CEO of IntelliDigest said:
“The EIT Food event brought together industry and policy experts with a key focus on resilient sustainable agrifood system which is very linked to IntelliDigest mission to empower food system sustainability. It provided a great opportunity to share our technology innovations -world food tracker, iDigest and iSaver, Plan To Save Campaign and capacity building food system sustainability programme as well as learn about other amazing projects. More importantly, the event provided a fantastic networking opportunity to build partnerships that will deliver enormous benefit for the food system.”
Dr Jayne Brookman, EIT Food North West Director said:
“The event highlighted the importance of collaboration in food systems transformation. We need to continue to invite all stakeholders across the food supply chain to play a part in innovation, as different skills and capabilities is what’s needed to make an impact. It was fantastic to be able to bring together EIT Food Partners to re-connect in-person, whilst also giving the spotlight to new people and organisations in the agrifood space.”