EU40: Innovation, A buzzword or crucial tool for increasing sustainability in the food chain?

On June 14, EU40, alongside the Agri-Food Chain Collation, held a webinar titled ‘Innovation: A buzzword or crucial tool for increasing sustainability in the food chain?’. The webinar brought together innovation specialists, experts of the agrifood industry, and European Commission representatives. The panel included:

  • Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver, Director, DG AGRI – Quality, Research and Innovation, Outreach
  • Martijn Buijsse, Founder of FarmUP, Innovation field specialist
  • Garlich von Essen, Secretary-General of Euroseeds, representing the AFCC
  • Alessandro Da Rold, Moderator & Managing Director EU40

The session started with short introductory statements with Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver noting that the current food system from farm to fork is facing multiple challenges linked to the old dimensions of sustainability with the economic, environmental, and social dilemmas. Garlich von Essen explained what the Agri-Food Chain Coalition is and how it sees innovation as part of the solution in regard to food systems. Martijn Buijsse opens by saying that food production is about the farmer and emphasized that farmers need fundamental innovation.

During the webinar, there was a general focus on innovation in the food chain with a consensus around the need to produce enough food sustainably, but the food chain voices that there are not enough tools presented by the EU Green Deal on achieving the Farm to Fork objectives. Speaking from a farmers perspective, Martijn Buijsse spoke about how the Farm to Fork ambitions are not adequate solutions. Martijn states “The hardest way to find a solution is just banning everything”, he emphasizes that this should not be a priority approach. He also pointed out that when it comes to sustainable innovations, the family farmer can be seen lagging behind the bigger farms, “you cannot farm green when your wallet is red”.

When asked about Green Deal targets, Garlich von Essen said “Targets are ambitious but don’t mean anything if nothing is implemented. Irrigation, seeding, robotics; infrastructure needs to exist in order for these to work. Integrated approach & digitalisation networks, even in agriculture, are needed.” Garlich also explained that farmers are being punished when they invest in sustainable innovations that, in five years, have become obsolete because the targets have changed again.

Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver stated the importance of communication with innovations in the whole chain and noted that it may have been something that could have been done better in the past. Nathalie believed that the farmers and the researchers have been on different sides with the implementation of sustainable innovations. When it is better to have both together, to make sure what we are financing will achieve the Green Deal targets.

The webinar finished with a conclusion that innovation has been something that has really come into effect over the past 20 years. That innovation isn’t just a buzzword, that it should be looked at as a tool to improve the food chain in terms of sustainable food systems. You can watch back on the full webinar here.

The Agri-Food Chain Coalition (AFCC) is a joint initiative representing 12 leading industry associations, including FEFAC, across the agri-food chain, united in their call for sustainable, solution-orientated and innovative policies that benefit the EU and beyond. Members represent agricultural input industries such as suppliers of machinery, seeds, fertilizers, crop protection, animal health, feed and biotechnology-based products, the agricultural trade, European farmers and their cooperatives and the European food and drink manufacturing sector. Together, these industries account for about 30 million jobs and 3.5% of the EU’s gross value added. View the full list of members here.