The agrifood sector is an industry with an important weight in the global and national economy. In Spain it accounts for 11% of GDP, and in Europe as a whole it employs 44 million people. The transition to sustainability has always been viewed with suspicion by companies that see, in this paradigm shift, a threat to the sector due to increased production costs and reduced competitiveness. However, the sector needs to change this perception and look at sustainability as an engine of growth, a unique opportunity to reduce costs and create jobs.
It’s the only way. It is necessary and urgent to take this path, since global warming is already the greatest threat facing humanity. And the agrifood sector, due to its relevance, has much to contribute. Spanish companies in the sector must see this fact as an exceptional opportunity to position themselves as world leaders in this process.
We must develop a new socio-technological model that involves all actors in the sector: companies, governments, cities and society as a consumer of these products. And this model must be based on the circular economy, which will play a crucial role in the sustainability of the sector and become its engine of growth.
This was established by the experts who participated this morning in a round table on sustainability in the agrifood sector that took place at the Smart Agrifood Summit, the world’s largest event on innovation and entrepreneurship in the agrifood sector and which brought together more than fifty entrepreneurs, and ICT and agrifood companies at the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos in Malaga from 20 to 22 June.
This round table, organised by EIT Climate-KIC Spain, the Spanish office of the European initiative EIT Climate-KIC, counted with the participation of the directors of EIT Climate-KIC and EIT Food in Spain, Jose-Luis Muñoz and Begoña Pérez-Villarreal respectively, the director of EIT Climate-KIC France, Than-Tam Le, Mercedes Iborra, of VisualNacert, a company specialised in the crop innovation, and the CSIC expert, Luis Fonseca. The debate was moderated by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, technical director of LifeWatch ERIC of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
During the meeting, the participants highlighted the importance of applying the European sustainable development strategy to the sector, which includes the circular economy as a fundamental element for its implementation. The agrifood industry must integrate the circular model into its process, and replace the linear model of produce, use and disposal with that of reduce, recycle and reuse. And this affects all stages of the agri-food product cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the secondary raw materials market. Legislative measures are needed on waste, increasing recycling levels and reducing the amount of waste generated by industry.
As José Luis Muñoz pointed out during his speech, the Spanish agrifood sector “has a unique opportunity to lead the drive towards sustainability on a global scale”. “This is an extraordinary moment and there is no time to lose. Legislation is becoming more and more favourable and is removing barriers to achieving green growth. And there’s no turning back. It is a path that we have to take and we have to do it together,” he said.
According to the general manager, EIT Climate-KIC “is in a privileged position to promote this change in the socio-economic model and to act as an innovation broker for all the agents and actors in the sector”. “We have the technology, the talent and the investors, we support the start-ups and the new entrepreneurs, so that the ideas and the technology reach the market and we promote that the administration allows and accelerates the change of model, because the pace of change forces to be fast in the positioning”, he concluded.
EIT Cross-KIC Spain
During the round table, the directors of EIT Climate-KIC and EIT Food in Spain have announced the pioneering group in Europe EIT Cross-KIC Spain, a platform that brings together all the KICs of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) which aims to channel the work of the different KICs with presence in Spain to jointly and transversally transform the knowledge and talent of our country in new products and services that address the different challenges of society in the field of Climate Change, Energy, ICTs, Food, Raw Materials or Health.