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ERA-NET Cofund on ICT-enabled agri-food systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ICT-AGRI-FOOD (ERA-NET Cofund on ICT-enabled agri-food systems)

Período documentado: 2019-10-01 hasta 2021-01-31

The agri-food sector in Europe faces significant challenges in balancing the increasing demand for food (especially for resource intensive foodstuffs) and other outputs of the bioeconomy with society’s increasing demand for an agri-food system with less damaging impacts on the environment, and positive social and societal effects. The adoption of digital technologies by the actors in the agri-food system offers much potential to address these challenges, but despite this, the uptake of new digital technologies has been slow. Additionally, much of the potential value of the data that is already collected remains untapped because it exists in silos unavailable to those who might use it. Unlocking the value of this data remains a significant challenge due to technological barriers, lack of trust between the different actors (regarding also data security, safety and ownership issues), and economic barriers, such as reluctance of stakeholders to invest because of unclear returns and variable ability of the private sector to serve transparency needs.
Tackling these challenges will require a coordinated transnational and multidisciplinary approach, which uses the available financial, intellectual and structural resources to maximum effect. ICT-AGRI-FOOD addresses these challenges by pooling significant financial resources from participating national or regional research programmes with EU funds and has launched a targeted joint transnational research and innovation call co-funded by the EC. Furthermore, the ERA-NET Cofund will implement one to three additional joint calls without EC co-funding. These calls will target the development of data-driven ICT platforms and digital solutions that make use of data from across the food chain in order to transform our agri-food systems into sustainable, resilient, fair, and transparent systems. In addition, complementary additional joint activities that go beyond the calls are planned. These activities aim at linking new research to existing platforms and to the outputs of ongoing and previously funded projects in order to make ICT-AGRI-FOOD a pivotal point connecting all actors along the food chain to ensure maximum impact.
To address the challenges described above, the ICT-AGRI-FOOD consortium implemented a joint call for proposals in the R&D area for strengthening the development and use of digital technologies in the agri-food system. The joint call is funded by the partners of the consortium and co-funded by the European Commission (EC). 19 transnational and multidisciplinary R&D projects have been selected for funding and start in the first quarter of 2021.
Next to the cofunded call, ICT-AGRI-FOOD has implemented additional joint activities (funding and non-funding activities) that will further contribute to:
• the uptake of novel digital technologies to transform the agri-food systems making them more sustainable, resilient, fair, responsible, responsive, adaptive, circular, transparent, safe and secure; and
• the interaction and exchange of all actors along the value chain of the agri-food systems in a multidisciplinary and transnational approach to develop innovative ideas including stakeholders along the whole value chain from farm to fork.
For instance, we have organised a series of FAST TRACK TO INNOVATION workshops. The aim of these workshops was to foster the successful go-to-market strategy of the 19 funded projects and to bring together actors from across the entire agri-food systems including primary producers, advisors, SMEs, food processors, food retailers, consumers and the public sector with researchers in a multi-actor approach, to enable digital technology solutions for a transition towards sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.
Moreover, we have collaborated with the European Space Agency, which has launched two calls for innovation projects in the agri-food area. The titles of these calls are “Responsible Agritech” (closed December 2020) and “Prevent Food and Beverage Fraud” (closed February 2021).
Large parts of Europe’s agri-food systems are not sustainably designed. It is widely accepted that the mode of operation of our agri-food systems needs to be transformed in a fundamental way. Data and information are key to address these challenges. Digital technologies offer new and often disruptive opportunities to deal with these issues when used in a thoughtful and wise manner. However, the rate of adoption of digital technologies, especially with regard to small farms and other actors along the value chain of agri-food systems, has been low so far. Those substantial challenges can only be tackled at an international level by bridging national research activities and pooling expertise and financial resources. Furthermore, in many cases, pan-European or transnational-scale synthesis of information is required in order to generate consensus of opinion and to achieve critical mass.
Our approach will improve coordination and alignment of research activities and reduce overlap between national and EU funding, delivering a better overall return on investment. Enhanced cooperation will strengthen existing collaborative networks of research on enabling digital technologies and establish new harmonising activities between national programmes across Europe and globally through our international partners.
ICT-AGRI-FOOD cooperates with various thematically linked organisations and networks to ensure maximisation of the ERA-NET’s impact. Furthermore, the cooperation ensure the duplication of research and research coordination efforts is minimised and close links with the wider community, stakeholders and international partners are maintained.
ICT-AGRI-FOOD is going beyond the state-of-the-art by its Knowledge Incubator Programme. In order to foster cooperation and exchange, the Knowledge Incubator has been aspired to facilitate the exchange of knowledge in order to inspire people and develop innovative ideas. The Programme will bring researchers, funders and stakeholders together and offers a space to develop or refine innovative solutions to make European agri-food systems more sustainable and resilient by the development and targeted application of smart digital technologies.
Together with an online platform, different events will be organised by ICT-AGRI-FOOD in order to build a community of researchers and stakeholders and learn together how to organize the information on project results in order to make it accessible to actors within and outside the research community.
During the lifetime of ICT-AGRI-FOOD, a new Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) will be elaborated and supplemented with a special focus on the specific aspects of the food sector. The new SRIA can serve as a common ground for planning and implementing the transformation of European agri-food systems.
We believe that through a well-founded and intensive cooperation and better alignment of national research priorities, ICT-AGRI-FOOD’s activities will have the scale and scope necessary to maximise the impact of our research activities in Europe and to promote a transformation of our agri-food systems.
Photo of the consortium at the kick-off meeting 2019