By Maite Cabellero, Senior Adviser at New Ways Consulting, December 4, 2017
Cooperation along the entire supply chain is still an issue that needs to be addressed to achieve sustainability. This was the main take-away from the Feeding the World 2017 conference that took place on Nov 29, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.
The role innovation plays in achieving sustainability and a circular economy brought together academics, researchers, members of the food and feed associations, farmers and government officials to discuss the topic. It was widely acknowledged that global cooperation, which includes all actors in the supply chain, is necessary to help better care for farming fields, as well as provide the disruptive key technology that is now required to produce sustainably.
With this in mind, Professor Martin Scholten of Wageningen University, recommended that academics and research institutes turn to businesses to identify the current challenges and gaps in knowledge so that they can provide practical solutions to specific problems in the field.
Guest speakers at the event agreed that a combination of knowledge and entrepreneurship, along with public-private partnerships, are key to meeting societal challenges in production and across the supply chain.
According to Ms. Anabel Rodriguez, CEO of the Circular Economy Foundation, one of the main obstacles to a circular economy is the lack of an actual agreement on what a circular economy is and how to develop it. European institutions, which presented a draft legislative proposal on circular economy in November 2015, are yet to formally agree on it.
As such, businesses and public administrations are trying to advance their own circular economy proposals in connection to some of the main action areas outlined in the draft European legislative text. These include setting higher targets for waste and adhering to new sustainability methods for the agriculture sector.
An example was presented by Professor Scholten, who stated that circularity is about valuing manure and all types of proteins from a production system and a smart food processing point of view. Hence, proteins coming from the sea such as seaweed – which can reduce the use of antibiotic when used as feed, or even insects, which represent an efficient feed conversion– should be more widely utilised.
Another obstacle identified is the lack of education, training or understanding on behalf of farmers. For instance, there are currently new rules regarding composting that promote the use of residues. However, farmers do not necessarily trust this new composting approach and hence are reluctant to apply it on the farm.
Ms. Rodriguez believes that collaboration between the corporate sector, academics and individuals can lead to best practices being set across the entire agriculture industry. In line with this, the media has a great role to play in conveying information in a more pedagogic manner, as do corporations and associations. In the education sphere, another challenge is to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist, but which will be created to deal with the mitigation and adaptation efforts concerning climate change.
Mr. Ricard Cabero, Institutional Relations Director at retailer Mercardona, warned that while the circular economy can bring a lot of opportunities and efficiencies, At the end of the day, it is expensive, requires a lot of work, must always be considered for the long term and it must be profitable.