Pannel at the International Cooperation Expo – in collaboration with Fondazione Aurora


The conference on Food Innovation embraced actors from international organizations such as FAO represented by the leader of Responsible Investments in Agriculture, Michael Riggs, and the FAO e-learning center represented by Cristina Petracchi, as well as FoodInnopolis, with the CEO Akeanong Jangbua and the presence of the former Minister of Agriculture of Italy, Maurizio Martina.


FAO e-learning center

The panel was initiated by Cristina Petracchi, she presented the FAO e-learning center, an open and free platform, multilingual, which aims at developing specific competences for professionals that work with SDG’s. The courses go from food security to climate change, food waste, responsible agriculture investment, monitoring evaluation and how to formulate projects. Mainly, they focus on SDG’s 2, 5, 6, 12, 14 and 15. The courses were endorsed by the World Committee on Food Security.

Responsible Agriculture Investment – FAO

The next presenter was Michael Riggs, team leader for responsible agriculture investment at FAO. He argued that the private sector is essential in the fight to reach the 2nd SDG goal, ending hunger. According to FAO, in order to achieve the 2030 agenda goal, it is necessary to invest 265 billion dollars a year, from 2015 to 2030. From which 140 billion of this sum should be invested from the production of food such as grains, rice, fish, fruits and nuts. Most of this amount would come from the private sector, he stated, as it is the main investor in the production of food. Riggs affirmed that although this value seems high, it does not necessarily mean that more is better, but that these investments should be done in a sustainable way. But how do we invest in agriculture in a sustainable manner, generating profit and without damaging the environment?

FAO has been working for years in understanding what makes an investment better. They have realized that many of the investments have unintended side effects as: environmental degradation or a change in local food security, as well as sometimes damaging the people whom have traditional rights to the land. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the whole spectrum of impact related to investments, instead of just focusing on the financial returns. Therefore, they created the “10 principles for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems”, globally agreed to guidances, shared by the members of FAO and agreed to by the representatives of the private sector and civil society.

In addition to these principles, there are other guidances that FAO provides and supports, but they become more specialized, one example is small-scale fishery guidelines, for small and large scale producers. As well as guidelines to the investment on land, focusing on investing in a way that in the long-term would not impact negatively the surroundings and community, while ensuring that the company would profit from the investment. Guidances that have regional or subregional specificity. They work with the government to ensure that these guidelines are holistic and that they will all comprehensively enable us to pursue investments that are sustainable in the long-run. However, a question comes to mind: how to make sure that these guidelines are followed?

Except for the ones related to business and human rights, the guidances are voluntary.  Although, FAO works with the governments to understand how this can be inserted at a national level and in some cases become laws. For example, in Sierra Leone the government is working on implementing these guidelines in the country. It is important to understand that these guidelines are quite general, because they have to be, he argues, as they are agreed to at a global level. When looking at them in one country versus another, different areas need focus, as well as different existing local laws that may or may not be aligned, then it’s important to look into these terms and determine what should be changed or what needs to be added. It is impossible to wait for all of this to become laws in all the countries in the world.

It’s important as well to look at it from a business perspective in long-term sustainability. One example of how they have been applied as well is on the financial sector, as these are tools and guidances to where investors put their money, so it’s not a law but the investor ask that the investings agree to abide to these principles, to prevent posterior conflicts, thus increasing the likelihood that these investments would have a positive return.

What is the situation now in Africa with investments, guidelines, control?

                As it is an enormous continent with many countries and different regimentations and characteristics. Extremely different, North and South with different particularities, it is necessary to look at specific cases. Sierra Leone has become more advanced with applying some of the international guidelines into their own regulations and legislation related to land base investment. Its’ neighbor country, Liberia, has been working together with Sierra Leone and learning from their experiences. When looking at other countries it’s necessary to consider the context, some work with South-South Cooperation or Triangular Cooperation to enhance investments and to develop certain sectors.

Former Minister of Agriculture of Italy – Maurizio Martina

The panel proceed with a presentation from former Minister of Agriculture in Italy, Maurizio Martina, who presented the Italian political strategies that have been applied pursuing the SDGs, specifically the 2nd, zero hunger. He reiterated the need to understand the identity of the Italian business model, which would facilitate the achievement of the goals. The producers must understand that sustainability is a leverage to reach more profits for them. He argued we live in a new era, where the figures we can prove that sustainability is a good way to be competitive in the market, while in the 80’s producers who would choose to be sustainable could not compete.

He argues that a set of laws were approved by the Italian government to support sustainable investments as: the biological agriculture law, raw-materials tracking law, biodiversity law, social agriculture law. They brought these orientations to the European Union as well, to add it to their agricultural policies for the next years. Italy intends to be the bridge between Europe and the Mediterranean area, thus, projects were made to develop innovation and research in these areas. As the Prima Foundation, which means Partnership for Innovation and Research in the Mediterranean,  the leader researcher in innovation in the field, which embodied the Italian governmental policies.

Therefore, the fundamental challenge to be understood by the citizens is that it is possible to achieve those objectives with an open world where the acknowledgement of the agricultural systems are strength factors and where the identity of each country can represent an added value. The former Minister concluded that we will not achieve those goals with taxes and closed borders policies, but with open territorial systems where sustainability goals can be reached through agriculture and where the agricultural production will be the distinctiveness of enrichment. Italy is very rich in terms of identity and innovation in research and sustainability should be accessible by small companies, not only the big ones.


FoodInnopolis – Thailand

The final presenter was Mrs. Akeanong Jangbua from FoodInnopolis, in Thailand. The organization works with innovation to support the food industry by helping them connect with the global food value chain. It has been running for 3 years and aims at becoming the agro-food innovation hub among the ASEAN countries.

FoodInnopolis was conceived after a study of over 50 food companies in the world, to understand how they work within their countries and how they engage the raw-materials and technology that they have with new trends on the food market. Situated 20km north of Bangkok, their facilities accommodate companies and provide them with technology to equip them during the research about their products. They work with small start-ups and big companies as well, comprising today 35 companies in total, 30% being international, mainly from Japan. They are able to stay in the organization from 6 months to 1 year, while receiving training, coaching and solutions for their needs. The aim now is expanding to minor locations, in order to reach small producers and engage them in the international market.

They focus on small companies to help them increase their competitive advantages to be able to compete in the international food market. Thus, connecting producers with the global trends as specialty foods, premium food products and national ingredients as well as automation and food logistics. They focus on three specific areas: 1- health and financial food; 2- high value-added products and 3- food innovation systems as how to transport food and food security. They intend to become a network environment where producers and other workers in the area learn one from another.

The organization works as well with new technologies as the internet of food, flavor scientists, Future Food Labs, power plants and automation of processes, providing high infrastructure to the companies they support. Thailand is considered an agricultural country and FoodInnopolis intends to promote national companies by providing them solutions aligned with the new global trends in the food market and the new technologies available.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

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