Wednesday, June 7, 2017

EIP-AGRI Seminar "Digital Innovation Hubs: mainstreaming digital agriculture"

Between 1-2 of June 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in the invitation-only EIP-AGRI Seminar titled "Digital Innovation Hubs: mainstreaming digital agriculture". The Seminar took place at the luxurious Lyrath Estate at Kilkenny, Ireland and I attended on behalf of NEUROPUBLIC.

Simply put, DIHs are structures that aim to facilitate the adoption of innovative digital tools and services by SMEs (and companies in general), allowing the faster digitization of their processes. Stakeholders of DIHs (and potential members) include technology providers, innovation brokers, farmers' organizations, business incubators, investors / funding bodies etc.

The Seminar aimed at enabling a wide variety of stakeholders, including policy makers, research and technology organisations, SMEs, investors and other actors from the agricultural sector to share knowledge, expertise and needs to develop Digital Innovation Hubs for agriculture. Starting from the basics, it provided all the necessary introductory information (what is a DIH, its expected roles, potential members of DIHs etc.) and during its course, it required participants to provide their views on the envisaged barriers which could challenge the setup and operation of DIHs. On the 2nd and last day of the event, participants were asked to provide their input on potential use cases where DIH would be valuable. All these took place in the context of breakout sessions, where participants were grouped in teams working on a specific theme/topic, followed by plenary sessions where the outcomes of the groups were presented. I really liked the interactive approach of the event (btw, excellent facilitation by Vincent Tiel Groenestege!), which kept everyone involved and alarmed and discouraged us from responding to emails and checking our social media accounts :-)

I am personally interested in the theme of the seminar, as it combines innovation and digitization in the agrifood sector, based on networking and exploitation of existing resources. I would love to find the opportunity to be more actively involved with that and have the feeling that I will get it through the Action 16 of the Greek Rural Development Programme. I strongly believe that the future of farming is digital and data production, especially at farm level, will significantly boost food production, thus contributing in addressing the global food security issue.

During the event, I had the opportunity to make some new and interesting connections. At the same time, I came across some familiar faces, including but not limited to:
  • Daniel Azevedo, Senior Policy Advisor of COPA COGECA; a person I meet quite often lately;
  • AIOTI WG06 members, including chair Luis Perez Freire, Phillip-Andreas Schmidt (Bayer Crop Science) and Raul Palma (Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center - also a partner of our DataBio H2020 project);
  • Spyros Fountas (Agricultural University of Athens); one of the few Greek researchers working with precision agriculture / smart farming (and a collaborator of NEUROPUBLIC in several occasions) - also the coordinator of the prominent SmartAKIS H2020 project.
  • Peter Paree from ZLTO, an acquaintance from the CAPSELLA H2020 project (back in my Agroknow days); an open-minded person working on opening up data in the agro-biodiversity context.
Yeap, I was there!
I also had the pleasure to meet and talk with EIP-AGRI team members, such as Iman Boot, PacĂ´me Elouna Eyenga & Quico Onega. The whole team did an excellent work with the organization and the facilitation of the event, leaving us participants with the sole task of providing our feedback where needed.

All in all it has been an interesting and fruitful event which provided me with food for thought / homework (should I say officework?) and only left me with the dire need to attend the next one of the series - the Agri Innovation Summit (AIS 2017), which will come as a natural follow up of this event. Will I make it there in the end? ;-)