Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Attending the Smart AKIS 3rd Innovation Workshop

Earlier today I had the opportunity to be among the selected audience of the Smart AKIS 3rd Innovation Workshop in Greece, which took place at the premises of the Agricultural University of Athens. Among the participants of the Workshop there were academia (researchers working with smart farming and/or precision agriculture), representatives from farmers' associations and private companies, students etc.

The event aimed at providing an overview of various aspects of smart farming in Greece and was well-structured: Starting with a presentation of the Smart AKIS project and its platform, it moved to various funding opportunities available to smart farming stakeholders and then to pitching of innovative ideas based on smart farming that were discussed in the previous Smart AKIS workshop and implemented in the meantime. Since the implementation involved (in most cases) both research organizations and private companies (along with farmers of course!), this brought the EIP-AGRI's Operational Groups in my mind.

This feeling was further enhanced by the discussions that followed and concluded the event; the audience was split in three groups and discussed about the previously described ideas that would address real issues that farmers face. The fact that each group included at least one representative of a farmers' association was critical; I was lucky to be in the same group with Mark Legas from 7Grapes/Pegasus cooperative and he was a real source of inspiration, matching existing issues with potential solutions on the fly. The most prominent solutions will be presented and discussed during a Pan-European workshop of the project, to take place in the near future.

There was a common understanding (and agreement) among the participants that we need to (and can) produce more with less, that technology alone cannot provide the solutions for the existing food production issues and that research is a vital part of the solution, along with technology and data. Farmers understand that they do not have full control of the way they apply inputs in their fields and admit that they would appreciate support in the form of advice in their decision-making processes that affect their production. Researchers know how their scientific knowledge can contribute and companies have the expertise to implement this by transforming it into advice and apply it through innovative technologies.

Overall, it was a great event (congratulations to the organizers!), engaging various actors of the agrifood chain, and I was glad to be a part of it.

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