The “Digital (R)evolution in Agri-Food and Forestry”, was the theme that gathered nearly 200 participants and several experts on 12 November, at the Almeida Garret Library in Porto, for the 5th edition of the Autumn Forum, an event organised by INESC TEC, in partnership with INIAV – National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinarian Research.
With the concerns about sustainability, climate change and the competitiveness of the agricultural and forest sectors in mind, INESC TEC gathered the inputs from experts and policy makers to promote the debate and come up with ideas capable of addressing the challenges that arise on the agri-food and forestry sectors. For that, it prepared a programme composed of interventions from guest speakers and two panels under the themes «The Impact of Technology» and «The Technological Proposal».
During the session, George Beers, a horticultural engineer and researcher at Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands), pointed out several innovation and technology transfer examples to the agri-food sector, as well as proven and successful business models. Luís Mira da Silva, Professor at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA) of the University of Lisbon, summed up the main challenges that arise on the sector at a global level, listed the main emerging technologies with an impact on this industry and analysed the Portuguese specificities.
The Minister for Agriculture, Maria do Céu Albuquerque, stressed the importance of research for the development of the sector and added that the national agriculture «didn’t wait and has already embarked on this digitalisation journey». In the same way, the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, stressed the importance of technology for the development of agri-food and forestry areas, giving the observation systems as an example. Manuel Heitor also highlighted how INESC TEC, with its relationship with North Africa and Brazil in several projects, can give Portugal a comparative advantage in a global universe.
The debate mainly resulted from the two discussion panels. The first discussion panel, entitled «The Impact of Technology» and moderated by João Ribeiro Lima from INIAV, included the Keynote speech by João Coimbra from Quinta da Cholda, and the participation of João Ribeiro Lima from INIAV, Rosa Amado, from ADVID – Association for the Development of Viticulture in the Douro Region, Carmo Martins from COTHN, Nuno Calado from ForestWISE/Sonae Arauco and Vasco Cortes Martins from Elaia. The second discussion panel, which was oriented to «The technological proposal», with the moderation of André Sá from INESC TEC, included the keynote speech by José Rafael Marques da Silva from AgroInsider, and the participation of Ricardo Teixeira from Herculano, Miguel Ferreira from CUTPLANT SOLUTIONS/VICORT, Francisco Manso from Trigger Systems and Paulo Damião from Tomix.
The need to structure the sector in organisations so that small producers have access to technology, and to promote a greater integration between the produced technology and the reality of agricultural holdings were some of the conclusions drawn out from the meeting and listed by Isabel Martins, Editorial director of the Vida Rural magazine, which like RTP and the Público newspaper, was a media partner in this event.
The session ended with the signing of two collaboration protocols. The first protocol, between INESC TEC, the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA) and INOVISA, has its eyes set upon research and innovation (R&I) actions within the digitisation of agriculture/forest/environment. The second protocol connects INESC TEC to GreenUPorto – Sustainable Agri-food Production Research Centre in order to promote initiatives focused on Smart Precision Farming, including the themes of Sustainable Agri-food Production and the Bioeconomy, and with a special focus on Protected Crops of Smart Precision.
More than just a broad analysis on the present and future of the agroforestry sector, the Autumn Forum of 2019 once again served its purpose of cementing the cooperative relationships between the institutions involved in the organisation, namely INESC TEC and INIAV, but also of enhancing synergies between participants. This opinion was expressed by Nuria Rodriguez from the Fundación Empresa-Universidad Gallega (FEUGA), who saw the event as an opportunity to «establish connections and collaboration with other European regions, in particular with Portugal» and to «explore the trends at the institutional, political and research level for agroforestry sector». Click here for a Fórum do Outono overview.
The Autumn Forum returns in 2020 with the debate on topics of major interest to Portugal, particularly those that are strongly influenced by science and technology.