SAFE organised this annual webinar to foster deeper inter-European cooperation. The goal was to improve the network of organisations working to tackle Food Losses and Waste (FLW) at EU and national level. The first of the four annual webinars focused on best practices and strategies to combat food waste and losses at the primary production level.

The panelists shared ideas and perspectives related to the innovations that the SISTERS project is implementing, to the policy actions in place at EU level at the moment, and to the actions other relevant EU projects are undertaking.

The webinar was divided in 3 different panels, each formed by 2-3 speakers:

First panel: The SISTERS project and Primary Production

Carolina Peñalva Lapuente, coordinator of SISTERS, presented the project and the partners, focusing on the solutions that the partners are proposing to solve the problems linked to FLW along the food value chain. She stressed what the expected impacts are at each stage of the value chain and the importance for the project to address the issues in a holistic way.

Sergio J Quesada, working for ENCO, partner of SISTERS, shared a presentation on the receptivity existing in the food value chain, focusing on how to develop an exploitation and replication plan for innovations at primary production level, stressing that those strategies make sure that the results are achieved. Sergio also shared his experience in Fruit Attraction 2022 fair in Madrid (ES) where he interacted and did some networking with stakeholders working in the agrifood value chain.

Key takeaways: it is necessary to draft policies to regulate adverse activities and ensure sustainable development, while governments should force businesses to be more social and environmentally responsible, since the private sector is not regulated by mandatory comprehensive policies. SISTERS works to offer incentives to partners, to make our solutions and suggestions more attractive: find and develop a product strategy, while finding sponsorship by public entities.

Pierre Tubiana presented the short chain app that BMS developed, and SISTERS will apply to reduce FLW. The app will help primary producers to sell online their surplus. Afterwards, he presented the results of BMS feasibility study, which helped understanding the primary producers’ needs.

According to the results of the study, there are challenges to be solved, among which providing innovative solutions to advertise and promote surpluses and discarded food products. BMS made some important decisions and decided to develop:

  • a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution to allow easy website creation, SEO friendly, at an affordable cost.
  • an open database of fruits and vegetables to facilitate the products integration in the app.
  • national/European portals to consolidate and promote inventories of food at risk to be lost or wasted.

Second panel: EU and primary production

Luigi Tozzi opened the second panel and took the floor to talk about problems and possibilities for FLW at primary production level in the EU:

  • Problem of definitions
  • Work on strategies for circular economy to produce food in a more sustainable way
  • He called for the EU Commission to put forward regulations and not only directives to approach the issue, to avoid the burden to be on consumers only.

Afterwards, Diana Lenzi held a talk about the best practices to tackle and reduce FLW at primary production level. After presenting CEJA, she stressed the mission of placing young farmers’ perspective at the very core of sustainability actions. The EU agenda, Green Deal and F2F strategy require a pragmatic response, so primary production needs to consider a sustainable angle. She described the challenges and proposed solutions of young farmers:

  • There is not enough individual and collective capacity
  • Strategies on circular and bio economy can help utilise all the elements involved in primary production, but also reinsert them and generating profit
  • There is an urge for creating synergies at local level to recreate decent rural livelihoods and rural economies

Some important issues raised during the webinar regarding capacity building for young farmers

It is necessary to become more analytical to improve their practices, but also for them to see how sustainability can be economically valuable for them and for the society.

Moreover, cooperatives can create economic patterns but can also modify the supply chain in a specific time to avoid overlaps. Examples from different EU Member States show that it is possible to re-insert discarded products into the system, creating a double circle of sustainability thanks to innovative projects and investments.

Need for a cultural shift, by educating people about the fact that the appearance of a product is not going to make the product perfectly tasty.

Third panel: Relevant EU projects

SISTERS counted with the attendance of two relevant projects from its network: ZeroW and agroBRIDGES.

Angèle Tasse presented the project “ZeroW – Systemic Innovations Towards a Zero Food Waste Supply Chain” which focuses on preventing, reducing, and valorising FLW through 9 systemic innovation living labs along the food value chain:+

  1. The monitoring and assessing of FLW
  2. The development of a smart and innovative packaging for fresh food products
  3. The creation of greenhouse solutions for the pre-harvest and harvest phases
  4. The control and optimisation of data driven production processes
  5. The information and nudging of consumers
  6. The reduction of FLW through efficient food bank networks
  7. The investigation of the potential of mobile food processing unit
  8. The identification of ugly food at an early stage through a multisensory platform able to analyse products and classify them in three different categories
  9. The use of food waste for micro algae cultivation, that will be used in other sectors 9cosmetics, packaging)

The project will work in the development of economic models for FLW, data-driven solutions, systemic innovation, environmental sustainability, participating to a just transition that could be exploited and commercialised by producers.

Eirini Efthymiadou is the coordinator of the project “agroBRIDGES: building bridges between producers and consumers”, aiming to build bridges between producers and consumers, by providing practical knowledge to farmers. The main goals of the project are the following:

  • Development of demand-driven innovation
  • Empowerment of farmers with practical knowledge and support to set up SFSCs, better linking producers with consumers and procurers
  • Delivering of a decision support tool to facilitate the selection of the most sustainable business model to be adopted
  • Offering a combination of communication materials, training programmes, event guides, and digital marketing and networking tools
  • Establishing regional and international multi actor structures for stakeholder- driven development, testing, validation and roll out.

The project aims also to create synergies with other projects and invited SISTERS partners to participate to agroBRIDGES annual webinar next November.