Agri-foodtech Flanders is a non-profit strategy driven agrifood science and technology platform initiated by flanders.bio, in collaboration with VIB, ILVO, VITO, Flanders’FOOD, Ghent University, KU Leuven, Hasselt University and a number of tech companies.
“Agri-foodtech Flanders aims to stimulate innovation and cross-pollination in research and business related to agrifood science and technology.”
Flanders has a strong tradition in high-technological innovation in agribusiness across the value chain. From biotechnology with new breeding techniques and the development of new crop protection products to smart and precision farming solutions with remote sensing, robotics and AI; from post-harvest treatments to the processing and modification of food. The agri-food industry is a spearhead of the Flemish economy. The agricultural, food and supporting bio-industries are an important sector for the employment and added value in our region. It is supported by high-level scientific research and innovation performed at top-notch universities and research institutions and a growing ecosystem of R&D intensive companies across the entire value chain, from field to fork.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. These goals have resonated in the EU Farm to Fork Strategy aiming a.o. to create a robust and resilient food system whilst reducing its environmental and climate footprint. The targets for 2030 are ambitious, to put it mildly, and pose a high pressure on the agri-food industry.
Disruptive technological innovations, such as big data, AI, new genomic techniques and robotics, that are emerging rapidly and are profoundly changing many sectors, have the great potential to revolutionise plant primary production in the medium term (2030). New breeding techniques, biocontrol solutions, fermentation technology, smart robotics and remote sensing can play a major role in changing the agri-food value chain. These innovations enable producing healthier food for a more plant-based, balanced diet using efficient, integrated production systems (precision agriculture, multi-trait seeds, microbiome, biological crop protection, etc.) with less waste. The technological potential for these innovations is present in Flanders, but some levers are needed for the agricultural and food sector to really capitalise on that potential.
A domain-specific, cross-sectoral and cross-technological platform like the agri-foodtech platform can act as a lever to address these challenges by stimulating knowledge transfer, collaboration and promoting further technological innovation. The platform focuses on plant primary production across the value chain from pre-production (seeds, growth stimulators and crop protection products) overproduction monitoring (smart and precision farming solutions) to post-harvest management, in close conformity with the needs and challenges of the food industry. Building a reputable ecosystem can lower the bar to scientific and technological knowledge, bring together the different stakeholders - companies, academia, research institutions, NGOs and governments - and promote sector-wide cooperation.