In 2016, BGI was challenged by the Municipality of Idanha-a-Nova to solve the current problem of population decrease, high school abandonment rate, lack of talent retention, leading to the closure of social services (e.g., schools and hospitals) which intensifies migration from Idanha-a-Nova to big cities, decrease of local investment so on so forth in, a very difficult to break, vicious cycle. The suggested approach to solve the aforementioned problem in Idanha was to create a “CoLAB” that would attract talent, investment and create jobs. But with economic sustainability in mind. This would ultimately aim at increasing the local economy and spur innovation spirit within the local population fostering education and motivation to pursue studies in the food area.
However, the problem facing in Idanha can be generalized across Europe rural area. So, the solution envisaged of the proposed CoLAB in Idanha can have important spillovers across Europe, for instance via replication.
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"Idanha-a-Nova used to have an economy relying on a traditional centralized, government subsidized agriculture. As times changed, established farmers did not adapt to the changing reality, they became prey of the paradigm changes, frozen in time. For instance, back in the 60’s, Idanha was a major producer of tomato and tobacco in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, most big farmers have disappeared. Most of the existing agriculture is today practiced by small scale farmers who are often smallholders often highly vulnerable economic cycles, who farm low value-added crops and with low skills and education."
On a positive note, they believe in a future when agriculture can play a strong role in Idanha-a-Nova economy but also as a well-paid career for their future generations.
The following key step conducted was the organisation of a strategy meeting that took place in December 2016 in Idanha, where renowned experts from all continents were invited in order to understand how we could solve this problem through technology, and how other locations where doing it. The focus was digitisation of agriculture, best practices in other countries, and to define the plan of what could be done in Idanha-a-Nova to solve the current problem. The partners that compose the i-Danha CoLAB are genuinely concerned about such climatechange paradigm that will present unprecedented challenges to the human population and its survival. For 3 days over 60 people worked on this ideation and i-Danha Food CoLAB first concept was born. The concept has been developes CoLAB aims to place Portugal at the forefront of low carbon, circular food and refined.
The Food4Sustainability was born of i-Danha Food Lab, a collaboration between BGI and the Municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, directly supported by 3 EIT KIC (Climate, Digital, Food).