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i-Danha Food Lab 2022: main conference on food and sustainable agriculture

The main conference on sustainable food and agriculture, i-Danha Food Lab, took place last weekend, between the 4th and 6th of November. During this weekend around 50 national and international speakers, more than 75 companies and entities and over 180 participants had the opportunity to debate new ways to transform food systems.

In this annual event co-organised by Food4Sustainability CoLAB and BGI, with the support of EIT Food and Idanha-a-Nova City Council, participants had the opportunity to board the "Green Innovation Train", along the Tagus River and heading to the Historical Village of Monsanto, Portugal's 1st Bio-Region.

For three days, investors, companies, startups, professionals and other stakeholders in the agri-food sector exchanged ideas, deepened concepts and discussed sustainable agri-food production, ecology and green economy, with a view to innovative projects.

Besides the debate on the transition towards more sustainable and healthy food systems, new projects were presented. One of them was the European Digital Innovation Hub for the Agri-Food Sector (SFT-EDIH), composed of 28 partners, including Food4Sustainability CoLAB and BGI , which recently received the "Seal of Excellence" from the European Commission and will support hundreds of SMEs. Presented to the public by Nuno Serra, CEO of Food4Sustainability, this Digital Innovation Pole will be based in Idanha-a-Nova and will have a budget of 6 million euros for the next three years. Its coordination will be in charge of Food4Sustainability, the collaborative lab that was born from the i-Danha Food Lab project and currently employs about 30 employees in Idanha-a-Nova.

"The new hub will consolidate the strategy that is already in place, with very concrete results," said Armindo Jacinto, Mayor of Idanha-a-Nova. "There are investors who came for the first time to Idanha in previous editions of the i-Danha Food Lab. In the meantime, they have decided to invest in this municipality, reside and set up their companies here, creating wealth and employment," he added.

Since 2016, BGI and a set of partners from academia and business have been working to put Idanha-a-Nova at the forefront of sustainable food production, in response to a challenge launched by the Portuguese Government to help "revive" one of the Portuguese municipalities most affected by depopulation, attracting people, investment and jobs to the region.

Today the recognition of this work is plain to see. During the event, Idanha-a-Nova received the "Star Brand" Award attributed by Bloom Consulting Portugal, for being the municipality with less than 10 thousand inhabitants to present the best socio-economic performance in the whole country.

The event was also marked by the Biolog Awards. This is the national catalogue of organic producers and operators, which distinguished some of its members for their good practices. This was the case of Bio-Freixo (in the Innovation category), Bio Azórica (in the Social Sustainability category) and Herdade Do Escrivão (in the Regenerative Agriculture category). The awards were delivered by Isabel Carvalhais, Member of the European Parliament, who highlighted the initiative as an "instrument of great importance for the exchange of practices on organic and sustainable agriculture".

Idanha-a-Nova will continue to be the home of "green innovation

After a weekend full of experiences and learning, it is safe to say that the world can be a better place, as long as sustainability is the order of the day.

Adapting to the present global economy, extreme climate phenomena or relations with the long value chains to which primary products are subjected are just some of the multiple challenges facing the agri-food system. The food we eat and the production methods we use have a major impact on our environment, our health and our society. What are the new approaches to the food system and what responses can farmers turn to in order to deal with these challenges? Putting the food system on the agenda of governments and public authorities will be key to promoting healthier and more sustainable communities. They have a combination of tools and strategies they can use to influence and promote sustainable food systems.

The i-Danha Food Lab Annual Event will return in 2023 to address these issues and already has a date set. All those passionate about the agri-food sector can book the 17th, 18th and 19th November 2023 to visit the "museum village" of Idanha-a-Nova and discuss sustainable agri-food systems.

Images of the event available here.

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