RUC-APS Conference Keynotes – 2021

Ana Campos Marin (University of Liverpool)

Dr Ana Campos Marin joined the Virtual Engineering Centre (University of Liverpool) in 2018 as a Project Engineer, using her academic background in physics simulation to utilise digital technologies including simulation, data analytics, advanced modelling and visualisation, to support the digitalisation of SME’s within Liverpool City Region.

In January 2021 Ana was appointed to Industrial Digitalisation Manager for supporting the digital transformation journey of local businesses, whilst liaising with academics to bring digital innovation and research to industry for delivering impact to society

Presentation Title: Mapping Access to Healthy Food in Liverpool: The Role of Transport, Time, and Store Type

Food insecurity describes the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food as the UK is considered one of the worst-performing nations in Europe. During the first three weeks of the first UK lockdown, food insecurity across Great Britain occurred at an estimated four times the typical rate, with increased prevalence coinciding with typical risk factors such as low income and the extra complexities of movement restrictions and food shortages (Loopstra 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied the number of people suffering from food insecurity – disrupting opening times of stores, available transport and monetary costs associated with food access in ways that will likely persist for many months beyond government restrictions. This restrictive access to healthy foods could lead to long-term poor health outcomes, limiting child development, putting additional pressure on NHS resources, and reducing economic output.

The University of Liverpool’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Food Systems underwent research into how different types of food is distributed across the Liverpool city region, highlighting variables including types of stores, availability of food types and access to these for a range of neighbourhoods through opening times and travel routes including bus paths. The Virtual Engineering Centre developed a digital interface which would capture all of these variables and demonstrates this data to food providers and local authorities, to encourage change and the reassessment of existing policies that could lead to better access to foods for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, developing a resilient, sustainable regional food economy.

The session will start with a brief high level presentation of the project and will discuss how the dashboard can function as a tool for local actors in food retail, food provision, and infrastructure planning to identify critical areas of poor access to healthy food, identify the reasons for poor access, and design efficient interventions or alter business plans. The food mapping dashboard will be demonstrated showing the underlying factors that contribute to food access such as store distribution and opening hours, store type, transport networks, etc. Dashboard functionalities will be demonstrated by analysing example regions in the city with different levels of access to healthy food.

Prasen Palvankar (Oracle)

Gain multi-tier visibility into supply chain networks, track and trace products for faster results, detect and resolve issues, and establish trust between trade partners in different countries and continents. In this session, you will learn how Oracle Intelligent Track & Trace, can help customers record transactions from multiple sources to provide track and trace reporting in a purpose-built application. Using distributed ledgers to record non-disputable transactions from multiple partners, organizations can share information and documentation on animal conditions, vaccines, medication, feed type, genetic material, transgenic data, certificates, lot, licenses, and much more, into a single interface accessed by multiple parties sharing and guaranteeing provenience and compliance across multiple markets

Gabriel Saavedra (INIA,Chile)

The production of vegetables has been taking great importance in the Region of La Araucanía due to the effects of climate change in the country. The highest concentration of production is in the central area where, at the same time, there are the largest markets due to the large population that inhabits these regions. However, the lack of water for irrigation due to the lack of rain and high temperatures have caused the movement of vegetables production to areas that were not so benign before, but which have become very attractive now, such as the Region of La Araucanía in southern Chile. For this reason, INIA Carillanca proposed to execute a series of projects and programs financed by the State of Chile in the development of vegetables production in the region, in order to determine the existing gaps in the value chain of vegetables and propose a route in the short, medium and long term. Through these initiatives, the program “Improvement of the competitiveness of the vegetables production sector in La Araucanía with the purpose of transforming the region into the supplier of vegetables for the southern zone and export” was born, financed entirely by the Regional Government of La Araucanía and executed by INIA Carillanca. This program aims to improve the production and commercialization of the vegetables sector for regional family agriculture, contributing to its development as an alternative for the reconversion and diversification of production systems. At the same time, develop and attract investments with high growth potential, in order to increase the participation of the various sectors in the economic structure of the region and thus improve regional competitiveness and the international economic insertion of Araucanía, creating the conditions that allow more expeditious access to consumer markets, whether internal or external.

Maria Teresa Pino (INIA)

Red and purple fleshed potatoes are not only a promising crop for starvation problems, also their consumption may prevent chronic diseases. Anthocyanin-rich extracts from red and purple fleshed potatoes have high potential as natural colorants with multiple applications in the food industry (lake, flour, food colouring). Also, these potatoes contain an important group of secondary plant metabolites associated with antioxidant activity. In addition, potato is a very efficient food crop and it produces more dry matter and proteins per unit area in comparison to cereals. For every m3 of water applied to the crop, Potato produces 5600 kcal of dietary energy, compared to 3860 in maize, 2300 in wheat and 2000 in rice. Thus, and because of its high nutritional value and yield, cultivated potatoes constitute the bulk of the economically and agronomically important crop production. It accounts for large quantities of dietary daily energy intake compared to other crops.

Nick Weir (Open Food Network)

The Open Food Network was developed in 2012 in the belief that if we are going to build better, fairer, more resilient, more sustainable food systems then we need to build them with fundamentally different tools than the tools that were used to build the current system. This means tools that are in common ownership and which are controlled by the large numbers of farmers, growers and food enterprises that are using those tools.  The Open Food Network uses open source technology to build and evolve a toolkit for farmers.

This presentation will include live screen share demonstrations of how the Open Food Network works for farmers, growers, food enterprises and their buyers and shoppers.  It will also cover how the global Open Food Network community is spreading with 20 countries currently using the software and another 15 in the process of deploying. There will be time for questions and answers and exploration of how the Open Food Network can integrate with other technologies.

Lluís Plà (University of Lleida)

Decision support systems (DSS) is the natural framework where decision models should be included in order to support farmers, advisers or livestock management specialists in the decision making process. During last years, the increment of competition between pig producers caused the marginal benefits per unit of product to reduce. A concentration of production to maintain past profit levels is performed. In this context, there is an increasing interest in DSS tools capable of dealing with the uncertainty inherent to pig production systems for practical decision support. In this talk the development of DSS for pig systems representing either the productive and reproductive behaviour of a group of breeding sows over time and their mathematical foundation are reviewed. It is in the aim to detect strong and weak points making DSS more suitable for practical use, explaining why actually few farmers and specialists are using them. New DSS tools adapted to particular production patterns beyond individual farms and the irruption of the internet of things are also important issues in future developments. In addition, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Data Analytics and cloud services are expected to impact on the development of a core of more intuitive, intelligent and integrable DSSs. Arguments presented, discussion and conclusion can easily extended to other livestock systems.

Lucas Iacono (Know-Center)

The last decade has been disruptive for Agriculture due to the new frontiers opened by data acquisition, processing and analysis technologies. Breakthrough technologies such as drones, the Internet of Things, multispectral cameras, Cloud Computing and artificial intelligence are a reality that is now available for farmers.

Among other advantages, these technologies can minimize crop’s damages caused by different meteorological phenomena, such as frost and storms. In this case, weather data can be collected using IoT devices like wireless sensors and streamed to the Cloud in real-time. As soon as the data are available in the Cloud, AI algorithms can analyze them and provide valuable analytics about frost occurrences. Then, the analytics are used by farmers and specialists to activate different frost deference methods like wind machines or sprinklers. Besides the above example, other problems in Agriculture can be faced using these technologies. Some of them are pest and diseases early detection, yield forecasting, etc. In summary, thanks to modern technologies, it’s possible to enhance the quality of crops and the economic benefits of small, medium and large agricultural producers. 

This presentation will detail the latest trends about the technologies that specialists and farmers can use to acquire, process and analyze data in agriculture, specifically, the ones focused on Frost Predictions and Frost damages minimization on vineyards. We will also provide concrete examples of our experiences and research applying technologies to reduce frost damages and economic losses on Vineyards located in the Province of Mendoza, Argentina.

Rejane Souza (Yara Americas)

Have you ever wonder that technological development in the field and sustainable food production were antagonists processes? Have you imagined that the more we add input and investments, the more the risk of degrading the natural resources such as water, soil and the higher the emissions of GHG? It is unfortunately quite normal that people still reflect upon such questions, concluding that professionalizing agriculture to get scale and efficiency is a bad thing. Well, the great news is: development and conservation are not antagonists at all. In fact, they are the way out in terms of getting a more sustainable way of producing food now and in the future.

You may ask: how? The answer is simple, not easy to implement, but simple in a way. The more knowledge we are able to invest in the fields, in terms of rationalizing and optimizing the input of crop nutrition, crop protection and other materials, the more the chances of improving the yield, quality of food produced and hence, impact water use efficiency, land use efficiency, carbon footprint, biodiversity and soil health, due carbon addition to the soil. In times when we are invited to have sense of urgency, with people still starving and with only 9 seasons to reach the reduction of emissions promised by global leaders, it’s of utmost importance to act.

Why do we still send to waste from +30% of vegetables and fruits produced globally? Would a longer shelf-life enable us to get more food to more people and avoid wastage? What about biofortification, would it be also a key topic for us to focus more in depth? 

I am a strong believer. I believe that we already have most of the knowledge and tools required to do better in the field. We do have years of global research, public and private sectors have been strongly dedicated to find answers for the challenges faced by the farmers, the starting point of the whole food chain. So, why do we still have strong yield gaps worldwide? What is the missing link?

 Scientia potentia est (Knowledge is power). This expression, attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, could not be more right! However, knowledge without application is almost useless. The answer then: make sure the knowledge grows and flows, towards the direction of millions of farmers across the globe. Demystify  best production practices, simplify according different development levels but keep moving towards enabling farmers to become best every day.

Our answer as Yara: a digital transformation that takes more than one century of agronomic knowledge to farmers across the globe, in form of digital ag solutions meant to solve farmers’ problems; a strong footprint of +1,000 agronomists who have their boots on the ground and keep the flow of needs mapping running, so we can focus on even more tailor made solutions; a portfolio of crop nutrition solutions which addresses crop, soil and climate specific situations (substantiated by a strong global research program), hence high performance and use efficiency of nutrients, water and lower CFP per unit of food is possible; and last but not least, strategic partnerships with food companies, academia and peers. The challenges are out there, but we truly believe we can act right now, if we stick together.

Néstor Etxaleku (Zabala)

The Farm to Fork Strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. With this strategy, the European Commission aims to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers.

A relevant tool to support activities that implement this strategy is the H2020 and now the Horizon Europe (HE) programme. The HE is the biggest European programme supporting the R&D and Innovation. Specifically, inside the HE there is the Cluster 6 – Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment in pillar 2. This cluster 6 will contain the main calls with opportunities for submitting proposals that aim to support the implementation of the Farm to Fork Strategy, as well as related ones as the Circular Economy, the Bioeconomy or the Biodiversity strategies.

In 2021, the calls for proposals area already closed, but new opportunities are going to be opened in the next months. Two specific calls for project for farm to fork projects will open next 28th October and will finish the 15th of February 2022. During our presentation will present these new opportunities as well as some examples of previous projects already funded by the European Commission in H2020 programme:

  • FoodRUs: is working to tackle the food waste and losses by creating resilient food systems across nine European regions. To achieve this, the project will test 23 circular solutions through diverse forms of collaborative innovation, including: technological (blockchain solutions to manage food losses and waste), social (educational materials and citizen science activities to promote sustainable consumption habits), organisational (last mile networks to foster local consumption and donation), and fiscal (new ‘Pay As You Throw’ schemes).These innovative solutions will empower and engage all actors in local food systems, from farmers to end-consumers and everyone in between, to build a multi-actor alliance to tackle the challenge of food loss and waste
  • GO GRASS: During four years, GO-GRASS is developing  cost-effective and sustainable circular business models considering social, economic and environmental circumstances in rural areas across Europe. By harnessing regional assets, GO-GRASS aims to diversify and revitalise rural economies and provide quality jobs and opportunities in co-operation with entrepreneurs and local authorities. The raw materials obtained will go into the production of bio-based products replacing existing fossil-based alternatives, such as fertilisers or plastic-packaging. Reclaiming otherwise lost natural resources could have a considerable impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at EU-level. The project targets large-scale replication especially in remote communities with unexploited resources.