Big on ambition

Data and food. Working together to make European food systems more sustainable? Does that sound plausible? The thinking on sustainability in social and environmental terms is to be expected. The realisation? That’s more a work in progress.

Food production is evolving and has to find ways to rely less on natural resources. Data will play a more important role in food production growth. Digitalised management in agriculture will be introduced to more farms, with less food loss and waste during the process.

The Data4Food2030 project is equipped with €10 million of funding to discover the value of the data economy in European food systems. The project includes a network of 24 partners from 12 different countries across Europe, including the European Federation of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST), and led by Wageningen University & Research.
The aim is to improve the data economy for food systems by “expanding its definition, mapping its development, reiterating the need for a robust monitoring system, and introducing business and governance models stemming from a dialogue with stakeholders”.

What is enlightening about a confident team behind Data4Food2030 is the willingness for good governance and building trust amongst all stakeholders, including marginalised groups whose access to data is limited because of gender, geographical location or ethnic background.

As the EFFoST points out. There are issues of trust, data ownership, and fear that data can be misused to create “monopolistic” positions. So far funding has been directed towards advancing and adopting technologies, however the challenge lies not as much in the technology, but how it translates. Data analysis is advantageous but users may not understand how data is handled and how to trust it. Do we know how to monitor the data economy, who should be doing that and how to organise its governance?

To make the findings more inclusive, stakeholders from nine different EU countries will be part of nine case studies, providing real-life examples of data usage. These examples are studied to generate data-enabled business models that cover areas such as food production, supply chain and the circular economy.

Certainly, the signs are that we are working together to encourage a shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach to food and nutrition, towards a more tailored and personalised approach that considers the needs of different regions and communities. To increase food security and reduce the alarming rates of malnutrition, we must create a food system where everyone has universal access to the food they need.

Promising innovations are already underway, which should be expanded upon and continuously improved with the input of stakeholders, as will be the case with the aims of Data4Food2030.

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