Agriculture in the Era of Climate Change

Expo 2020 Dubai, 'Inovation Talks' - Conference Overview
March 1, 2022
Agriculture in the Era of Climate Change

After a year in which different parts of the world experienced extreme weather events (floods, fires, mudslides, etc.) it is obvious the climate crisis is already here and that, unless we change our ways towards the Earth and its diminishing natural resources, things will only deteriorate. The horror scenario is that by 2030, we will no longer be able to fulfill the needs of a hungry world population. These views were highlighted even in the way several countries built their pavilions: Italy used ropes made from recycled bottles, for example.

On February 16, the Italian Trade Agency (ITA)  hosted a conference jointly with the Italian Embassy in Dubai, and the Italian Pavilion. I was kindly invited to attend as part of a delegation from the Mediterranean Basin that included participants from Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, organized by Daniel Coen from the Israeli branch of the ITA.

The conference centered around the changes agricultural practices must undergo to meet the demands we face in this era. Its main goal was to present Italian innovation in the agri-food sector, in line with Europe’s strategic guidelines and the global objectives of sustainability and social responsibility, with a look ahead towards a new way of thinking in agriculture.

I’d like to share here some of the critical issues touched upon and the important messages delivered by several of the speakers in the agro sector. The first part was titled: THE POTENTIAL OF MADE IN ITALY IN THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF GLOBAL MARKETS.

Introductory greetings were followed by a four-member panel:
● Ashraf Ali Ma, Executive Director, Lulu Group International
● Alessandro Pe, Managing Director, Arneg Middle East
● Daniele Benatoff, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Planet Farms
● Giuseppe Di Martino, CEO, Pastificio Di Martino

 

 

 

Daniele Benatoff spoke about Vertical Farming and its multiple benefits. He explained why in view of climate change and population growth, even a traditional sector like agriculture can’t continue to work the way it has until today. Vertical Farming lets growers produce all year round regardless of climatic conditions, without damaging the environment or harming future generations. Growers produce only the quantities needed and prevent waste. All this combined will help us achieve Food Security.

The first part of the conference ended with José Rallo, Member of the Board of the ITA. Her concluding words were: "We’ve learned something new: there is demand for Italian products by customers from many countries. To realize this potential, we must expand international relations, promote digitization, and secure assistance from the state.”

 

The second part of the conference was organized by ITA and FederUnacoma (Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Federation), and was devoted to:
ITALIAN TECHNOLOGIES FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

This segment was moderated by José Rallo. She opened the session by presenting a fascinating overview of agriculture today, and what Italian companies must do in order to be able to deal with a changing reality, the main means being to adopt methods of Precision Agriculture.

The first project, presented by Massimiliano Giansanti, President of Confagricoltura, was named HubFarm. Its objective is to collect information and place it at the service of farmers, only 10% of whom, it turns out, use advanced technology today.

 

 

Their objective is to help Italian farmers transition to an information-based model. This entails compiling data and information on companies, technologies, and services available, and creating a common IT platform, with relevant standards and certifications that can form a basis for this digital and ecological operative transformation.

 

 

The second speaker, Giulia Giuffrè, Board Member and Sustainability Ambassador at Irritech, a leading irrigation technology company. Her lecture was titled:
CONSIDERING THE GLOBAL CHALLENGES THAT AGRICULTURAL SECTOR HAS TO COPE WITH, HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY DRIVE SUSTAINABILITY?

 

According to her, since agriculture accounts for 70% of water use worldwide, the sector needs to move to more efficient practices such as drip irrigation and applying nutrients in minimal quantities. This can be achieved through new smart technologies and digital systems, improving performance through integrated management, monitoring, and complete process control. Proper digital management enhances yields and can save even up to 30% of resources.

 

Another interesting lecture was delivered by Alessandro Malavolti from FederUnacoma.
His remarks were about technological advances in agriculture and agricultural mechanization, as well as the importance of IT. Collecting information is critical at all stages of the agricultural chain: from production to sales in order to ensure Complete Traceability.

Overall during the conference some initial goals were achieved such as creating contacts, getting to know representatives from neighboring countries, and learning about the Italian innovation spirit and offerings. All this will form the basis for further cooperation and extend ties for the benefit of world farming.

I would like to thank Daniele and the ITA for putting together such interesting and informative sessions, and for showing us wonderful Italian hospitality even far away from home. I hope to see you in Israel next year at Agritech 2023, the big Israeli agriculture show, and explore ways to enable agro technology cooperation!

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