Learning from the Matanza Tradition: How Europe can become a global leader in smart farming applications

In its mission to become the global leader in smart farming applications, Europe can combine its own way of consensus building (the multi-actor approach) with a methodology aiming to quickly launch new products in the market developed in the other side of the Atlantic, in Silicon Valley (the lean start-up methodology). Surprisingly, in order to better understand this eclectic state-of-the-art approach, one can turn to the age-old custom of pig slaughtering still being practiced in the Spanish dehesa – La Matanza.

Europe has been for some time on a path to becoming a global leader in sustainable farming. The development of the European smart farming community started with developing the technological building blocks through EU-funded projects such as Future Farm, Smart AgriFood 1, FIWARE, and FISPACE, and creating the initial critical mass of early adopters. This created platforms through which new technologies could be developed and customised via already existing services. The next step towards expansion of this innovation ecosystem aimed to tap into the most agile link of the value-chain, the start-up community. A portfolio of implemented and ongoing projects like Smart Agrifood 2, Finish, FRACTALS, KATANA, and ACTIVATE provided funding alongside tailor-made business support services that significantly helped European start-ups and SMEs to capture the opportunities in the global agrifood sector. The community was now ready to reach broader audiences and demonstrate the potential of digital technologies (and more specifically IoT) to involve the entire value chain and accelerate the innovation process. The flagship project that spearheaded this movement is IoF2020 and the approach it took in doing so is the lean-multi-actor approach.

It is remarkable to note how such a novel approach can be related to an age-old tradition. However, even though in IoF2020 we apply the latest technologies and modern expertise in a pig related use-case, the project shares many values with the traditional Matanza custom. Firstly, it is inclusive: the way in which the lean multi-actor approach involves the entire value chain reflects the way in which the entire village is engaged in Matanza – how a task is allocated to everyone in a joint communal effort of working for the benefit of the community. In IoF2020 end-users from the agrifood are actively involved during the entire development process aiming at cross-fertilisation, co-creation, and co-ownership of results.

Furthermore, we can observe that sustainability is deeply rooted in both: the practices preceding Matanza have an intimate relationship with environment and landscape conservation. During Matanza very little goes to waste and therefore negative effects on environment are minimal. Our firm commitment in environmental KPIs in IoF2020 aims to enhance monitoring of sustainability parameters, e.g. emissions and production, in order to contribute to meeting agriculture’s grand challenges in feeding the growing world population, dealing with climate change, becoming more resource efficient, lowering ecological footprints and improving animal welfare, like Matanza-practising farmers always did.

Matanza is a ritual that remained sustainable for hundreds of years, because it has found a way to eliminate waste by utilising all resources: every part of the pig, from ears to hoofs to tail has its purpose. We similarly derive our circular approach in IoF2020 by highlighting the importance of reusable components: protocols, software, platforms, etc. that have been developed in one Use Case, that can also be used in others. In this way, the resources are being exploited to the fullest for the benefit of European farmers and consumers.

The ultimate goal is to provide safe and adequate food for European citizens; the challenge is to leverage, align, and coordinate national and EU investments for technological development, business support services, and access to capital. In order to consolidate Europe’s leading position in the global IoT industry it is necessary to foster a symbiotic ecosystem of farmers, food industry, technology providers, and research institutes. This is precisely what IoF2020 is dedicated to achieve: bringing the entire European ecosystem together; connecting the dots in a way that ensures global leadership for Europe in the agtech market.

(Photograph Source: www.dehesando.com)


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Grigoris Chatzikostas

Work Package 2 leader ‘Trial Management’ and Head of the Business Development Department at BioSense Institute

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