Forum for digital transformation in the agri-food sector

By Pablo Fernandez -

Last November the third edition of the DATAGRI Forum took place, organised by Agri-food Cooperatives of Spain, Hispatec Analytics, COAG and the Higher Technical School of Agricultural and Forestry Engineering (ETSIAM) of Córdoba. Due to the current situation, this edition DATAGRI 2020 had to be developed in a virtual format. The event was divided into five days, three of which focused on the main Spanish agricultural sectors. In total, more than 80 speakers participated and an audience of around 1,800 people from 20 countries was reached.

As in previous editions, the cooperatives had a very relevant participation, especially in the sectorial sessions, in which they shared their experiences with digitisation as well as the overcome barriers and the strategies for the future.

DATAGRI 2020 was inaugurated by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, and the spokesperson of the DATAGRI Forum Organising Committee, Rosa Gallardo. Luis Planas stressed that digitisation is fundamental for the reorientation of the sector towards sustainable agriculture. Likewise, Rosa Gallardo highlighted the need to accompany the digital transformation with social and institutional changes through greater training of professionals in the agri-food sector.

Following this, the Director of Nielsen for Spain and Portugal, Patricia Daimiel, presented an analysis of the main changes in consumer behaviour, highlighting the increase in online shopping and greater acquisition of healthy and sustainable products. The first day concluded with a debate on "Humanism, ethics and technology in the digital economy", where a greater effort was called for in Europe to create companies that are benchmarks in innovation. Furthermore, the consequences of the introduction of new technologies were discussed: many jobs will be replaced by others with greater added value and skills.

The second day focused on the livestock and olive sectors, each with specific sessions. Among others, Rubén Masnou, from the AGROCAT cooperative, participated in the session on livestock farming and presented the results of an application for improving the management of livestock waste and nitrogenous fertilisers: APPLIPUR. The DCOOP cooperative also took part through Belén Barrero, who explained how the Integraporc operating group has installed sensors and scales in the cooperative, allowing them to collect data in real time from sows and piglets and compare them with environmental parameters, generating information available to their farmers at all times through a mobile application. Likewise, Jesús Gerique, from aGROSlab, presented the work developed within the framework of its digital ecosystem with cooperatives such as the ArcoIris Group, an example of circular economy thanks to the optimisation achieved in manure management.

In the session on olive groves, the fundamental role that cooperatives should play in transferring new technologies to their farmers was highlighted. José Emilio Guerrero, from ETSIAM in Cordoba, presented a digital simulation project of the agricultural reality with the aim of making it more efficient. The cooperatives Oleoestepa and Viñaoliva participated on it. Jesús Muñoz, consultant collaborating with NoSoloSoftware, gave an example of traceability with blockchain based on the Almazaras de la Subbética cooperative, which is the protagonist of a project in which data is extracted to monitor the lots. Among many other relevant interventions, Lourdes Arce, from Innolivar, dealt with a subject that is generating great expectation in the sector: the classification of oils using instrumental techniques that complement the Panel Test.

The third day of DATAGRI 2020 addressed the experiences, problems and opportunities of digitisation in the wine and arable sectors. In the wine session, Álvaro Gago, from the Cuatro Rayas cooperative, highlighted a problem that can be extended to many cooperatives and companies in the Spanish agri-food sector: they do not have access to broadband and this forces them to connect via satellite, finding themselves at a disadvantage compared to cities in terms of connectivity. They have their own application since digitisation, promoted by the members themselves, is very present in this cooperative, from the countryside to the winery. On the other hand, Jesús Gil Soto, Head of R+D+i Projects at the Agri-food Technology Centre of Extremadura (CTAEX), referred to the experience of the SIGVIT operational group (Management system for plots in the wine sector), coordinated by the CAVE San José cooperative, where they have developed monitoring systems to obtain images in the field as well as information on ripening, plots, etc. Likewise, Débora Franco, from Monet Viticultura, shared the experience obtained in the VITICAST operational group on disease prediction models to improve the application of phytosanitary products, in which the Viña Costeira cooperative participates.

In the session on arable crops, Alberto Gutiérrez, from the Castilla y León Agricultural Technology Institute (ITACYL), highlighted the need for the administration to facilitate a rapid and simple flow of information to the farmer, in other words, ease and training. Likewise, María Gema Ramírez, head of the Cereals and Rice Area in the Sub-Directorate-General for Herbaceous and Industrial Crops and Olive Oil in the MAPA, pointed out that precise and up-to-date information is needed in order to define appropriate agricultural management policies.

The fruit and vegetable and industry 4.0 sectors were the protagonists during the fourth day of DATAGRI 2020. In the fruit and vegetable sector, three cooperatives took part. Firstly, Marco Antonio Vaz, from the second grade cooperative Onubafruit, presented how monitoring irrigation management brings sustainability and efficiency to the cooperative, allowing for the prediction of diseases and production, and a much more exhaustive monitoring of the crop. Javier López-Cepero, from the Regional Group of Cooperatives of the Canary Islands (COPLACA), explained that digitisation is being worked on in his cooperatives at three different levels: common field notebook, harvest forecast and audits. The last intervention of a cooperative nature was that of Jesús Regodón, from the TROPS cooperative. Regodón presented TropicalIA, a system which allows for improved crop forecasting and campaign planning, increased cost savings and structured data and objective criteria, giving confidence to the brand.

The industry 4.0 block included a presentation by Fernando Vázquez, CEO of Naturcode, from where they are developing, in a collaborative environment with many operators (including cooperatives), intelligent labelling that provides holistic information to the consumer. The Biovegen platform also presented the CITRUS operational group, in which the ANECOOP cooperative participates. This task force provides the citrus sector with tools for variety identification through an application, and in this way, through a system that helps with decision-making, it is possible to find out which varieties are of most interest to grow. On the other hand, Eduardo Alcalde, Head of Energy Management Projects at the CIRCE Foundation, presented the collaborative energy management platform for cooperatives developed within the framework of the SCOoPE project, coordinated by Agri-food Cooperatives of Spain. This platform allows real-time telemonitoring in feed factories, with savings of around 15% in energy and 10% in maintenance costs.

On the closing day, Ramón Armengol, president of the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union (COGECA), highlighted the important role of cooperatives as platforms for promoting digitisation, which not only means an improvement in production, but also in process management. Additionally, it also allows for more information to be provided to the consumer. For his part, Roberto García, Director of Food and Agricultural Innovation at Cajamar, presented a collaborative platform developed with the aim of generating a community of actors, allowing the digitisation of research and training activities which are being carried out.

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