Here is the First part of the interview with Ana Maria Corredera Quintana, Vice Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Andalusia

What are the goals of this document?

The aim of the Strategic Recommendations is influencing EU digitization strategies in the agrifood value chain with a focus on the next programming period. The six policy recommendations jointly with 10 conclusions aim for the improvement of digitization of the agri-food value chain. These policy recommendations have been reached through a common agreement where the partners have been working on since 2019 in close cooperation with their regional stakeholders.

Can you briefly describe the scope and objective of the Regions 4Food Project and your role in coordinating 7 regions within this Project?

REGIONS 4FOOD project looks for maximizing the potential of regional ecosystems by bringing together the regional authorities and all actors of the agri-food value chain, improving the regional policy instruments, and promoting the digitization of the agri-food sector.

In this sense, since the project aims to make policy recommendations at European Level, the expertise and best practices in agri-food sector digitization and smart specialization of different regions is crucial. Therefore, the role of the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of the Government of Andalusia is to bring together the 7 involved regions in the projects and transfer knowledge and expertise as well as foster the quadruple helix implication in the agri-food sector digitization and smart specialization with an extent to European level.

What are the main challenges of digitization in agri food? What are the main barriers?

In line with the digitization trends in the industrial sector, nowadays we face many challenges and those related to the agri-food sector are of a different nature. Among the most evident are those related to competences and training. In addition, it should be taken into account that additional services and technologies, adapted to Agro, may be necessary to collect data and answer various questions related to the sustainability of the sector in all its dimensions; economic, environmental and social.

In any case, in the framework of the REGIONS 4FOOD Project development, based on the learning, debates and exchange of experiences among project partners and their stakeholders, a number of challenges and barriers for the digitization in Agri-food were detected. These challenges are related to the regulation of digitization process, to the search for additional measures of support and their simplification to accelerate this process. Another important issue related to the digitization process is the need to improve the interoperability and to raise more awareness for public action. In this sense, a supporting roadmap is crucial to better deploy the process.

Likewise, speaking in practical terms and from the perspective of some regions, the advanced age of many local farmers puts in evidence another great challenge for the sector. To them, we can sum the challenge of the atomization of companies involved in farming in some regions and the lack of culture to use technological solutions to improve the competitiveness.

How can Big Data foster process innovation in the sector?

Researchers in digital transformation point out that Big Data could help to cover both challenges and opportunities through its large volume and variety. In term of challenges, firstly the idea is the capacity to manage all the workload of data gathered. In terms of opportunities, Big Data offers the possibility to control the process from the very beginning until the final product, thus allowing traceability, productivity, food security, and sustainability of the agri-food sector in general. Likewise, Big Data easily connects the farming and agro-industry allowing higher interoperability, connectivity, and new business models development.

Besides, the involvement of the quadruple helix in this big process strengthens the digital innovation ecosystem, in other words, it is bringing agriculture at a new level, as well as the supply chain and agri-food industry.

Its importance is also evident in the fact that REGIONS 4FOOD was born from the will of 7 European regions that belong to the European Thematic Partnership on Traceability and Big Data in the agri-food value chain. This European partnership is also led by this Regional Ministry, to which today more than 20 European regional governments belong.