On 29 April 2020, we organised our first webinar on Food, Tech and the City: How technology can contribute to resilient, sustainable and inclusive urban food systems in abnormal times. With 36 participants and a lively discussion, it was a great start to the #CEMASTalks webinar series! Many stakeholders and experts on urban food joined the exchange, including representatives of FAO, RUAF, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact or the GAIN Alliance.
During the webinar, Grigoris Chatzikostas, an expert in financing innovation in agricultural technology and foodtech, explained how technologies could make our urban food systems more resilient and sustainable, taking into account the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grigoris pointed out that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, all stakeholders in food value chains, from farmers to consumers, will experience a totally different landscape.
Short local supply chains (“glocalisation”, “km0”) and the close relationship between urban and rural areas will be among the dominant trends in our “new normal”, but Grigoris stressed that this trend must not stop global trade and global cooperation. During and after COVID-19, we need to continue to collaborate on a global level, exchanging knowledge and resources in order to produce safe and adequate food at affordable prices.
He also emphasised that due to the pandemic:
- We need to continue to bring technology and scientific knowledge closer to the places where food is produced
- Small players in the food business that were relying on traditional value networks will need to go digital to be able to survive
- Farmers will invest in affordable robotic technologies for resilience and sustainability, even if the systems cannot replace seasonal workers at the moment
- Science should be among the main recipients of massive investments from government
The participants agreed that in times of crisis there is an opportunity to apply technological innovation to food systems in order to improve food security. These technologies need to be further studied and tested before being mainstreamed. However, the situation in fragile development countries needs to be closely observed where the new technologies may not be accessible, and people are already struggling with extreme poverty at present.
Grigoris answered that often these countries are used to finding solutions in crisis situations, also due to “guerrilla techniques” such as the use of mobile phones. But that of course we cannot leave anybody behind in the reorganisation of our food supply chains.
Vicente Domingo, Director of CEMAS, and Jose-Maria G. Alvarez-Coque, member of the CEMAS Advisory Board, underlined the importance of peri-urban areas and gave the example of the city of València with its strong links to the “huerta” (vegetable garden surrounding the city).
The recording of our webinar is available at this link.
Related links that were shared during the webinar:
- Food systems in abnormal times: What technology is promising towards resilience and sustainability and which contradictions it brings along
- Covid19: accelerating the move to sustainable diets?
- Territorial food projects.
- Eating in times of coronavirus.
- Resilient food system article
- Documentary about the Valencian countryside
In the upcoming months, CEMAS will be organising more free webinars on a range of topics related to sustainable food systems in cities, food, nutrition, the fight against hunger, and climate change. The official hashtag for these webinars will remain #CEMASTalks. We will keep you informed here and through our social media channels!