Digital Innovation Dialogue on ‘FAO-UNDP Youth Digital Solution for Food and Agriculture’ showcases the importance of Youth in digital transformation times
Rome- On Wednesday the 29th July 2020, the 9th Session of FAO’s Digital Innovation Dialogue on Youth Digital Solution for Food and Agriculture showcased the synergies between FAO and UNDP Global Centre in Singapore’s work to build an enabling ecosystem and innovation culture for youth agripreneurs to harness digital solutions for food and agriculture. This was the first of more collaborations to come, the dialogue gathered colleagues from the UNDP Global Centre in Singapore and selected finalists of their global agritech programme, Cultiv@te, together with FAO’s selected innovation challenge winner teams to pitch their solutions to FAO Country Offices.
The FAO and UNDP Global Centre’s partnership is focused on exploring technological and innovative solutions to address specific agricultural challenges in developing countries, through attracting start-ups and R&D teams from around the world to improve and implement their solutions at scale, and enhance knowledge and practice sharing between developing and developed countries.
You can watch the video recording of the event here (with password p!3nX?uU).
‘We believe that Youth play an important role in a time of digital transformation in all areas including the agro food sector’ said Dejan Jakovljevic, FAO Deputy Director of IT Services (CSI). He also stressed in his introductory remarks, the importance of this initiative as he highlighted that ‘FAO is actively supporting the building of Digital Agriculture and Innovation Hubs to foster innovation ecosystem and culture. This includes: a partnership with Zhejiang University to establish a Centre of Excellence for Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship, another partnership in Africa with Wageningen University and the United Nations Technology Information Lab (UNTIL) to apply for H2020 through a proposal of SmartAgriHubs for Africa as well as the initiating of some preliminary discussions in Latin America on establishing AgriTech Hubs’.
Around 170 people attended the 1h30 discussion, where they learnt more about the application of digital solutions in the agriculture and food sector, as well as the tools used by youth and start-ups in this area.
‘In these times of profound digital transformation, which have been triggered even more by the disruptions in our supply chains caused by COVID-19, there are many tools and technologies that exist to help farmers in developing countries adopt more efficient and sustainable production methods, reduce the burden of labour-intensive tasks, and manage their farms better to help build a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system’ pointed out Meng Zeng, FAO Information Technology Officer, who moderated the event with Armen Harutyunyan, Senior Advisor on Digital and Sustainable Agriculture from UNDP.
The solutions presented by the finalists during the roadshow included digital solutions for productivity and sustainable agriculture, technologies for smart farming, food loss and waste, decentralised agricultural machinery networks, urban farming, agricultural services and information channels as well as agri-environment, among others.
Focusing on productivity and sustainable agriculture topics, the first speaker to open the round of presentations was Agrosmart, a digital platform that makes data available across the food supply chain for more climate resilient and sustainable agriculture, based on seed genetics, soil type and microclimate. SAIL - an innovative early warning system that was the winner of the last FAO Land and Water Days Hackathon- then took the floor to show how it predicts droughts and floods using weather forecasting data and geo-spatial modelling.
Following which, Food for Life presented on their food loss and waste solution - an app based on the concept of sharing economic services, that integrates blockchain, Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence technologies for merchants to achieve a sustainable agricultural development model. Next,Citiponics, who specialises in urban farming presented their vision on how to enrich the lives of communities through sustainable farming technology, providing them with safe and pesticide-free food to bring together and showcase the synergies in the FAO and the UNDP Global Centre in Singapore.
Focusing on services and knowledge sharing, Agromart showcased the end-to-end solutions and services it provides to the farming community in Uzbekistan, through advisory services to digitise farming practices, enabling access to suppliers, as well as to the market. Hello Tractor presented their solution next which aims at revolutionising mechanisation services across emerging markets by offering farmers an app to request services from a connected tractor fleet. iGrow, the first and biggest agriculture peer to peer lending platform in Indonesia followed and explained how they provide a connection between farmers, off takers and lenders to create a feasible farming supply chain. The last presenter was Seawater Solutions, an agri-environmental start-up that turns degraded and salinized land into healthy saltmarsh ecosystems, where food is grown in seawater, with a shared aim to address environmental conservation and food security through seawater farms.
At the end of the event, Bradley Busetto, Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development, noted, that “As the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, it is important to change the way we produce, harvest and consume food’ stressing out the strong belief that ‘this goal is achievable by promoting technologies and innovations that increase productivity, efficiency and sustainability of agriculture and food supply chains’. He ended by highlighting that this partnership between FAO and UNDP is ‘a good illustration of how the One UN approach can, among other aims, help advance toward global food security and to ensure that none is left behind.”
Digital Innovation Dialogue was launched in January 2019 to serve as a forum to enhance knowledge sharing and mutual learning between multidisciplinary innovation practitioners and FAO colleagues through open and informal discussions. The previous eight Digital Innovation Dialogue sessions have included workshops with Alibaba Cloud, IBM’s The Weather Company, ESRI, National Telecommunication Agency in Brazil, Gartner, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, and blockchain start-ups. Topics include Digital Intelligence Platform, AI Products, Blockchain and Geospatial Technology for Agriculture, Gender Equality in Digital Transformation, Farmer Digital Identity and Data Ownership, and China’s Experiences in Digital Agriculture and Digital Village. So far, the Dialogue has hosted more than 600 participants on-site and online.