ELO Innovation Conference
This year’s Innovation Conference was titled “Cheap prices, high standards – is it possible? European Consumers’ attitudes towards innovation and food”.
In 2016, the ELO’s annual innovation conference discussed the gap between the current consumer expectations and the agricultural sector’s capabilities.
The expectation of the European consumer seems to rise every year, not just in terms of food safety, but also in its locality, quality, and high food safety standards – however there is a general unwillingness for consumers to pay the costs associated with these standards. Acknowledging the contradictory expectations of the consumers, this year’s Innovation Conference provided a platform to discuss these issues, and examined whether or not the innovation that could fill the gap between price expectation and quality demand could be fulfilled through new technologies.
Panelists from the industrial sector, the academics and civil society expressed their concerns for the present public perception of farmers and the lack of communication between both parties.
Europe’s current attitude to some agricultural technologies has the power to scare away the next generation of innovation. Fortunately for the farming community, Europe has fewer issues regarding the application of digital technology to agriculture. The presented digital precision farming tools have proven to contribute to a farmer’s efforts in biodiversity and environmentally friendly farming. The possibility to produce measurable differences through the technology is an added positive; as such topics are among the core concerns of today’s consumer. However not all innovative measures are connected to technology. “Natural farming” is one such example, including innovative solutions such as rice field margins and allowing biological processes, such as feeding birds, instead of using chemical insecticides.
Panelists and audience discussed the public opinion on the use of biotech in farming and whether digital technology is at risk to develop a similar negative public opinion; the decreasing influence of farmers in the food chain and how to reduce the distance between farmers and consumers.
The ELO’s Innovation Conference will return in 2017.