The European Union (EU) has the ambition to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050, EU president Ursula von der Leyen and vice president Green Deal Commissioner Frans Timmermans declared in December 2019. As soon as the news was out, it was criticized for being unspecific on the criteria and metrics. Yet €1 trillion of public money will be spend from now till 2050. How to assess the results in terms of real environmental impact?

Petra Laux (acting Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of Syngenta Group) and Krijn Poppe (Policy advisor, economist and retired Research Manager at Wageningen University Research), led by moderator Tiffany Tsui will discuss the base on which the Green Deal has been formulated for agriculture and the required criteria and metrics to put the Green Deal meaningfully into practice. Why is existing governance so incapable at achieving better decision-making and what can be done to achieve better policy in a rapidly digitizing world of food?

The Green Deal has set its metrics in an entirely political and not at all practical way. Which is 25 percent organic and a reduction of kilograms of chemical pesticides. It would be more accurate and more in line with the market to formulate goals in terms of environmental impact. Precisely as the industry suggests. How come, their suggestion gets no resonance?

Krijn Poppe and Petra Laux

Petra Laux
Petra Laux is acting Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Syngenta Group. Petra joined Syngenta in 2019 from Novartis where she led Global Public Affairs for over a decade and was responsible for government relations, public policy, and advocacy. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health, a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is a trained Pharmacist, and has more than 25 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

Krijn Poppe
Krijn Poppe helps decision makers in policy and business to understand and act upon trends in agri & food, based in science. He worked until recently for nearly 40 years as Research Manager and Senior Economist at Wageningen Economic Research. Currently, Krijn is a Council Member of the RLI - Council for the Environment and Infrastructure and advisory councils in the Dutch provinces of South Holland and Flevoland.

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1. Digitisation will disrupt the food system as we know it

In the opening chat of the series, moderator Tiffany Tsui chats with panelists Paul Buisman (Moba, egg packing machines), Kristian Möller (GlobalG.A.P.), Hans de Gier (SyncForce, data integration), and Dick Veerman (Foodlog) to discuss the challenges ahead in the world of digital food.

2. Bye Manpower, Hello Machines and Value

In the absence of a global authority that is aware of the powers unleashed by the digitisation of food, what 'no-body' can guard the interests of the global community?
Hans de Gier (SyncForce) explains - during the second chat - the Consumer Goods Forum's Data Ports project. The project's goal is to make the myriad of product standards interoperable by a common basic taxonomy and connecting simple identifiers. The good news: it is fully feasible, as Hans explains in great technical detail.

3. The True Code - a free global digital Passport for every Farmer and Facility

Chat 3: in the near future, data will travel with products. Retailers and brands need fast, cheap, and reliable data. There are several platforms (blockchains, data lakes, ERP systems) that already contain supplier and product related-data. These platforms, however, are not interconnected. Data exchange is limited and complicated. Interconnectivity and the easy exchange of data cannot do without a reliable, yet simple identification of every individual company that has a role in the supply chain. This can be done by using a unique electronic passport connected to every individual facility that is an actor in the chain.

4. Blooming Africa - the transfer of practical know how, organising farmers, the AfCFTA free trade area and creating value with transparency

Tiffany Tsui discusses - during the fourth chat - with hands on expert Dutch strawberry grower and advisor Jan Robben, TRUE Code-developer Marjan de Bock-Smit, Victoria Madedor (African Farmers Stories), and Dr Ikechi Agbugba (Rivers State University, Nigeria) how recent border closures on the one hand and new trade opportunities on the other impact agriculture in Africa.

At 1:08:00 min. they were spontaneously joined by Memory Nyakwima Chakwita from Zimbabwe who showed the potential strawberry fields in which she would like to apply all that was discussed. It was a special moment in the informal part of the discussion, showing the potential of this way of connecting people, expertise and ideas.

5. How to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential?

In the fifth chat of the Digital Food series, Tiffany Tsui asked her panel of African experts about challenges to organize trust, capital and infrastructure for African smallholder entrepreneurs. Victoria Madedor (African Farmers Stories), Babatunde Olarewaju (Futux Agri Consult, Lagos, Nigeria), and Dr Ikechi Agbugba (Rivers State University, Nigeria) discussed the overcoming challenges to trade and export of crops. Marjan de Bock-Smit (founder ImpactBuying, former CEO SIM Supply) responds.

6. Carbon Credits: Discovering the Self-Financing Potential of African Farmers

Setting off carbon emissions is a growing concern for big companies, as they to realize negative emissions next to limiting them. The digitisation of food will make their efforts - or lack of them - transparant to the consumer. Investors like BlackRock prefer the big brands to take responsibility. That's why carbon credits are coming of age in the trade of doing ethical business. African farmers should profit from carbon credits as the mechanism can help them activate capital they own but couldn't monetize till now. However, carbon credits may well not be the holy grail. Agrobiologist Henk Breman calculated that in theory fertilizing African soils can lead up to sequestering between 10-65 Mt/ha, depending on soil types.

7. Building Natural Capital: Metrics & Transparant Monitoring

Moderator Tiffany Tsui interviewed Anke Hamminga, Sustainability lead EU at Cargill to find out how her company is working on a new strictly scientific methodology to clarify contradictory choices modern consumers and their suppliers make trying to buy sustainable food. Is that enough to ensure consumers will make better choices? Foodlog's Dick Veerman explained the notion of Natural Capital and the (geo)political challenges to implement it. "It is like islamic banking", he said. Natural capital doesn't allow for capital to accumulate in someone's pockets. It needs to be in reinvested in improving the natural system as a whole immediately in order to keep it balanced.

The first Digital Food conference in it's pre-covid physical guise in Amsterdam, 2019.