† Circular economy: one of the roads to sustainability
Food is an increasingly hot topic as the impact of agri-food on the climate is well established, and the simple equation that we cannot feed the growing population with current production methods is obvious, and we are discovering the vulnerability of the global food ecosystem in the light of the conflicts on our doorstep.
What solutions can we try to offer to make the agri-food ecosystem more sustainable?
The agri-food system is in transition, also in crisis. We can no longer afford to continue using the same methods of producing even more food at even lower prices. Technological innovation from laboratories is a powerful tool for companies that want to commit to greater sustainability.
We are fortunate that in Switzerland we have a number of innovation players in the agri-food sector in research institutes such as EPFL and ETHZurich, HES, Agroscope or competence centers such as Grangeneuve in the canton of Fribourg.
Innovation is in the DNA of international companies and foodtech start-ups that currently enjoy a lot of support and investment. But as in many fields, SMEs struggle to implement certain technological innovations due to ignorance of their existence, lack of time to move from ideas to products, lack of qualified staff or even lack of financial resources.
The guidance by actors in the form of ideation of innovation projects and financing of pilots is therefore welcome but potentially unknown. With this in mind, the innovation agency Innosuisse has set up an awareness program called “Series of networking events» which tends to inform, raise awareness and create communities of interest by bringing economic and academic actors together and involving others stakeholders such as accelerators, investors and consumers.
Right, and the consumer in all of this? He seems completely contradictory: he is increasingly sensitive to themes such as sustainability, proximity and seasonality, but may consider it normal that the shopping basket represents a relatively small part of the family budget (albeit recently misused by inflation). And at a time when a food crisis threatens, he is not necessarily willing to give up his lawyers and blueberries or choosing fruits and veggies that aren’t bursting with the perfect colors and shapes, not to mention eating cuts of meat that have been labeled as not noble. And those who want to replace meat altogether can sometimes err in overconsumption of over-processed products such as fast food, or which have a significant CO2 impact. There are therefore great discrepancies that merit discussion, without forgetting the essential cultural, convivial and emotional aspect of food, which is too often ignored in the debate on the future of food.
But it is also the consumer who, through his choices, puts pressure on the players in the ecosystem. Take the theme of circularity, which is on the rise and which is indeed one of the most important approaches to make the ecosystem healthier. The circular economy in the food industry, what is it? It is essentially the recovery of products that are not consumed during food production, such as solid waste and wastewater. Using Resources unused thermal energy. Finding organic alternatives to plastic packaging. Use untapped protein sources.
A few examples
Keratin is recovered during the process of preparing chicken meat which is converted into a polymer that can be used as cling film. Algae replacing plastic packaging. Valorization of whey produced during cheese making. The use of waste from brewing production. Making drinks from coffee pulp. Not to mention insect meal, algae, mycelia, yeasts and other spirulina, fermented products, and lab-grown meats or seafood.
We value the abundance of solutions and precisely the exchange of ideas in the form of open innovation and collective intelligence is promoted from farm to fork.
On May 18th from 1.30 pm we will meet in the HEG-Fribourg at the event Circular economy in agribusiness to constructively influence the agri-food ecosystem.
Also see, Interviews from agribusiness entrepreneurs, researchers and facilitators who will speak at the May 18 event.
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