A Pathway to a More Sustainable Agri-Food System

project meeting group photo

Do you know what’s better than a ripe tomato? A ripe tomato that’s sustainably grown and sold at a fair price. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in the agri-food industry. That’s where Ploutos comes in; to bring forward the solutions that can rebalance the agri-food value chains so that everyone benefits!

At the 6th project meeting held in Thessaloniki, Greece on April 20th and 21st, 2023, participants discussed the project’s progress and the challenges that lay ahead.

“We still have 26 value chains and are counting innovations in the three areas (i.e. Technological, Business and Behavioural Innovations)- that’s around 77 so far!” said the project’s Project Coordinator, Nikolaos Marianos, from GAIA, one of the project partners. “Although the project pilots (SIPs) were affected by Covid and the war in Ukraine, we created solutions that actually worked. Congratulations to everyone!”

“Something I have learned from interacting with Ploutos is the richness of experiences and challenges that arrive when not expected, and how together we innovate in return,” said Áine, a senior research officer at Teagasc.

Caroline from TNO explained how they worked with SIP 7 to make a digital label effective and established a focus group to take place in July. Meanwhile, Áine from Teagasc discussed how they are creating a toolbox that can be used by people within Ploutos, but also by people who are not part of the project. “The aim is not a report but an actual toolbox that is easy to use, valuable, and practical. It should be co-designed by the users who are the intended end-users of the toolbox.”

Ploutos aims to change human behavior to create change and build trust and tech adoption. As Caroline, a senior consultant at TNO, noted, “putting an ambassador at the forefront can help create the basis of trust around others and help them in applying innovations and new technologies.”

The challenge, of course, is how to make that connection and generate trust more quickly. “Trust is very important when it comes to sharing data – either those data are shared from farmers to farmers, or from farmers to advisors. How to intervene to generate that trust more quickly? A solution might be to foster a sense of recognition, of belonging, and of the ensuing pride that comes from being part of a community of likeminded people.

Ploutos is not just a project. It’s a pathway to a more sustainable agri-food industry that benefits everyone. To achieve this however, we have to be imaginative and maybe bold. One of the core members of Ploutos, Christopher, a professor at Maastricht University and Senior Scientist at TNO, made an insightful comment, “We are treating everything as fixed, let’s rethink this…How can we change the overall frame where we are operating? In many cases, we are not being imaginative enough about changing the rules.”

This comment highlights the need to challenge the status quo and seek innovative solutions to complex issues. As we move into the final six months of the project, it’s essential to remember that all the hard work and effort put into it will bring real change. Let’s continue to embrace creativity, adaptability, and open-mindedness to ensure the project’s success.

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