5th Organic Processing Conference: opportunities for an organic future
by Daniela Nickel (comments: 0)
More than 90 organic stakeholders gathered at the 5th Organic Processing Conference in Zwolle. (Photo: Daniela Nickel)
From 16th to 17th of January 2018, international stakeholders from the organic sector gathered at the 5th Organic Processing Conference (OPC) in Zwolle, Netherlands, to discuss digital opportunities for organic processors. Organized by IFOAM EU and Bionext, the conference guided the participants through a varied program offering different possibilities and ideas on how to improve organics and how cope with problems such as the conventionalization of the organic market by digitalization.
Eduardo Cuoco introduced the 5th OPC by recalling the challenges the organic sector has been facing within the last years. Despite the positive development of a growing organic market, organic pioneers and processors are confronted with an increasing takeover by conventional companies, ecological drawbacks as well as alarming socio-economic challenges. In hindsight to the launch of the Organic Roadmap at the IFOAM EU Organic Congress in Tallinn last year, Cuoco accentuated the importance of interacting organic stakeholders by following the same strategic directions and fulfilling values for the society at the same time, as “this is the only way to reach the Vision 2030”.
Challenges for a new organic generation
By launching the Organic Roadmap, deeply intertwined with the vision of making Europe organic by 2030, the organic sector is setting itself high standards. However, this vision also provides the new organic generation with a motivating challenge. In the opening plenary, Eduardo Cuoco invited representatives of this new generation as well as organic pioneers to talk about the possibilities to reach the objectives of the organic sector. At the panel, Fabian Breisinger (AÖL Young Entrepreneurs Group and All Organic Treasures), Léopold Meurens (Meurens Natural – Sipal), Sascha de Lint (Greenage and Bionext Board) and Laurence Beck (Wessanen) discussed their ideas.
The driving force that clearly united discussion’s participants is the passion for organic products as well as the target to protect and promote the organic branch albeit they are all following different approaches. As a big organic company, Wessanen concentrates many different brands under one roof. Thereby, Laurence Beck explained, Wessanen helps its brands to benefit from each other as partners. Sascha de Lint has dedicated Greenage to underline that food is very personal and therefore, its source needs to be trustworthy. However, de Lint is convinced that especially young children need more knowledge about how food is processed as conventional farming is often promoted as being an healthy option without further scrutiny.
Representing the organic pioneer generation, Léopold Meurens considers the law as one of the most important factors for organics. Though, Fabian Breisinger argued that the European organic sector needs to secure raw material by bringing more organic farming to Europe. In this regard, he also calls for a significant reduction of meat.
Mitigating the consequences of conventionalization
Discussing the future of the organic sector: Eduardo Cuoco (IFOAM EU), Fabian Breisinger (AöL/AOT), Léopold Meurens (Sipal), Sascha de Lint (Bionext/Greenage) and Laurence Beck (Wessanen). Photo: Daniela Nickel
Amongst all different possibilities and ideas that create the lively variety within the organic sector, there is one prospective task that’s driving about all stakeholders affected. During last years, the organic spark has jumped over to huge conventional companies who have started producing organic products by creating private labels or taking over traditional organic companies. What appears to be a chance for the organic sector often results in new private certification systems, a decrease of small-scale farmers, organic fraud as well as blurred lines between the conventional and the organic market.
In order to address these problems and to keep the consumers’ trust, de Lint and Beck plead for organic companies to be more inclusive and not to work against big companies. With regard to political work, seeking cooperations could help to secure organic standards. Breisinger tied in to this approach and adds that the sector “can learn from big companies” for example in the field of cooperation of processing units.
The videos shows parts of the plenary discussion "A new vision and strategy for organics: How will the new generation contribute to reach the objectives of the organic sector?"
Working towards a true cost account
At the Organic Congress in Tallinn, IFOAM EU launched an Organic Roadmap and its vision to make Europe organic by 2030. (Photo: Daniela Nickel)
In this context, the panel’s attendees are in agreement, that the sector is even more required to maintain transparency. Breisinger proposes that stakeholders have to reinvent and to retell the organic story in order to transform the mainstream market: “With all organic and sustainable offers by conventional companies such as the new veggie options, we lost a part of our portfolio. There are missing links that we have to fulfill again.” He is convinced that this aim can be reached by supporting local and regional farmers as well as by more political tailwind as this could be a door opener for implementing the true cost account for conventional food.
But still, many of the conference’s partakers see themselves confronted by the question of how to persuade people to pay fair prices. De Lint is being confident that the key to achieving a true cost account lies in education and politics: “Children have to be educated on food and its production. When people know about different farming methods, they are able to make an informed decision.”
Implementing digitalization in organics: The Internet of Food & Farm
Digitalization provides manifold opportunities to optimize processes in organic food production. By using the Internet of Things (IoT)-technology, the project Internet of Food and Farm 2020 aims at strengthening the European farming and food chain. At the conference, participants of the IOF project presented practical examples of how processors can use digital tools to increase to efficiency of their production.
For a start, the project started with five trials in the agricultural sectors of arable crops, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat. The fruit trial includes a wine use-case, which was presented by Gianni Trioli (“Big wine optimization”, IOF2020). The system maintains different winery and vineyard sensors measuring temperatures, water, electricity and many other important factors of the winemaking process. The data, which also includes pre- and post-harvest information, is gathered in a cloud in order to increase the yield and quality of fruit and to prevent harvest losses. Particularly with regard to prospective consequences of climate change, the IoT-technology of the IOF project could be an important innovation for organic processors.
Organic perspectives: trends and consumer communication
Thomas Snellman (Reko), Anita Klasanova and Kalin Klasanova (Roo-Bar) after their presentations on consumer communication. (Photo: Daniela Nickel)
Picking up on the topic of the opening plenary’s question, the first conference day closed with four inspiring presentations on trends, perspectives and communication in the organic sector. In one of the two parallel sessions, the conference’s participants listened to Thomas Snellman, founder of the Finnish initiative Reko, as well as Kalin and Anita Klasanova, founders of Roo-Bar, who told their successful stories of how to build a trustful communication between the producer and the consumer by personal engagement and authenticity.
The second parallel session was shaped by passionate presentations by Charlotte Zum Vörde Sive Vörding, founder of Charly’s All is Fair, and David Klingen, founder of GheeEasy, who both gave an interesting outlook on trends and perspectives in the organic sector by particularly concentrating on vegan trends and vegetarian trends.
Participants used the breaks between presentations to discuss the sector's difficulties and chances with each other. (Photo: Daniela Nickel)