South Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency upon the invitation of the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of the Government of Andalusia, Lead Partner of the Regions 4Food Interreg Europe project, on 22 April 2020 afternoon attended a webinar centred on the issue that COVID-19 crisis driven innovation highlights the potential of small farmers.
During the one and half hours long set of presentations and debate the speaker of the European Commission emphasized the potential that digital transformation, start-up ecosystems and opportunities of blockchain will be spreading more easily towards smaller farms due to wider use of IT solutions and data management as a „fringe benefit” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As agrifood start-ups have always been risky, with the particularity of growing fast and doing it at risk, now during the pandemic there is a "turbocharging" for adaptive natural selection. The start-up ecosystem is especially threatened by the Coronavirus crisis. The slowdown and longer sales cycles will have key impact on this sector, and there has to be an essential support to get out of the crisis and look for innovative solutions and new businesses. From this point of view Spanish, Mexican, Israeli and U.S. speakers shared their views and agreed that agricultural farmers (as almost the whole of the economy) are in direct need of a new, more conservative financial plans, conserving cash because of the decrease in fundraising. At the same time, centralised services and supplies will be taken closer to the customer, these will generate new challenges towards more numerous, shortened and place-based-like food supply chains. Food safety, security, and traceability will play even more enhanced role than before.
Last, but not least final conclusions could not be drown by the panellists, but they unanimously agreed that COVID-19, besides being a unprecedented threat, offers novel opportunities for place- based, highly innovative product and service development in the agrifood sector as well.