As the Partner Country of the 86th International Agricultural Fair, which opened on Saturday, May 11 in Novi Sad, Italy has organized a seminar called Innovative Technologies in Agriculture, where visitors could hear why innovations are necessary in this sector.
The seminar was hosted by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), whose director, Marina Scognamiglio, emphasized the considerable scope of the cooperation between Serbia and Italy.
– We have set important records at the fair, and there are as many as 28 Italian companies exhibiting within the collective exhibit by ITA. Our presence, but also the international character of the fair, contribute to an even more significant cooperation between Serbia and Italy. Each year, we conduct a study in the agricultural sector, which shows us how and to what extent the innovative process, that is, the process of modernization in the Serbian agriculture, is conducted, which shows us that there is a need for this kind of information in Serbia – Marina Scognamiglio said.
Franco Manzato, the state secretary at the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, said that Industry 4.0 was on the rise in Italy and that the country had strong partnerships with many industries, including Serbia.
– Italy is especially interested in the agricultural sector, and we especially want to open the door to small and medium companies. We started creating strategies for the next 20 years this year, which we will continue next year, within which the technology will be an important aspect of agriculture. Also, as a system which strongly supports “made in Italy” products, the development of research activities and technologies will be the deciding element, not just for the quality of agricultural products, but also because research and technology need to be at an enviable level. We want partnerships with research centers throughout Europe, including Serbia, in order to support all the countries that are with us on the road toward modernization in agriculture – Manzato emphasized.
When we talk about agriculture as a development opportunity for Serbia, we talk about modern, developed agriculture, emphasized Senad Mahmutovic, the state secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia.
– Modern agriculture is exposed to many negative influences, such as climate change and urbanization, which can only be addressed by innovative solutions, which largely contribute to the productivity and increasing the quality of production – says Mahmutovic.
Technology development in agriculture will be in the focus in the upcoming period when it comes to companies in the Serbian agrarian sector, said Veljko Jovanovic of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia.
– It's important to say that companies from the food sector were the first ones to understand where standards are changing, at what speed and in what way. When it comes to this sector, we are primarily oriented toward the European market, but it is apparent that important changes need to happen in Serbia in order for us to remain competitive. We have the experience, the tradition and quality products. Still, if we don't accept innovations and changes taking place in the market, we risk losing the quality of the products – Jovanovic said, talking about the importance of innovations in agriculture.
Those who attended the seminar could see examples of good practice. Inna Punda of the FAO investment center presented the example of Kazakhstan, where supply chains in the production of milk have been upgraded thanks to innovations and modernization.
– Managing small producers is a very challenging job and we wanted to find solutions for those countries which have a large number of small suppliers which can be excluded from supply chains if they are not able to meet the standards – Inna Punda said.
She also presented the apps Collect and Collect Mobile, which enable everyone to digitize and follow their supply chain.
– In Kazakhstan, the use of these apps has proven to be of great importance. Producers only need an Android device, and the apps are free. Each agriculturist can set the parameters, and the app then collects the data on the level of hygiene, what the production lacks and where further investments and upgrades are needed. The benefits of using this app are huge – trust is established between partners, agriculturists can understand the demands of the industry better, and they are provided with the technology which gives them solutions to concrete problems – Inna Punda concluded.
Another example of the good practice if Ferrero, which was discussed at the seminar by Frazier Scott. He pointed out that this company produces hazelnuts in six countries, growing them on more than 10,000 hectares.
– In Serbia, we have a farm of 600 hectares and in the past two years we've begun working on cooperating with other agriculturists in order to buy out their hazelnuts and use them to make our products. We concluded that no one knew anything about the production of hazelnuts for 10-15 years. That's why we developed a program which aims to show how we can improve the production in this segment. We cooperate with numerous research institutes, and the research operations within Ferrero are split across six subcenters. These are centers for genetics, analytical issues, protection from harmful organisms and plant diseases, the center for good agricultural practices and the platform for organic production – Scott said.
As he says, sixteen constantly changing projects are carried out within the research center, each with numerous subprojects.
– The aim is to see what the best way to grow hazelnuts is, how to act in the future and how to cooperate with other countries and agriculturists. We want to collect all the knowledge about hazelnuts and then transfer it to our partners, so that we could upgrade the production together – Scott says.
He further says that every company aims to make a profit.
– As a company, Ferrero is looking to make a profit, but we also want to be innovative, because implementing innovations makes one profitable anyway – Scott explains.
He also presented two projects reflecting the implementation of innovations in the process of producing hazelnuts. One of them, as he said, pertains to the effect the weather has on the growing of hazelnuts, where various parameters are followed and where information is gathered in order for the end-product to be as good as possible. The other pertains to the use of drones in agriculture.
– We wanted to understand how each tree in the orchard grows. That's why we use drones which scan the ground, use infra-red scanning systems and can count the exact number of hazelnuts on a tree. This data then allows us to predict what we can expect in terms of yields, but also to adapt the costs and be sustainable – Scott emphasizes.
The Italian company Geoplant Vivai operates in the international market for 40 years, dealing in genetic research and innovations in crossbreeding and technical-agronomic innovations, as well as monitoring different varieties in orchards from the very beginning.
– Considering Serbia's geographic position and climate, Serbia in a way underestimates its potential in agricultural production. Today, your country is the main partner in the international market when it comes to raspberries and other berries, it has a considerable presence when it comes to apples, and there's also a great potential when it comes to cherries. This fruit is rather complex to grow, and today there are numerous producers and sellers of cherries, which have a problem of keeping the prices in the market at a certain level. This is where Serbia's opportunity lies, as it can become an important source of this fruit – said Gianluca Pasi of Geoplant Vivai.