The partner regions in Interreg Europe Regions 4 Food -project worked together to identify barriers, needs and good practices related to digitization of the agrifood value chain to maximise the growth potential of the digital economy in their regions and in wider Europe.
As a part of the process of reflecting the local situations and learning about potential solutions from their partner regions, the project partners also made conclusions and policy recommendationsfor wider European Union policies.
Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (SeAMK) participated the project from South Ostrobothnia region in Finland as a partner supported by the Regional Council. As the “Food Province of Finland”, the theme of Regions 4 Food was spot on for South Ostrobothnia with our comprehensive food production, businesses from field to fork and drive to apply the possibilities of digitalization to develop them.
The relevance of the policy recommendations is clearly visible in the Action Plan for South Ostrobothnia - out of six policy recommendations already five are directly implemented in the activities:
At First, establishing regional data-cooperative for farmers connects to creating legal frameworks for data availability. It will be implemented by the support from national EAFRD funds, and the process is led by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE).
The Second action, Future Frami Food - food technology knowledge and competence centre, targets creating innovation ecosystems, e.g. specifying the regional agrifood cluster operating model. Its international aspects have already been developed by SeAMK when leading the Food Systems working group of ERIAFF-network, and two additional projects are planned to take the work further.
In close connection to Future Frami Food and creating innovation ecosystems is Food Province 2030 -initiative. It provides the strategy to guide the development of the regional agrifood cluster. To start implementation of the strategy, a large ERDF project is planned for e.g. communication and dissemination, thus connecting to the Third policy recommendation increasing communication an awareness in agrifood. The strategy was created as participatory process, led in cooperation by SeAMK and Rural Women's Advisory Organization of South Ostrobothnia.
For the Fourth, Pajatso -project - combining data to reduce surplus food - implements the recommendation promoting technological solutions, hardware and software in agriculture sector. Pajatso is funded from ERDF and lead by University of Vaasa.
The Fifth policy recommendation Developing multidisciplinary research and training and new professional innovation profiles and Increasing communication and awareness in agrifood is implemented in DigiFarmi -project by Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and Vocational Education and Training Institute Sedu, including education for farmers in digitalisation and new technologies.
The Sixth policy recommendation to increase public and private investment to promote digital transformation process was not directly adopted for implementation in the Action Plan of Regions 4 Food project in South Ostrobothnia, but through new projects and project funding it is also implemented to some extent. This also enables further development, which is an important outcome as well.
Of the policy recommendations, “Creation of innovation ecosystems” is the most important one for South Ostrobothnia as the most comprehensive one. We are able to identify the ecosystem with the quadruple helix participants including the micro and small businesses, and the recommendations provide perspective for analysing the ecosystem: how do we implement them, what is needed in addition and by whom, who need to be involved more and what are the next steps.
Cooperation in Regions 4 Food has been fruitful and smooth with all the expert partners. We are looking forward to further cooperation in agri-food, traceability and data related topics, and open for discussions.
Soila Huhtaluhta.Expert R&D, Project Manager, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Pia Kattelus.Manager of International Affairs, Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia