In the field of food innovation and technology applied to the food industry, AZTI stands out as one of the main references at the European level. Based in the Basque Country, this organization has become a fundamental pillar in driving the FoodTech strategy of the region and the country, which promotes sustainable development and digital transformation in the agri-food sector. Its involvement as the organizer of the Food 4 Future (F4F) - Expo Foodtech event reinforces its commitment to innovation and technology in the sector. Food 4 Future is presented as a leading international platform in the food industry. This event brings together experts, companies, and entrepreneurs from around the world with the aim of fostering knowledge exchange, exploring business opportunities, and generating synergies in the field of food technology.
This event has consolidated itself as the largest European forum and one of the largest in the world for innovation and future trends in the food and beverage industry. With an attendance of 8,372 congress participants and professionals, and more international than ever (with the presence of 34 different countries), this essential meeting in FoodTech has become, for the third consecutive year, the place to find knowledge, solutions, and technologies to innovate and advance in the transformation of the agri-food value chain.
Some of the main conclusions recorded in this 2023 edition, drawn from the participation of 413 international speakers, have been as follows:
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Law, data, and digitalization:</span> The food industry transformation is affected by various forces that are shaping the current food systems: legislation, with long approval times that slow down the market entry of new foods (e.g., alternative proteins); the importance of the consumer voice, which globally seeks affordability, sustainability, and e-commerce experience; the conversion of data into insights and the interaction between digital and technology with people.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, and personalized diet and well-being:</span> F4F - ExpoFoodTech has highlighted the potential of agri-food technology to respond to the major economic, environmental, and social challenges society faces, including feeding a growing population and addressing and minimizing climate change. In this regard, areas of development have focused on precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, and personalized diet and well-being.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Sustainability at the center:</span> The need to create a sustainable food system, reconnect with the origin of food, and balance the relationship with nature has been a transversal vector in F4F - ExpoFoodTech. The event has discussed challenges and opportunities related to sustainability, such as the use of sustainable foods, protection of biodiversity, animal welfare, reduction of the use of medications and plastics, and the substitution of fossil fuels, among others. Additionally, within the framework of the FoodTech Nation Summit, strategies and measures adopted by different countries and companies to promote environmental sustainability in the food sector have been shared.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>The importance of new models of innovation and collaboration:</span> F4F - ExpoFoodTech has highlighted the special importance of innovation hubs and collaborative innovation ecosystems, especially experiences based on collaborative open innovation and new governance models necessary to address innovation, such as "corporate venture" models that encourage collaboration between startups and established companies. The value of partnerships and data sharing in the food value chain has been emphasized, based on both public-private collaboration and collaborative innovation among competing companies to address common challenges.
Despite the increasing cost of food, a trend that will continue in the future due to population growth and global warming, where price is a critical factor in the food purchasing decision, trends reflecting the growing demand for healthier, more sustainable, personalized, and convenient foods have also been highlighted, as well as the use of technology to improve production, distribution, and consumer experience in the food sector. The main areas where innovation is playing a crucial role include
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Cultivation technologies:</span> Vertical farming and precision farming technology will expand to maximize food production in limited spaces and reduce the use of pesticides and water. AI-based fishing will also continue to grow to reduce costs, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure the quality and traceability of seafood products.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Sustainability:</span> The demand for sustainably produced food will increase, driving the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices, biodegradable packaging, and food waste reduction.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Alternative foods:</span> The development of alternative foods will continue to rise, such as plant-based proteins, lab-grown meat, and plant-based dairy products.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Personalization and health:</span> The trend toward personalized nutrition will intensify, using technologies like genomics and artificial intelligence to provide individualized dietary recommendations.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Blockchain and traceability:</span> Blockchain technology will be employed to enhance transparency and traceability in the food supply chain, enabling consumers to track the origin and quality of products.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Internet of Things (IoT):</span> The application of sensors and IoT devices in food production and storage will enable real-time monitoring of crop conditions and food preservation.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>E-commerce and home delivery:</span> E-commerce for food will continue to grow, and there will be an increase in home delivery services for fresh and prepared foods.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Artificial intelligence and automation:</span> Artificial intelligence will be increasingly used in the food supply chain to optimize logistics, predict demand, and improve operational efficiency.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Functional foods and personalized nutrition:</span> More functional foods designed to address specific health and wellness needs, such as foods enriched with vitamins, minerals, or bioactive ingredients, will be developed.
<span style="color: #469d9c";>Consumer experience:</span> Emphasis will be placed on enhancing the consumer experience through technologies like mobile applications, virtual and augmented reality, offering detailed product information and personalized purchasing options.
I would like to highlight the evident connection between Food 4 Future and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This event promotes the adoption of sustainable practices and aligns its objectives with the SDGs related to food security, health, efficient production, environmental sustainability, and economic development. Furthermore, Food 4 Future is in line with European strategies such as the Green Deal, which aims to drive the transition to a more sustainable and carbon-neutral economy. By addressing current challenges in the food industry, this event aligns with the policies and goals established by the European Union to promote innovation, sustainability, and efficiency in the agri-food sector.
On the other hand, the Traceability and Big Data Partnership is connected to the Food 4 Future event by promoting solutions based on traceability and the analysis of large volumes of data in the food chain. This collaboration drives food safety, product quality, and process efficiency, aligning with the sustainability and efficiency goals of the event and European strategies.
In conclusion, the involvement of AZTI in the FoodTech strategy of the Basque Country, their participation in the Food 4 Future event, and the connection of this event with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Green Deal, and the Traceability and Big Data Partnership highlight the commitment of the organization and the event to innovation, sustainability, and the promotion of technological solutions in the agri-food sector.