Within the transforming food production (TFP) challenge, we seek to identify additional opportunities for the projects we have supported that will allow them to further exploit their awards. International opportunities for expansion, collaboration, and commercialisation of their innovations, have become even more important in the last couple of years to support and stimulate growth within the sector.
In October, the opportunity presented itself for us to explore the potential offered by the European and wider international fresh produce markets, through the Fruit Attraction event in Madrid organised by Institución Ferial de Madrid and Federación Española de Asociaciones de Productores Exportadores de Frutas, Hortalizas, Flores y Plantas vivas.
Technology and innovation in the fruit sector
Fruit Attraction has been growing over the years and has become the leading commercial platform for international marketing of fruit and vegetables. It gathers companies in the areas of fresh produce and its auxiliary industries, allowing it to position itself as one of the world’s best international events for showcasing the sector’s innovation. This year attendance exceeded pre-pandemic numbers with over 8-full halls, 1,800 exhibitors and 90,000 delegates from over 130 countries, making this one of the largest and best attended events.
As the aim of Fruit Attraction is to promote trade relations between non-EU markets and the EU, it is ripe for making new connections with potential partners, customers or suppliers through a packed programme of guided tours of the fair, business-to-business (B2B) sessions and roundtables.
The UK innovators
The UK pavilion was organised by the Commercial Horticultural Association in partnership with the Department for International Trade. I had the opportunity to join several UK companies that were hosted on the stand including TFP funded projects:
- Agrisound is developing deployable sound sensor monitors to track insect pollination. This will allow for strategic decision making for better management of crops, beehives and wider land that require intervention to ensure stable yields and inform on biodiversity in the area
- Spotta is the smart insect monitoring service that allows the identification of harmful pests in real time enabling rapid intervention, with the right approach and techniques. It helps limit the use of pesticides and reduces the costs of pest damage. This technology also has multiple uses beyond agriculture, such as forest management and bed bug monitoring
Diversity is key
One of the features of the event that most stood out to me, was the sheer size as well as the diverse range of companies and areas being showcased. We had fruits from around the world piled across the stands, sample robotics for use in harvesting alongside cooking competitions using fresh regional products.
One of the most surprising things I noted was that the event also included other sectors, such as those novel fertilisers, biostimulants and food logistics. Some exhibitors also covered areas related to general food production which included alternative proteins, milk production and the use of emerging technologies in harvesting and crop management. Despite the event’s name, one can network and meet companies working in the wider agricultural sector.
On the last day of the event, I had the opportunity to join the other UK delegates at the Caixa Bank stand for a pitch event organised by the UK embassy. Each company got the opportunity to pitch their innovations, and I also had the opportunity to speak about UK Research and Innovation and the work we do as part of the TFP challenge; all of this was done in Spanish and it was great to see the effort that all the companies made to accomplish this.
Further opportunities in the Iberian Peninsula
After the event, the UK embassy arranged a trip to Salamanca for a visit to one of the experimental farms in the region, managed by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones cientificas, which is the Spanish research council. We participated in a tour of the finca and then joined a larger session led by the local Spanish authorities, including one of the congressmen from the region’s assembly.
The UK companies and I pitched directly to the Spanish businesses and local agricultural associations about the technologies and innovations that were being worked on. The day ended after a series of B2B meetings between the Spanish and UK companies leading to greater exposure of UK innovation and the UK companies gaining potential new customers in the region.
The TFP challenge is delivered by Innovate UK.
Top image: Department of International Trade delegation attending Madrid Fruit Attraction 2022; including Myriam Pacho innovation lead from the transforming food production (TFP) team and Elizabeth Warham, lead for AgriTech at DIT. Credit: Myriam Pacho