Insights into the 1st Women in Food and Agriculture Summit

women in food and agriculture summit panel discussion amsterdam 2019

 Connecterra attended the 1st Women in Food and Agriculture Summit, held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in December. Here are some of the key topics discussed.

Food activist and founder of Spare Rib, Rosie Boycott kicked off the event by saying that the food system is broken. “One thousand calories of healthy food cost 7.50 UK pounds, compared to 2.30 UK pounds for unhealthy food. If the food is cheap, the wages are cheap, and people will eat the wrong food and become obese and ill. This tells us that capitalism is really bad if you apply it to food,” she said.

Closing the gender gap

Mark Lyons, president and CEO of animal nutrition company Alltech, addressed the need for technology and innovation to propel agriculture. He also mentioned that the challenge in agriculture is to keep on telling positive stories and put effort into connecting with consumers.

Alltech , committed to the fair representation of women in the food and agriculture industry, conducted a survey to explore the barriers holding women back, and what the industry can do to foster equality.

For the most part, the survey shows that the industry is making great progress in closing the gender gap and employees are feeling positive about the future. Fifty eight percent feel that women are well-represented in the industry and 79% agree that their organization is becoming more inclusive. One point of interest is that only 39% of women knew of their company’s diversity and inclusion policy. Said Mark: “The Women in Food and Agriculture survey revealed a great deal about where the agri-food sector stands on gender diversity and illuminated where we need to collaborate to affect positive change. There are challenges to overcome, yet there are several steps that organizations can take, and proven examples of how to bring about success”.

Importance of innovation and tech

During a breakout sessions on ‘Innovation Approaches to Feed the World’,  Nicky Deasy, managing partner at the Yield Lab Europe, highlighted that we see lots of new technologies popping up around plant science, animal health, soil health, irrigation, alternative protein and robotics, all changing the way we produce food. Aside from the technology, more data science is being used in the food chain. Lynsey Chapman from Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock, addresses the importance of working with the right data. “Let’s get the numbers right. By using new measurement tools and technology we can do this, and ensure that everyone buys in on the same measures, and everyone works with the same numbers. Promote the best practices, start at farm level and further scale out this throughout the whole chain”.

Shorter food chains

Lizelle Alberts, founder of Frutem, stated that where more women work, economies grow. At the same time, women only represent 12.8% of global land owners. “But women have a higher output per hectare than men. We therefore need women to feed the world and the food system needs to change,” said Lizelle. The need for change was also mentioned clearly by Barbara Baarsma, CEO of Rabobank Amsterdam. “The Netherlands wants to move to circular agriculture and to make this happen it should be mandatory for all supply chain partners to supply data. By selling fruit, potatoes and eggs for example, 30-40 percent more margins can be gained by the producers. However,  shorter supply chains are not perfect or the ultimate solution,” Baarsma noted.

Don’t be a lady, be a legend

“Every person in the world has a story that the world needs to hear. If you speak to people with this attitude, you learn so much from that person,” said Lynda McDonald, Senior Executive at DeLaval International.

Some of the attendees posted their take-hom messages on Twitter: