From 7-9 August 2019, APAARI co-organized and participated in the International Agriculture Innovation Conference in Oulu, Finland. It was organized by the International Association for Agricultural Sustainability (IAAS), in collaboration with the University of Oulu, Finland.

The meeting benefited around 60 participants from around the world with a rich and interesting content concerning agricultural innovations. Asia-Pacific was represented by Bangladesh, China, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and of course APAARI representing all its member countries from the region.

Thailand presented its strategies for agricultural sustainability and Thailand 4.0, and pedagogical development for underprivileged students in Bangkok metropolitan administration schools. Taiwan shared its initiatives in digital marketing benefiting agricultural industry, and strategies to respond to climate change for agricultural products. Singapore focused on agribusiness succession and agricultural sustainability, while Bangladesh provided insights in the country’s ongoing development. China presented innovative exploration of green development of its rural areas under rural revitalization, and New Zealand shared consumers’ perceptions of biocide use in the food industry.

APAARI’s presentation emphasized the need to work from the agricultural innovation system (AIS) perspective whereas the system consists of a complex network of actors that together with supporting policies and institutions bring existing or new agricultural products, processes and practices into social and economic use. This was presented as APAARI’s main innovation strategy, highlighting the Association’s work under the Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP) and ongoing efforts to develop functional capacities (soft skills) to enable innovation of agri-food systems, particularly among national agricultural research system (NARS) organizations and higher education institutions in Asia-Pacific.

Planting a memory tree

Interesting research was presented by the host – Finland – including high-tech agricultural technology, its growing wild bilberry sector, hyperspectral imaging used in food quality control, the use of old mines to grow crops and crickets, and many other innovations emerging from the country’s focused scientific research and unique technologies.

On the last day, the University of Oulu organized a field trip to see a dysfunctional copper mine that is used as a research facility to grow potatoes and other crops, as well as edible insects based on circular economy principles. Part of the trip was a visit to a berry farm with local organic food producers in central Finland (Piipola), and planting of a symbolic IAIC tree.

There are four specific outcomes for APAARI from this conference:

  1. The University of Oulu and APAARI will be exploring the creation of a consortium on the development of small enterprises together with other participating organizations, to be submitted under Horizon 2020 of the European Commission.
  2. IAAS is developing a project proposal to be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in Finland, planned to be implemented jointly with the University of Oulu, University of Maryland, APAARI, and Finish private sector.
  3. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission based in Seville, Spain, identified APAARI as a key partner in scaling up its interregional collaboration model and bringing its Agri-Food Smart Specialization Platform to Asia-Pacific.
  4. BRAC University, Bangladesh, has expressed interest to join APAARI as a member.

APAARI looks forward to working on these next steps and building on the well-established network of partners – both old and new – that this conference successfully strengthened.