"The European AgroBridges project was born out of the need to encourage the implementation of short supply chains in the European Union, as they bring sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits. The aim is to rebalance the market position of farmers and consumers, and increase their income, better connect farmers and consumers, reduce the number of intermediaries, and meet the demand for local, safe, high-quality food," said Francesca Giarè, researcher in Agricultural Policies and Bioeconomy and project coordinator at CREA (the most important research institution dedicated to agri-food).
AgroBridges is research, innovation, technology, networking and training to create a new connection between producers, who are constantly seeking new competitive opportunities for their products, and consumers, who are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability in food, society and the environment.
"AgroBridges aims to contribute, in the medium and long term, to an increase of about 5-8% of EU farms involved, totally or partially, in direct sales to consumers thanks to the support provided by the AgroBridgesToolbox. It's a kit containing communication materials, training programs, a decision support system for the producer to choose the most sustainable business models and digital tools that connect consumers, producers and distributors for smart delivery solutions".
The Project started in January 2021 and will last 3 years. Participants for this first three-year period have already been identified.
"Twelve Beacon Regions have been identified in the project, each led by a consortium partner. In the proposal phase, the choice was based on regions where there has always been a focus on short supply chains: Piedmont and Lazio. Piedmont with its wine cellars and local markets, milk distributors, open alpine pastures, and Lazio with Rome, the city with the highest share of urban agricultural area and therefore a city that embraces farm shopping."
"Within the Beacon Regions were then selected the production sectors to be analyzed in the project; in the case of Italy the sectors identified were the meat supply chain and the horticultural one, which are produced in the two Italian regions involved in the project (Lazio and Piedmont). Other participants of the supply chain are also involved in these areas. First of all, consumers, but also associations, distributors, retailers, universities, public bodies and consultants. All these local actors together form a MAP, i.e., a Multi-Actor Platform."
So far, the MAP participants have already been defined. Once the toolboxes are ready, new participants will be involved and details on how to receive and use them will be provided later as they are still being defined at the moment.
The contribution offered by CREA "CREA is the only Italian partner of the consortium and is leader of one of the Working Packages (WP 6- Clustering). It is responsible for the networking with other European projects dealing with short supply chains and for the agricultural know-how and innovation systems (SCAR AKIS Strategic Working Group (SWG)). It is also responsible for the assessment of the sustainability of the SFSCc business model and for the creation of a multi-criteria decision-making framework, which has the task of identifying indicators of economic, social and environmental sustainability to be used for the implementation of more environmentally and socially responsible business models. CREA will be involved in all the activities of the project, with particular focus on initiatives regarding Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs)."
The role of the 16 European partners The coordinator of the project is Teagasc - Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Ireland), a public entity responsible for encouraging the Green Public Procurement and the authorities' requirements. Four of the partners are industrial clusters - Food & Bio Cluster Denmark (Denmark), Technological Corporation of Andalusia (Spain), VEGEPOLYS VALLEY (France), Unimos Foundation (Poland) - some of which are pioneers both in their countries and at a European scale and work closely with a variety of agri-food producers.
The involvement of the academic sector is ensured by one university and three leading key research centers in the agri-food sector: Wageningen University (Netherlands), CREA (Italy), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Finland), Institute of Technology Tralee (Ireland). Four SMEs are part of the Consortium: Q-PLAN INTERNATIONAL (Greece), Rezos Brands Agrifood Company (Greece), Hub Madrid SL (Spain), Sustainable Innovations Europe (Spain).
In addition, the consortium also includes a European association of fruit and vegetable producers and traders to increase the outreach of the project to producers across Europe, FruitVegetablesEUROPE - EUCOFEL (Belgium), and a Turkish non-profit food foundation that aims to create awareness about food, nutrition and health: Sabri Ulker Foundation (Turkey).