Experts see agriculture at a turning point


Winterthur – At its conference in Winterthur, the Swiss Green Economy Symposium 2023 focused on sustainable value creation through cooperation, also with a view to agriculture. According to the experts, solutions lie in the digital and local.

At the Swiss Green Symposium in Winterthur, around 2,000 participants discussed opportunities through greater cooperation between all stakeholders, including with regard to the agriculture and food sectors. Representatives of large companies as well as industry associations, organizations and research institutes had their say. In addition to rapidly advancing climate change, the growth of the world’s population was highlighted as a challenge in the agricultural sector. The return to the local perspective ran like a thread through the debate.

“We are at an inflection point because now the digital capabilities are available to manage risk very locally,” Elisabeth Fischer told the panel. She is head of sustainability strategy and transformation at the agricultural technology company Syngenta. Among other things, Syngenta is investing heavily in the development of digital tools that help reduce individual footprints in agriculture.

Farmers need more help in dealing with new technologies, stressed Urs Niggli, president of and long-time director of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture. At the same time, organic farming is still far from being as technology-savvy as it could and should be. Piera Waibel of the Agricultura Regeneratio association formulated one task as the concrete need to restore ecosystems: “The soil must be managed so that it has more humus again.”

Data collection is critical for individualized management. As a robotics expert from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, Mirko Kovac demonstrated how drones will efficiently acquire data in the future. Flying robots are already moving autonomously through landscapes in pilot projects and collecting samples from bodies of water or trees. “We’re working to have devices made on cellulose-based materials that will soon leave no footprint,” he said, outlining the future.

A complement to animal husbandry and agriculture was presented by Fabian Wahl of Agroscope, the federal government’s center of excellence for agricultural research: bioreactors for the production of microalgae installed on a roof, for example, and managed with side streams. He said, “Microalgae have tremendous potential as suppliers of crude protein.” ce/yvh