George Beers

SmartAgriHubs Project Coordinator 

SmartAgriHubs is now in its last year and I am happy to say that, according to an external review panel, we are in good shape. Our ecosystem is extremely lively and continues expanding, and the SmartAgriHubs "brand" is well known in the sector. There is an impressive collection of materials uploaded on the Innovation Portal which is used more and more. But above all, we succeeded in "connecting a lot of dots"! 

Other sectors now are showing interest in our work and achievements, in particular how we managed to operationalise the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) concept or - at least - in making a good start with it. Looking at the broader picture of the digital innovation programs in Europe,  the forthcoming European DIH (EDIH) network proves that DIHs will be vital instruments in boosting digital innovation, for all industries and citizens, for the coming decade.  

For SmartAgriHubs, this means the project is not at the end but only starting. I’m confident we prepared a strong basis for making the DIH concept work for the AgriFood sector.

The focus for SmartAgriHubs this year will be to continue connecting, developing, and maturing the Agri DIHs - and their services, and to nurture the project achievements! We will work at sustaining our large ecosystem as well as the Innovation Portal - and all the materials and tools connected to it. We hope the SmartAgriHubs ecosystem will continue encouraging and supporting the AgriFood sector in its digitalisation, and strengthening digital competencies in every European region.

One of the challenges we will face in the coming years is to connect and embed the Agri DIHs in the broader and more generalist network of EDIHs. There will be also challenges in our sector: i.e., the innovation landscape in terms of funding mechanisms and stakeholders is changing, and the DIH movement will need to address that. I was incredibly pleased to see that so many of our DIHs are taking part in, and for some, even leading EDIH proposals to be submitted at the end of this month.

The past two years also demonstrated that virtual connection is a powerful tool to work together and to cooperate as a network. But we are all eager to go back – to a certain extent at least – to a more old-fashioned way: with face-to-face meetings! To make a network function, partners need to know each other also at a more personal level. For this reason, we will prepare the SmartAgriHubs Final Event bearing in mind the need for the smart farming and innovation stakeholders to meet in person. We hope to organise a fantastic gathering around mid-September (TBC) in Lisbon, for you and your colleagues and anyone else working on agricultural digital innovation projects. Together with our RC Iberia and CEMA, we are actively looking for a venue and a date, we hope to announce these very soon. It would be great to meet all of you, face to face!

dr. ir. G (George) Beers, Project Coordinator SmartAgriHubs, Project Manager at WUR