Following on from the success of the 2019 Women in Food and Agriculture event in Amsterdam, we recently asked our participants, speakers and advisory board what they thought the most pressing issues were for women in in our sector. It seems the most common answers can be grouped into three main themes: environmental issues, consumer demands, and the implications of science and technology.
Environmental, sustainability and climate issues
As consumers become more aware and conscious of where their food is coming from, companies are facing pressure to ensure they maintain sustainable practices and make more environmentally and climate friendly decisions.
One of the more notable topics we received feedback on is sustainability. Sustainability is a global issue for the food and agriculture industries, and one that will have long lasting impact. The women we spoke to seemed actively interested in the concept of sustainability as well as best practices around the world. The questions that seemed to be the most pressing from the women we spoke to included: how can companies successfully build a brand identity around sustainability? Can and should governments get involved to help drive better sustainability practices?And what could these interventions look like, and how would they be implemented?
When speaking on environmental issues, it is only natural that climate change is addressed. Unusual patterns in weather have caused issues in production, and so the question about whether there is a way to effectively measure and prepare for such incidents has been raised. In addition to this, many conversations we had saw companies trying to better understand their impact on climate changeand how to effectively reduce and maintain this reduction in the future.
Science and technology
As the world is constantly evolving, many of our conversations were centred around the growing use of technology in the agribusiness sector, and many of the women we spoke to expressed the need to understand how technological innovation can help in creating a more efficient business. This sector has become increasingly data reliant, and so everything from data management tools, to analytics, AI implications and even robotics, has the potential to have a positive impact on efficiency. But people want to understand what would the short-term implications be? How many companies are looking into this and are there already any success stories the industry can learn from?
Generational factors have always played a role in determining consumer trends. Now that those in millennial and Gen Z groups are becoming older and starting to make purchasing decisions, how have trends changed? With more information readily available to them than ever before, how have the ways in which these generations think about food shifted? What does this mean for the future of the food and agriculture industries?
We’ve seen an emergence of disruptors to the industry that are causing traditional protein companies to look at their approaches more carefully. Alternative dairy and meat products are taking the industry by storm and have seen incredible growth since their introduction to the market. These products reiterate the idea that consumers are choosing products they believe to be more ethically and environmentally friendly, even if it means sacrificing quality, convenience, and low price. Women in our industry wanted to understand what traditional agribusinesses can learn from the alternative protein movement and how has such a new and experimental product gained so much popularity so quickly.
In all the conversations we have had with women in our industry, an overarching theme seems to be understanding how to best prepare for what the future will hold. Indeed, all of the topics we touch upon in some way contribute to the ways in which the world is changing. It seems the most important topic to women in food and agriculture in 2020 is the ability to be prepared for what the future might bring.