To counter the global, multifaceted agrifood crisis, Agrifood Lithuania and BIAC organized the largest Baltic AgriFood Forum on the theme “Peace for Food”. The event supported the Business at OECD initiative Peace for Food. The Forum attracted 180 live participants and 2300 online viewers this year. In addition to addressing agriculture’s importance in urban areas, smart farming, the future consumer’s vision, and the necessity of transforming agriculture into a digital enterprise, the event was a huge success.

Mantas Vilys introduced the theme “E-DIHs – Expectations and opportunities for collaboration” with a great honour. In his role as a fire starter, he highlighted the importance of the E-DIH collaboration, particularly the consortium of AgriFood Lithuania DIH, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Lithuanian Innovation Center, ART21, Science and Technology Park of the Institute of Physics, Lithuanian Energy Institute and Smart Energy DIH. In the next three years, they aim to deliver more than 5000 service packages to Lithuanian companies and clients. By providing technical expertise and enabling companies to test before investing, E-DIHs help organizations improve business/production processes, products, or services. They also provide training and skills development that are necessary for successful digital transformations, such as financing advice, training, and skills development.

FoodScale Hub’s Vice President of Business Development, Grigoris Chatzikostas, compared European Digital Innovation Hubs to coral reefs. In digital innovation ecosystems, there are big and small fish, hunters and prey, yet everyone performs better when they are connected than when they are isolated. E-DIHs were created to develop technologies, but also to help people who are building this ecosystem.

As a follow-up to Mantas and Grigoris’ introduction, representatives of the E-DIH consortium in Lithuania were invited to participate in a panel discussion to share their insights about the current situation in the sphere. Grigoris, as a moderator was happy to invite Łukasz Łowiński – Coordinator of E-DIH Poland, Poznań Institute of Technology, Daniel Copot – Director of AgriFood DIH in Slovenia, Augustas Alešiūnas – AgTech Business Angel & Owner of ART21, Orsolya Szaplonczay – Managing Director at Innoskart DIH and Simon Maas – Chairman of the Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food S3-partnership (European Cluster Partnership of the Year 2022).

In the beginning, the discussion focused on the importance of connection within the ecosystem. Guests on the panel were asked if they had any white spots to address and if they were able to connect the dots. Considering the last three difficult years, the answer leaves much to be desired.

“During the time, we could have achieved greater results, but the unexpected pandemic prevented us from developing and strengthening ties. We could have reached greater cooperation if we had not been overtaken by the pandemic,”- started Łukasz Łowiński.

Moreover, Simon Maas emphasized the importance of seeing each other in person. As new players enter the system constantly, they need interaction. In his remarks, the creation of a consortium would allow new companies to be invited and helped. Digital transformation can be viewed from a broader perspective.

Representatives of the E-DIHs were asked about their companies’ common strategy priorities, and it turned out that access to financing and investments was the top priority. It was determined that access to infrastructure and collaboration were the most important too. A sequence of priorities in this manner seems quite logical. The achievement of companies’ goals will be difficult without financial support and good infrastructure. As a result, collaboration can only be fruitful after the company has completed its work and can then offer assistance and cooperation to others.

“The main difference between European Hubs and companies from the outer world is that we are slow at the beginning, but in the end, companies that belong to E-DIHs achieve better results” said Augustas Alešiūnas.

Throughout the conversation, participants emphasized the importance of diversity. Interestingly, learning from your business partners who are engaged in the same business is impossible. It is possible and even necessary to learn from businesses that have other activities in order to progress further. It can help you come up with new innovations and ideas for your business.

One of the most positive aspects is that in recent years the amount of investment in agriculture has increased. With global challenges in this field, the focus of financing has turned to challenges and digital agricultural opportunities. Almost doubled amount of investment was advanced by the agriculture sector between 2010 and 2018.

DIHs are already in the hands of the future. In order for the consortium to be successful, it must work well together so they can work efficiently and effectively. Since an innovation hub serves as a place where people collaboratively convene, conduct research, extend their influence, and serve as accelerators and incubators that serve to fuel connections and growth for cutting-edge researchers and vast entrepreneurs.