Agri-food SMEs urged to be smart and innovative

According to an industry expert, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agri-food sector need to develop a smart innovation strategy to compete in the global market and effectively address complex challenges.

Usuf Tokdemir, a Turkey-based agribusiness expert, in an online lecture presented at a recent Asian Productivity Organization dialogue, said the industry is facing growing problems that can only be solved with a well-planned innovation strategy.

He noted that the agribusiness industry must prepare and work to feed 9.7 billion people worldwide by 2050, even as it faces huge challenges such as massive deforestation, climate volatility and climate change. water shortages, land degradation and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The sector also faces global competition and shifts in trade policies, shifts in technological production and services, cybersecurity challenges, increased business investment needs, and external input-intensive farming systems. and resource intensive.

To cope, SMEs need to develop and implement a long-term strategic innovation action plan, Tokdemir said. This involves certain elements, such as identifying and profiling opportunities in a clear and detailed way. Another is to effectively secure farm-to-fork supply chains. The strategy also requires SMEs to apply good manufacturing practices (GMP), with emphasis on good hygiene and laboratory practices and an integrated management system.

Undertaking all these actions “will contribute to the growth, productivity and internationalization of food SMEs”, Tokdemir said.

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Expounding on these elements, he urged companies to undertake tasks that will put them head and shoulders above their rivals. SMEs need to build their capacity and expertise, improve their visibility and communication with customers and consumers, build a strong brand, access finance and create a culture of innovation and a global mindset within their organization, he added.

At the same time, food companies should adopt good manufacturing practice standards and take preventive measures and perform regulatory testing to ensure product quality, safety and traceability. They should also promote visibility, transparency and standardization throughout the agrifood supply chain, he said.

Food businesses should also ensure they are familiar with international laws and standards, such as the Codex Alimentarius, and apply them to their products to avoid labeling issues, undeclared allergens, microbial contamination, adulteration , contaminants and biotoxins, among others.

SMEs are also invited to understand the mind of the end consumer, who today prefers a tailor-made and personalized supply of clean, green, ethical and safe products.

It is also critical that SMEs start adopting next-generation technologies, as Tokdemir noted their increasing use in increasing agrifood production. Some of these new technologies include robotics, biotechnology, data measurement, weather monitoring, satellite imagery, heat sensors and geospatial monitoring.

The expert also highlighted the importance of creating a risk management plan to avoid product recalls and prevent safety issues in the market or in the manufacturing plant.

Additionally, he highlighted the importance of fostering a collaborative innovation ecosystem. “That means we have to create networks, alliances or joint ventures or cooperation with other SMEs or food companies. We have to collaborate globally, not nationally, with other companies on international markets.”

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