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Digital transformation in Spanish cooperatives

The role played by cooperatives as drivers of the digital transformation was the topic of the second DATAGRI 2020 webinar organized on July 9th by Agri-food Cooperatives of Spain within the activities it promotes as a partner of the IoF2020 Project. 

For the celebration of this event, 273 people inscribed (43 cooperatives of farmers, 133 from private companies, 42 from the public sector, such as universities and policy makers, 11 from financing and 44 from other agri-food organisations).

The IoF2020 project aims to develop technologies that meet the needs of the entire value chain and are especially aimed at end users, strengthening them for future challenges.

In this line, Mr. Juan Sagarna, Director of the Department of Sustainability, Quality and Innovation of Agri-food Cooperatives of Spain, analysed the current situation of the digital transformation in Spanish cooperatives. He pointed out that, as shown by the surveys carried out at various events (such as DATAGRI 2019 -November 2019, Zaragoza - or the 1st Congress of Young Cooperatives - March 2019, Valencia), cooperatives can play a very important role in the digital transformation.

In addition, he stressed the fact that in the co-operative field safe environments are demanded, so data can be exchanged and compared between producers to improve performance. Moreover, he highlighted some interesting examples carried out by Spanish cooperatives such as Anecoop, Dcoop, EaGroup or Martin Códax.

Following Mr. Sagarna’s presentation, Mr. Diego Calderón, Deputy Director of the cooperative UNICA Group, presented the 30x5 Project. In this project Hispatec Analytics, also a member of the IoF2020 Project, is collaborating.

The aim of the 30x5 Project is to increase the production by 30% in five years through collaboration and data sharing. According to Mr. Calderón, they own a quarter of a million data that, together with the economic data, will help them find the key factors for increasing production.

Besides analysing the data obtained from the plots, they keep a constant collaboration with the farmer who has all the information in real time. Mr. Calderón stressed that innovation is not just about using technology, it is also about doing things differently. In this sense, the key is to know exactly how technology helps and to analyse its efficiency through the result.

To learn more about the role that cooperatives should play in the digital transformation, a round table of young members of cooperatives was organized and moderated by Mr. Pablo Fernández, technician of the Department of Sustainability, Quality and Innovation at Agri-food Cooperatives of Spain. Gender balance was taken into great consideration at the time of inviting the participants.

One of the members of this round table was Mr. Marcos Garcés, from Cereales Teruel Cooperative. Among other things, he pointed out that cooperatives must be the tool to achieve more dynamism in their members' farms.

For this purpose, both training and new technologies will help them to be more sustainable and to add value to their products.

Cooperatives must serve to boost farmers activity beyond Spanish borders to levels that cannot be achieved individually, said Mrs. Ana Corredoira, from AIRA Cooperative. She stressed that the livestock sector is at the forefront in applying technology to reduce production costs, and the necessity to incorporate young people into the activity.

For his part, Mr. Juan Antonio Villalta, from Jesús del Perdón Cooperative, said that those cooperatives that invest most on innovation are always the ones most cutting-edge and leaders in the market. He emphasised that the main objective of the digital transformation is to achieve cost savings. Digitalisation should lead to greater benefits when producing.

In the same line, Mrs. Lucía Velasco, from the Agrovaldés Cooperative, expressed that cooperatives must increase their innovation efforts, and, for this aim, digitalisation seems to be a key factor to be successful. They must make the most of it while always maintaining good product quality. Mrs. Velasco explained the initiative carried out by a group of cattle farmers with gps collars, which enable them to keep track of their animals at any moment.

Lastly, Mrs. Inés Guillén, from the San José Cooperative, encouraged young people to take the step towards digital transformation, since most of the cooperative members are advanced in age and it is generally difficult to make them understand the relevance of technologies.

Mrs. Rocio Wojski, Deputy Director of Digitization and Innovation at the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announced at the closing ceremony that her Ministry is working together with the Telecommunications Department of the Ministry of Economy to implement a plan to cover connection needs. She also expressed the need of working on opening data, training farmers and raising awareness among them.

One of the conclusions of the round table was that digitalisation cannot be achieved without good connectivity and access to internet in rural areas. So, the involvement of the administrations is necessary.

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