The aim of the BioValue project is to set-up a holistic approach to the analysis of the link among biodiversity, the agro-food value chain, the environment and consumer’s preferences and health by employing a bottom-up approach to develop a dynamic and customizable tool to optimize the introduction of underutilized genetically diverse crops in the agri-food value chain throughout Europe. The idea is to explicitly analyze agent interactions and behavior in the agri-food value chain in combination with various future climatic and water availability scenarios and to spur a self-growing dynamic process of biodiversity by mobilizing the market and social drivers.
The parts composing the BioValue concept are positioned in the spectrum from the lab to the market and include:
- Agent-based modelling. The agent-based approach has been applied extensively for the modelling of a wide range of systems, and more specifically in the case of agri-food value chains. Specific software code are already developed for the model simulation.
- Breeding program. Field pilot sites covering diverse agricultural farm systems (open field, greenhouses, shadow net houses, soilless and soil-based, conventional, and organic farming, and combinations thereof) and heterogeneous pedoclimatic regions are used extensively for evaluation of the suitable crops and cultivars following participatory breeding processes to assess market viability and economic performance based on precision agriculture cultivation techniques.
- Novel food development. Novel recipes and processed food products based on input from nutritionists, food scientists, culinary experts and chefs are employed in the food sector as are the protocols for evaluation and testing of novel food products by consumers.
- Certification and traceability. Traceability from the farm to the market has been tested in a number of agricultural products and the experience made in these projects will be implemented in the BioValue project.
Interview with the coordinator of the BioValue project Prof Konstadinos Mattas
What is the BioValue project?
BioValue is an EU-funded project within the framework of Horizon 2020 involving seventeen partners throughout Europe and beyond, aiming at improving agro-biodiversity and diversity throughout the food chain. Crop biodiversity, the cultivation of multiple crops at the farm level is an element of agricultural biodiversity, and creates differentiations in soil fauna, weeds, pests, and predators at the farm level and the agro-ecosystem. However, crop diversification over the last decades declined due to several driving forces across the food chain (processing technologies, cost impact) as well as consumers’ food preferences.
Could you explain the project benefits for European citizens?
Well, the great news from the COP26 summit in Glasgow points out that global leaders understand the severity of climate change and the need to protect the environment. However, the real power is in the hands of the consumers. Literally! Don’t wait until 2030 or 2050 to save the environment. Start now!Pick up your fork, change your diet, start eating “diverse” meals, and improve your health and save the environment. The BioValue project will provide all scientific knowledge and documentation to make food and meals more diverse, nutritious, healthy, and why not, delicious. Through a knock-on effect, consumers’ dietary habits are streamed down to farmers who will turn the European farming lands into a diverse and sustainable agro-ecosystem.
How can all these benefits be achieved?
The project will offer guidelines on nutritional values of diversified dishes, meals and novel food products. In addition, new underutilized crops could be re-introduced into European farming by using machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence forecasts. These new entrants among others could be integrated into agro-ecosystems, the food chain and of course the European diet. Our ultimate vision within this project is to generate recurring and spreading effects such as landscape transformation, diverse food supply chains and mainly “diverse” food dishes. The whole look of the European plains will start changing from oligo-cultural systems to poly-cultural ones with unprecedented benefits for the environment and consumers’ health.