The SmartAgriHubs Kick-off Event in Prague – A Successful Inauguration of our Journey

The SmartAgriHubs Kick-off Event which took place in Prague, the Czech Republic, was a tremendous success. It was an honour to welcome nearly 250 attendees representing the whole agri-food value chain and the digital sector to the first official gathering of the SmartAgriHubs family within the premises of the Prague Congress Centre.

Spanning three full days, attendants were able to participate in a broad spectrum of activities: they contributed to hands-on workshops, attended a dairy farm which deploys IoT solutions, networked in the exhibition area, and shared common experiences and problems in intimate sessions. Over the course of these days, participants could gather in-depth knowledge of SmartAgriHubs and set their sights on the future developments in the project over the next 3 years.

Monday (4/03) represented the official launch of the SmartAgriHubs project. Befitting the occasion, high-level speakers were invited to the plenary stage to give inspiring speeches on the synthesis between the digital and agri-food sector. After a welcome speech by Project Coordinator George Beers and a speech on the role the city of Prague can play for agriculture by Vit Simral, attendees were also treated to speeches by senior European Commission officials: Andrea Halmos from DG-Connect, Tom Tynan from DG-Agri, and Tereza Budnakova from the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency, on the role they play for SmartAgriHubs and the wider agri-food sector. Participants then enjoyed a panel discussion, and a Regional Clusters’ pitch which was presented using the “pechakucha” method and were introduced to each Flagship Innovation Experiment. Moreover, it was during this plenary session that the official SmartAgriHubs website was launched under a strong round of applause from the audience. After a morning of speeches and interactive sessions, the SmartAgriHubs exhibition was opened by Vit Simral, and attendees were welcomed to enjoy their lunch in the company of Regional Cluster booths and a stunning panoramic view of the city of Prague. After recharging their batteries, in the afternoon all participants were divided into 6 groups and embarked on a ‘SmartAgriHubs’ tour. The purpose of this tour was to introduce the attendees to the structure of the SmartAgriHubs project through 6 stops, where they could learn about the role each Work Package plays and the services, they provide. Following this tour, people were able to enjoy some leisure time before attending the official SmartAgriHubs dinner in the nearby Holiday Inn Hotel.

Like Monday, Tuesday (5/03) was fully dedicated to the launch of the SmartAgriHubs project. In the morning, our attendees were treated to a keynote speech by the CEO of BiTHOUSE group and IoT expert Wilhelmina Jewell Sparks who spoke on opportunities to capitalise on high tech solutions to disrupt traditional processes. This speech offered an insightful external perspective from someone who is not part of the SmartAgriHubs consortium, allowing participants to take in new ideas and reflect. Attendees were also encouraged to share their ideas by participating in an interactive online voting session on the future of Digital Innovation Hubs. Afterwards, they were invited to attend a Digital Innovation Hubs Tour, which introduced the SmartAgriHubs partners and other interested parties to their role through a series of presentations and Q&A rounds. Our guests also attended a series of interactive thematic workshops with topics ranging from ‘Ethics of Data Governance’ to ‘Business Models and Innovation Ecosystems’ to enhance their general knowledge. After having immersed themselves into the world of SmartAgriHubs, all participants were invited to attend the closing plenary where they could participate in a fun and highly interactive SmartAgriHubs quiz, before listening to the closing speech given by the Project Coordinator George Beers who reflected on the resounding success of the past two days. As such, the SmartAgriHubs Kick-off event ended on an incredibly positive note.

For some, the ‘show’ continued on Wednesday (6/03), which was the Synergy Day. This day was all about creating synergies with the IoF2020 project. The IoF2020 3rd Annual Partners Event would take place at the end of the same week, and in the same venue. Like SmartAgriHubs, IoF2020 is an EU-funded project under the Horizon2020 instrument and aims to facilitate the uptake of IoT technologies in the agri-food sector. As such, there are clear areas of cooperation between our two projects as IoF2020 complements the goal of SmartAgriHubs: to increase the current impact of digitisation in the agri-food sector. Therefore, over the course of the day partners from both projects joined together and engaged in workshops, a field-visit and exchanged common problems and solutions. For example, participants from both the SmartAgriHubs Kick-off event and IoF2020 Partners Event attended sessions on the Regional Clusters of SmartAgriHubs, and on the IoF2020 Trials (arable, dairy, meat, vegetables and fruits), as well as 12 Synergy workshops catered towards sharing common problems, solutions and experiences. Moreover, the day also included a field trip to the nearby Oldrich Polacek dairy farm which showcased the effective implementation of IoT technologies in the field. Overall, the Synergy Day was successful: the sessions and the joint IoF2020 and SmartAgriHubs exhibition represented the perfect environment for 300 people to engage in cross-project networking and cooperation.

Together with all our stakeholders we were able to make this first SmartAgriHubs gathering a resounding success. Thanks to the energy and passion displayed by the speakers, workshop facilitators and attendees for our common goal, we can say that this was an inspiring kick-off event. We would like to cordially thank all our guests for their cooperation and we are looking forward to welcoming them again at the next SmartAgriHubs event in 2020.

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