Providing a sustainable workforce for the food production industry

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© Yakov Filimonov

Much thought is invested in modern and sustainable food production, but where should the sustainable workforce come from that will provide the skills of smart industry for the climate of the future? Bengt Fellbe, Program Manager, SSEC, Swedish Surplus Energy Collaboration, explores

Climate change which makes it difficult, or in the near future, impossible to grow and produce food (in fact already here and now in some parts of the world), as well as technological development and digitization which are changing and challenging traditional production methods, are often for discussion and investments in the cultivation and food production of the future.

Development is progressing and that’s good, but what usually gets lost in context and doesn’t get the attention it deserves is the question of who should be working in our modern, sustainable and circular industry. Much thought is invested in sustainable electricity supply, resource management with water in closed and circular systems, production of new sustainable inputs in animal feed production, etc. But where should the sustainable workforce come from that will provide the skills for the climate – the smart industry of the future?

Modern and sustainable food production in the broadest sense requires the provision of skills at all levels of knowledge. These are research and development skills at a high academic level, highly skilled process managers and automation technicians, AI skills capable of analyzing, evaluating and implementing data in production, and finally, a large number in production. Even today, the industry is grappling with major problems finding labor to collect its harvest. In most cases, you are entirely dependent on foreign labor as a seasonal worker.

Education and skills provision must be on the agenda and all parties, public and private, must work together. The industry as a whole must also make visible what it does today in order to reach new target groups interested in education and a career in the food industry.

Together with Folkuniversitetet, in August we started Vocational Higher Education (HVE) “Intra-taker of sustainable food”.

Higher vocational education (HVE)

Higher vocational education (Yrkeshö-gskolan) is a form of post-secondary education which combines theoretical and practical studies in close cooperation with employers and industry. Programs are offered in specific areas where there is an explicit demand for competence.

Thirty students from all over Sweden receive training enabling them to contribute to the development of the sustainable food industry. Leading and important players in the industry are at the origin of the training and are part of the management group. I am proud and happy that these visionary companies are getting involved.

Education is conducted online with a number of physical meetings and study tours. During the training, students complete two longer internship periods. The first study visit will take place in the municipality of Bjuv. There, students have the opportunity to experience Foodhills, Charkprodukter, Magnihill and New Cold. Later in education we will visit the Municipality of Lerum and the Tannery of Floda – a future education center and campus for sustainable food. Of course, we also hope to have the opportunity to visit the municipality of Härnösand and take a study visit to Agtira and their aquaponics culture, as well as learn more about the region’s strategy to develop a sustainable food cluster. .

ATRIA SWEDEN is part of the Atria Group, which is one of the leading meat and food companies in Northern Europe. The company is over 115 years old and Atria Plc shares have been listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd since 1991. Atria Sweden supplies the Swedish market with many well-known brands in the retail, foodservice and concept areas. The main categories of Atria are sausages, cold cuts, pickled delicacies, sauces and meal solutions.

We have been producing food for humans for over a hundred years and we want to continue to do so in the future. This is why we work with respect for the planet, people and the food they consume.

We are the leading company in responsible food production in Northern Europe. Over the years, we have assumed our responsibilities and taken up major challenges. Due to climate change, our main focus today is a carbon neutral food chain.

AGTIRA is a research and development company in the food technology sector, which provides sustainable food production systems to players in the food industry. Through the use of smart aquaponics and artificial intelligence, we have redefined the concept of locally grown food. We are world leaders in the field of aquaponics, and we develop both culture methods and software support for the farming of fish and vegetables in urban areas.

One of the biggest challenges the world will face in the future is food production. Water scarcity and climate change are global issues that have a major impact on people and their lives. This requires significant changes in the way food is produced in the future, and we are at the forefront of this development. Using high technology and natural aquaponics, we have created a whole new closed loop system for food production in drought affected areas. We can also allow cultivation in urban environments with limited space, for example on rooftops. Our company is the first in the world to offer the cultivation of cucumbers in a supermarket, at Ica Maxi Birsta in Sundsvall.

LJUSGÅRDA – We provide Sweden with Swedish salad all year round. Just as the tractor once revolutionized agriculture, now comes the next technological change – indoor growing. With the help of the development around indoor growing, Sweden can become a self-sufficient country that is not dependent on imports for most of the fruits and vegetables we consume. Ljusgårda wants to be part of driving this change.

Sweden imports over 70% of the fruits and vegetables we consume. These have often come a long way before they are packaged and sent to our stores. During transport, they also lose a large part of their food. Ljusgårda delivers to the store within 24 hours of harvest. This means we can invest the time and focus on growing good, nutritious crops. In our climate-certified indoor culture, our salad grows 365 days a year, so you can enjoy it whenever you want with a clear conscience.

CHARKPRODUKTER AB currently manufactures and markets composite charcuterie. Our main groups are pie, hot and cold smoked sausages and ham. Products are produced today in some of our two quality factories located in Billesholm and Malmö. In fact, it’s only our machines and our ability to innovate that set the limits of what we can do.

The goal of our environmental work is to keep our impact on the environment as low as possible. Concretely, this means that we are constantly working to minimize our resource needs by investing intelligently but also by being sober with the raw materials used in production.

The electricity we use today is original, which means that 100% of the electricity comes from renewable energy sources. Carbon dioxide emissions are thus close to zero for the production of the electricity used in the manufacture of our products. If we can also manage our electricity at the same time as we invest in more energy efficient machines, our footprint will be smaller per kilogram produced. As of October 1, 2018, production in Billesholm and Malmö has been completely fossil-free.

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU among the best universities in the world

In international comparisons, SLU is rated as “very high quality”. In QS World University Rankings, SLU is ranked third best university in the world in agriculture and forestry and number 27 in veterinary medicine.

SLU Future Food is a platform for research and collaboration to develop knowledge, solutions and innovations aimed at ensuring that the entire food system is characterized by economic, ecological and social sustainability to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Research covers both plants and animals, from the smallest molecules to global systems.

It is important to limit resources, but investments in education and the supply of skills are not a resource with which we should be limited, on the contrary.

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