At present most of the food industry is represented by SMEs, reaching a 99% of the companies in the sector. These companies often lack innovative production methods and control for sustainable production. Thus, this is contributing to increase the pressure on the society and the environment. In order to progressively change to a circular economy model, new concepts such as life cycle and integration of all actors involved in improving the environmental aspects of products must be implemented in the Agribusiness sector.
Being aware of this need, a consortium of several actors from the agro-food sector in Spain and Germany has developed a set of methodologies for supporting SMEs to base their production on such concepts as eco-sustainability and eco-design. The project has been coordinated by the Confederation de Empresarios de Zaragoza, and is funded within the CIP-EIP-Eco-innovation program.
More exactly, the project aims at implementing Integrated Product Policy (IPP) and EMAS III (Environmental) or EN16001 (Energy) Management Systems, but also other methods like Life Cycle Assessment. These instruments are not new to the market, but the participation of SMEs in the development of these tools is very poor. This project aims to improve their awareness of the need for innovation on greening their business as well as their products and services, and tries to give them support in doing this. Moreover, within the project the companies have been grouped in clusters, as a way of reaching economies of scale and synergies, as well as encouraging the sharing of knowledge and experience. So, although each studied SME has been assessed in an individual manner in order to achieve every company’s objectives, the cluster has been considered as a tool to reach better results.
To obtain suitable methodologies, an initial analysis of the current situation and requirements of the agro-food SME sector has been developed. So, a diagnosis of the current situation was made in 20 SMEs from Spanish agro-food sector and 12 German SMEs (breweries and bakeries), using questionnaires and diagnostic visits. After obtaining conclusions from this stage, a set of 4 Workshops will took place in each country as a way of dissemination of information and of providing supporting methodologies to approach the identified needs to Spanish and German SMEs. Then, methodologies proposed according to the necessities of improvement detected are the following: Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), minimizing raw materials (packaging), efficient energy management, efficient water management and improvement of wastes management.
The final result of the project will be a compendium of guidelines and good practices for these aspects, which have been already developed after the aforementioned SME diagnostics. In a near future the methodologies will be validated and tuned in some SMEs, reaching the level 5 in the TRL scale. Nevertheless, the project development has increased the capabilities of the consortium for adapting their services to the Agribusiness companies’ necessities.