Monday, 19 November 2018

 

In this exclusive interview with Marc Van Herreweghe, the new Chairman of Belgapom and CEO of Mydibel, we discuss the role and challenges that the Association faces going forward, as well as sustainability issues and problems related to recent weather conditions in Belgium and elsewhere, amongst other topics. 

By Dan Orehov

What are the main objectives in your agenda, as Chairman of Belgapom?

I intend to continue all the great work that has been done so far and make sure we deliver some tangible value by completing several projects which have been initiated during the last time period.

A couple of examples: we are currently facing a difficult period with the Belgian and EU potato processing industry due to the extraordinary weather conditions. Although we have to take short term actions we have guarantee to continue the growth of the Belgian potato value chain in a sustainable way. The Belgian potato value chain is looking at the possibilities, together with our Agrofront partners to launch a Branch Organization (BO) in our country. One of the objectives of the BO is to become the platform to gather all interest partners and to work out a common action plan, involving also the Belgian authorities allowing us to achieve a sustainable value creation for all those concerned.

Belgapom has taken the initiative – together with some research institutes – to start up WatchITgrow, a tool to follow up the potato crop with remote sensing (satellite). In the future this tool could also enable the Belgian potato value chain to make use of big data and artificial intelligence to make our sector more performant & sustainable.

What is the current status of the association and what actions should be taken in order to expand it?

Belgapom has been defending the Belgian potato industry and Belgapom is the voice of the Belgian potato trade and processing industry. Thanks to a number of initiatives (weekly quotation, promotion, communication, internal and external stakeholder management, R&D coordination, Interpom Primeurs, etc.) it has become also the instrument for collaboration in the chain – within the limitations of the competition rules. Thanks to the collaboration with other organizations to set up a common and competent back office for the secretariat, our members have received support in the best possible way.

In the future, the European and global network will become more important. Belgapom has to play its role in relation to this jigsaw of organizations, taking into consideration the specific approach of multinational organized companies. The Belgian and European potato processing industry is a young and dynamic sector and its voice needs to be heard at all levels, in Belgium, in Europe as well as Globally.

What are the current challenges associated with technology and its uses, in order to ensure better coordination in the entire potato chain?

Food and plant safety, environment and sustainability are main issues on the agenda and technology can play a huge roll in this to enable a functional platform accessible for farmers, trade and processors. Traceability, documents, training … all of these elements have to be set up in a modern and interactive way in order to be successful at the level of all links in the value chain.

The use of Data is going to be very different going forward, on the one hand we have to make sure we will be able to handle all these Data, as well as we have to make sure we connect all the data whilst maintaining one version of the truth. We have to enable that we can turn these Data into information across the whole industry, ideally in an integrated way.

How much has this year’s weather affected the potato sector in Belgium and how will this, in turn, be noticed in the near future?

For sure the weather conditions had and will have an impact on the yield of this year’s crop. We see that the impact can be very different across the EU region and several organizations and interest groups have been trying to predict the yield. We will be able to define the exact impact when the harvesting has been completed and we are also concerned about the quality of the product. As mentioned Belgapom together with his members have already put several initiatives in please to make the best use of the current crop. 

You can read more in our print magazine Potato Processing International (Sept/Oct 2018), out soon! 

Related articles: 

Marc Van Herreweghe Is the New Chairman of Belgapom 

Belgapom: 2016 Was a Record Year for Belgian Potato Processing Sector 

Belgapom: Long Term Vision Helps Potato Processors in 2017



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