The key for an innovative society and its sustainable growth lies in the investment in Education, Research, and Development. Higher Education Institutions have both human and technical resources to support quality education, R&D, and innovation environments. For this reason, the Project submitted by the Finland Futures Research Center (FFRC) in cooperation with Functional Foods Forum (FFF) of University of Turku, the Peruvian Universidad Agraria La Molina (UALM), and the Colombian Universidad El Bosque (UEB) is looking for sustainable and innovative Andean Native Crops Futures in Peru and Colombia.
The FFRC-FFF-UALM-UEB project completely agrees with the Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PECTIA, acronym in Spanish language) of the Colombian Agricultural Sector (2017-2027) in that “solid innovation of agricultural processes is fundamental for the implementation of agricultural-based policies through public investment, which will support a more market-oriented, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive agricultural development.”
Director Dr. Juha Kaskinen, Project coordinator Ms. Hanna Lakkala and Junior expert in futures studies Mrs. Noora Vähäkari, from Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku, traveled to Bogotá and Lima for the first set of lectures and workshops of the PECOLO project related to sustainable innovation of local Andean crops. Functional Foods Forum (FFF), Researcher and coordinator Mr. Jaakko Korpela, and post-doc researcher in biochemistry Dr. Carlos Gomez held lectures in their topics and also attended and assisted in the innovation workshops.
In both locations, Bogotá on November 7th and Lima on November 14th, Dr. Kaskinen started the innovation oriented training session with introduction to futures studies, the history, concepts and key methodology of the discipline. Additionally, he also gave a quick look on the structure and functions of FFRC. In Bogotá, the first lecture gathered some 15 people from various public and private organisations, plus university staff. University of El Bosque, where the training and workshop were held, simultaneously hosted an international conference on medicinal science and technology, which occupied lot of potential audience. In Lima, the two-day training session started off with a warm welcome from the Finnish Ambassador to Peru Mr. Mika Koskinen. In Lima, the participants numbered some 40 people widely across the Peruvian food and agriculture sector and innovation experts. The training session and workshop were organized in the University of Agriculture La Molina campus.
In the innovation workshops multidisciplinary and participatory simultaneous co-creation and brainstorming methodologies were used. Groups of six to eight people started to discuss about food and agriculture sector in the respective countries, using PESTEC and ACTVOD tables and the Futures wheel canvases. The current or critical or interesting trends and values, innovation systems, production patterns, consumption habits, and important issues related to agriculture were discussed, using the canvases to structure the discussions. The groups discussed topics such as the gap between urban and rural dichotomy, the significance of global trends and market pressure, land ownership and conflicts, environmental issues and access to new technologies and food trends. All ideas were written in post-it pads and attached in large posters.
The aim of the futures wheel methodology was to spark discussion on the large patterns and changes taking place in the sector and to prepare for the more detailed discussions later on. Once done, all groups chose four to five topics which they wanted to elaborate further in ACTVOD methodology (discussing the actors, customers, transformation processes, values, obstacles and drivers behind the topics chosen). This process not only supported the horizon scanning of the food and agriculture sector in both countries, but also supports the next phases of the innovation path in the PECOLO project.
In Bogotá, the work continued the next day with PESTEC analysis (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, cultural aspects and critical signals of the food and agriculture sector), whereas in Peru all three methods had to be done in a single day due to unforeseeable national holiday. PESTEC is a commonly used multidisciplinary tool to elaborate certain topic in various perspectives and to ensure that all critical elements are covered. In this session, the team included also the framework of megatrends, trends, weak signals and wild cards in the work. Consequently, the topical trends and patterns could be assessed in very profound way.
The training and workshop sessions in both locations were successful and gathered a lot of interest and positive feedback, particularly on the facilitation of multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral work. They also functioned well as the first steps to open up and continuously work on the sustainable development and use of native Andean crops and built more international discussion space around the future of the food and agriculture sector in both countries. As for the Finnish perspective, the PECOLO project provides a unique academic linkage from Finland to and between Peru and Colombia.