The new zero km? These are the supply chains: this is how Covid changes food safety


Safety and transparency: what consumers are asking of the food supply chain after the Covid-19 emergency, which has put a strain on the sector at a global level: the agri-food sector has found itself managing surpluses and waste due to unsold products and spikes in requests focus on certain channels (e-commerce / home delivery). Local supply chains have proved more resilient to shock – comments Giulia Bartezzaghi, director also for the third edition of the Observatory Food Sustainability of the Polytechnic of Milan, which will be presented on June 3 and the results of which the Economy was able to preview. This does not mean that we move towards physical proximity but that innovation must shorten even the most distant supply chains.


Thus the paradigm of the so-called “zero km” changes: The trend goes beyond the geographical dimension of proximity and integrates it with relational and informative proximity. The first is the ability to bring the producer and the transformer closer to the consumer with disintermediated partnerships and supply chains. Then there is the proximity of information, which helps to shorten distances and create trust through traceability, says Bartezzaghi. Here technology, with systems of speaking labels, or tracking (for example with certification on blockchain) plays an important role: Transparency allows to shorten the distances between the actors of the supply chain – comments Federico Caniato, co-scientific director -. The dimensions of geographical, relational and informative proximity, shortening the supply chain allow to pursue sustainability targets.
But, while the 17 sustainable goals – the goals of sustainable development that the UN has set in its agenda by 2030 – are increasingly entering the strategies of large companies, the push for sustainable innovation seems to be disappearing. In fact, startups born with a vocation for sustainable innovation have fallen compared to last year.


North America and India maintain the primacy in innovation with 2,271 and 380 agri-food startups, but only 23% and 15% sustainable. Italy also seems not to focus on sustainability, registering 53 agri-food startups, of which only 13% pursue sustainable objectives. Of the total of 1,158 sustainable startups (2015-19), 39% globally received at least one loan, for a total funding of 2.3 billion dollars, on average 5.2 million per startup, compared to 6.1 of last year. The United States excels with a total of 1.7 billion raised (average of 7.2 million at startups), which however decreases by 17% compared to 2018. Europe follows, which exceeds Asia by total capital raised, 312 millions of dollars against 308 of Asian startups, but lags behind in average startup funding: 2.7 million dollars in Europe and 4.2 million in Asia, both down compared to 2018 (3.4 million dollars in Europe and 6.6 in Asia). The Italian market seems to remain firm: However, the source of the analysis is the Crunchbase platform, which does not entirely cover the panorama of active startups, and perhaps penalizes the Italian realities – adds Bertezzaghi -. During the year we will meet the most interesting Italian business realities to carry out an ad hoc study.


Another fundamental theme is circularity, optimization of the use of productive resources and elimination of waste along the supply chain. Within collective catering, for example, the attention paid by companies to managing surpluses is strong. Circularity also affects packaging. In this sector the countries of Northern Europe excel. In Finland, in particular, startups that offer flexible and biodegradable food packaging solutions prevail.

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