SLU news

Agri4D – a digital success towards sustainable and just food systems

Published: 15 October 2021

More than 500 participants from over 80 countries engaged in this year’s theme “Food Systems for New Realities” during the Agricultural Research for Development Conference (Agri4D) 2021 held digitally 28-30 September. The fact that so many people from all over the world could attend is one of the upsides of a digital event. Here are some take-aways from the three days of the gathering.

This year’s Agri4D brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to engage with the challenges of food systems with a focus on low-income contexts in a globalised world. Participants engaged in six different topics all related to food systems for new realities.

The speakers and participants agreed on the urgency to progress towards sustainable and just food systems. Different solutions were highlighted and discussed during the conference. For the food systems in the world to become more sustainable and to provide sufficient and nutritious food for all, major changes are inevitable. There is a need for a more distinct system perspective where social, economic and environmental factors are taken into account, with change in both production and consumption - locally, nationally and globally.

"For the wealthier ones among us, let our choices not impact on those without choice" said Shirley Tarawali, assistant director-general at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, in her keynote speech on the second conference day. A transcript of her remarks can be found in a blog post here. 

Sofia Boqvist, associate professor at SLU and programme director of AgriFoSe2030 (Agriculture for Food security 2030) commented after the conference:

“I believe the Agri4D conference is a very important platform for researchers and stakeholders to meet and discuss the most recent knowledge to contribute to sustainable and just food systems. A recurrent theme during the conference was the need to connect science to policymaking and practice to make best use of the most recent research. I can also see the need for that from my own work together with universities and research institutes. By developing our ways of doing and communicating research we can contribute to improved and sustainable food security.”

Map over the locations from where participants took part in Agri4D 2021. Click on the map to see it in a larger magnification.

Some key messages from Agri4D 2021

  • Sustainable food systems will require inclusive, flexible and context specific approaches to build resilient systems that consider the well-being of both people and planet.
  • Co-create research and knowledge with practitioners and policy makers from the start.
  • Reach out to all – smallholders are many and a diverse group.
  • Work from farm to fork but just as important to work from fork back to farm (circular systems / closing the loop).
  • By taking cultural perceptions of different crops and foods into consideration, and celebrate diversity and heritage in food systems we can generate a multitude of solutions.
  • Innovate for transformation needed at all levels – technical innovation is not enough. Get rid of old approaches that do not work.
  • Working in silos slows the progress towards sustainable food systems, while generating partnerships can contribute to comprehensive transformation.
  • Cooperatives bring farmers economies of scale.
  • Build conflict-resilient food systems that not only rely on state actors.


Some short digital facts about Agri4D 2021

Throughout the conference there were several opportunities for people to meet digitally, for example in a coffee corner, through video meetings and private messages, and chats.

  • 405 e-business cards were exchanged
  • 567 private messages were sent
  • 105 private video meetings were held
  • 378 room chats were made