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Interpoma Connects 2020 Proves a Resounding Success
Last month saw the first ever digital edition of the world-famous Interpoma Congress, the international trade fair dedicated to the world of apples, which was held on Nov. 19–20 under the name Interpoma Connects 2020: Digital Days for the Apple Economy. This year’s event attracted 1,000 participants from over 50 countries to follow the presentations and interact with one another on the fair’s digital matchmaking platform, demonstrating the key role that virtual events must now play in the international economy in light of the current global situation.
Digital Days for the Apple Economy covered a diverse spectrum of topics, with a total of 14 international experts reporting on their latest research results and presenting their perspectives on the future of the apple economy in a concise 420-minute format.
The first keynote speaker to take the virtual stage was Wilhelm Kremer-Schillings, better known as “Farmer Willi” in his online blog, who explained why farmers are generally popular but their products are often criticized. Kremer-Schillings attributed this phenomenon to urbanization, new media, the individualization of society and, ultimately, a lack of knowledge about the farming profession and suggested that the solution may lie in creative forms of communication and a personal, honest and educational approach. Next, Christoph Josephi from German PR agency Panama PR provided additional insight into the topic, explaining that the best way to react to fake news is through positive communication by experts and industry leaders.
Following this introduction, Alfred Strigl from Plenum Austria covered the sustainability strategy of the South Tyrolean apple industry, which is dubbed “sustain.apple.” This initiative was developed together with local key players with the goal of providing concrete measures and a timetable to make the local apple industry more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. On a related note, Arnold Schuler, the provincial agriculture councilor, then described the efforts of the local government in conjunction with Eurac Research to improve the biodiversity of South Tyrol through a comprehensive and long-term monitoring program.
On the second day of the congress, Prof. Massimo Tagliavini of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano discussed the carbon footprint of apples in Trentino–South Tyrol, thus providing a framework for reducing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the cultivation, storage and transport of this important export crop. Next, Alain Vialaret, former director of the French company Blue Whale, presented details of a promising cooperative project targeting zero residues in agriculture. Fruits and vegetables under the new brand “Zéro résidu de pesticides” have been scientifically proven to be free of pesticide residues. Despite the fact that it has only been on the market for two years, this label has proved popular in France and now features 36 different products.
Still on the topic of the environment, Prof. Luciana Tavella of the University of Turin talked about countermeasures against invasive species such as the marbled tree bug and samurai wasp, which can have major environmental, economic and social impacts.
Finally, for the first time in its 20-year history, Interpoma Congress addressed the important topic of rootstocks. Although the M9 rootstock has remained largely without competition for over 100 years, this monopoly looks set to end. Walter Guerra, chief pomologist at the Laimburg Research Center, introduced representatives from three promising breeding programs in the U.K., New Zealand, and the U.S. to discuss their respective research projects. These talks clearly demonstrated that rootstocks can not only have a profound influence on apple yield and quality but also contribute to more climate-adapted cultivation. Consequently, farmers will soon have the ability to choose new rootstocks in addition to new apple varieties.
Alongside the talks, Interpoma Business Match, the event’s free digital matchmaking platform that was rolled out for the first time this year, reportedly proved a major success, with 256 participants from 40 countries engaging in 138 virtual B2B meetings lasting 20 minutes each.
The event concluded with the presentation of the Interpoma Startup Award, in which 13 enterprises were shortlisted and 11 competed for the title of the apple sector’s best startup company. Austrian company Pixofarm ultimately took home the award in recognition of its app that enables users to view real-time information about the condition of their fruits and receive harvest forecasts based on photos.
According to Thomas Mur, director of the Fiera Bolzano Exhibition Center, “The number of international participants proved that Interpoma is the leading platform for the global apple industry, even in digital form. We are very satisfied with the result and were able to gather valuable experience that will now help us to develop Interpoma into an even stronger brand, with a mix of live experiences and digital content.”
The next physical edition of Interpoma is set to be held in Bolzano on Nov. 4–6, 2021. Next year’s event will also see the first Interpoma Award for outstanding achievements in the field of varietal innovation, with applications being accepted until Aug. 31, 2021.
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