4th International Strawberry Congress brings scientists and traders to Belgium
"Leadership in a digital and sustainable future". That is the motto of the 4th edition of the International Strawberry Congress, which will take place in Antwerp from 21 to 24 September 2022. During the previous edition in 2017, the event was attended by 300 delegates from over 26 different countries.
"Finally, after five years, we can again welcome players from the entire international strawberry sector to network and exchange information based on research, cultivation and commercialisation of strawberries for the fresh market," says Eva Vanmarcke of organiser Coöperatie Hoogstraten, which is an important link between producers and buyers in the fresh fruit and vegetable chain.
The International Strawberry Congress was started in 2010 by Coöperatie Hoogstraten, in cooperation with the Hoogstraten Research Centre, the Federation of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives and the Flemish Centre for the Preservation of Horticultural Products.
"The idea arose from a desire to connect the scientific world and the commercial world within the strawberry sector," Vanmarcke says. "The congress brings both parties into contact with each other to exchange information."
The last International Strawberry Congress dates back to 2017, when 300 delegates from over 26 different countries attended the event.
"The intention was to organise the event once every three years, but the pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works."
The 4th edition will take place from 21 to 24 September 2022, where participants can attend lectures, panel discussions and poster presentations at the Flanders Meeting & Convention Centre. The focus of the lectures will mainly be on developments in digitalisation and sustainability in cultivation, but also in the market.
"The CEOs of Saga Robotics and Blue Radix will speak about robotisation in horticulture and artificial intelligence in cultivation respectively. The American trend watcher Daniel Levine will focus on the commercial world by talking about the trends in the sector and which way it will go."
Furthermore, there are various excursion possibilities. The congress will be concluded with the International Mechanisation and Demonstration Strawberry Fair, organised by the Proefcentrum Hoogstraten on Saturday, where more practical aspects of cultivation will be highlighted.
Vanmarcke hopes that the International Strawberry Congress will eventually grow into an ambitious and globally supported initiative.
"The ultimate dream is that there will be a special association or committee at European or global level, where such cooperation can exist on a regular basis. For now, however, we are very happy to meet once every few years to assess the state of the industry and to see how the issues discussed at the previous edition are progressing. We look forward to welcoming the world to Belgium again," Vanmarcke concludes.
In 2017, Belgian horticultural cooperatives traded more than 51,000 tonnes of strawberries with a value of roughly 158 million euro. Around 530 Flemish growers account for the majority of the production. The Flemish strawberry cultivation is characterised by a great diversity of different cultivation methods, strategies, varieties and combinations thereof that lead to a diverse and spread production.
World leader in the strawberry market remains China with a harvest of over 3.3 million tonnes per year, and to a lesser extent the United States with a harvest of over one million tonnes each year. In the European Union, Poland, Spain and Germany are the largest suppliers of strawberries.
© BELGA PHOTO YORICK JANSENS