UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — More than 800 decision-makers and partners of the global food and mobility industries are in Uzwil, Switzerland, to attend the second Bühler Networking Days. The focus of the two-day event, which began Aug. 26, is on the question of how it will be possible in 2050 to feed a global population of almost 10 billion people sustainably and healthily and how to ensure their mobility.
“Climate change and the demands of our growing population are huge challenges,” said Stefan Scheiber, chief executive officer of Bühler Group. “At the same time, we live in the best world in history. And never have we had such powerful technologies at our disposal.”
He noted that the crucial point is that industry, research, and politics must use these new and sustainable technologies to cope with these challenges and that these various players must work together toward this goal.
“Our aim is to reduce energy requirements, water consumption, and waste by 50% in our customers’ value chains,” Scheiber said. Another important point for him is a change of perception: “Industry must become part of the solution.”
The companies represented at the event nourish around 4 billion people every day and help fulfill their mobility needs.
“The fact that so many manufacturers, scientists, industry partners, and start-ups are coming together here today shows that the industrial community is prepared to bear its responsibility and to become part of the solution,” Scheiber said.
Bühler has invited distinguished speakers to the Networking Days, including Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian prime minister and a decades-long important voice on climate change; Stefan Palzer, chief technology officer of Nestle; Patrick Dupin, CEO of Saint Gobain Northern Europe; Francois Pienaar, who led South Africa to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup; Sunny Verghese, co-founder and CEO of Olam International and chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and John Harthorne, founder of the start-up accelerator MassChallenge.
Ian Roberts, chief technology officer of Bühler, said an enormous need for action exists to build sustainable value chains in food and feed production and mobility.
“Since our first Networking Days, the challenge has increased,” Roberts said. “It is urgent now. Just a few figures demonstrate this: Whereas three years ago it was assumed that the global population would rise to about 9 billion by 2050, it is now growing much faster. Now we expect almost 10 billion.”
At the same time, global warming is increasing. The chances are dwindling that it can be limited to below 1.5 degrees centigrade. Agriculture accounts for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 71% of all fresh-water consumption. Food production accounts for 30% of global energy consumption, with 30% of all food being wasted or discarded.
Despite this, 800 million people are still going hungry. Of 8 million animal and plant species, roughly 1 million are in acute danger of extinction because of climate change and the destruction of their habitats, Roberts said.
“The coming 10 years will decide what heritage we will pass on to the future generations,” Roberts said. “We must act now. We must collaborate within our entire ecosystem. And we must radically change our behavior as industries, as companies, and as individuals.”
Bühler has therefore decided to increase its sustainability goals and to add water as a new aspect. Bühler’s next-generation process solutions are to become 50% more efficient, meaning they will use 50% less energy, consume 50% less water, and produce 50% less waste.
“We have not changed our targets because we have achieved our original goal of 30%, but because we have concluded that they are simply not high enough,” Roberts said.
To achieve these goals, Bühler is exploiting the possibilities of digitalization and partnering with customers, suppliers, and start-ups — to develop solutions meeting or even exceeding these goals.
“We are focusing our research and development spending and our partnerships on these new 50-% targets,” he said. “And we are convinced that this will produce good business models.”