UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — Finding solutions to heal a hurting planet while providing food and mobility to 10 billion people by 2050 will require collaboration, innovation and industry involvement, stressed speakers at Bühler Networking Days 2019.

The event at Bühler headquarters in Uzwil, Switzerland, attracted 800 leaders from 82 countries. Collectively, they provide food for 4 billion people and mobility for 1 billion people. 

While the world is making progress in overcoming poverty, improving safety, access to health care and education, and increasing freedom, it is also changing at a speed never seen before, said Stefan Scheiber, chief executive officer of Bühler Group.

“I want, and that’s my personal goal, that we actually see industry as part of the solution, and not part of the problem,” he said. “I call upon everybody who is participating in the Networking Days to stand up and take responsibility.

“We need to ask a series of important questions. What are we doing as an industry all together, what are we doing as a company, and what are doing as individuals looking into the mirror.”

Scheiber noted that the population consumes 1.75 times the resources that the planet can restore. Earth overshoot day happened on July 29, so from now until the end of the year, people are consuming resources that earth doesn’t automatically restore.

That’s why the company increased its pledge to reduce resource consumption in its customers’ value chains from 30%, announced in 2016, to 50% reduction in energy requirements, water consumption and waste.

“We do that not because we reached all of our targets before,” Scheiber said. “We do it because we know it is necessary. Is it easy? No. Do we have all the answers? No. Are we convinced we need to do it? Yes.

“We are reaching out to you to cooperate with us so we can make your plants more efficient.”

The question is how can companies respond to sustainability concerns in a way that makes business sense.

“We are convinced that industry can take an even more active role in solving these sustainability topics and we’re also convinced that these solutions by industry must make economical sense, because then they are really and truly sustainable,” Scheiber said.

Mill E3 was a popular display in the Solution Space.

Bühler already is moving toward its goal with new equipment innovations, including the Mill E3, which was on display in its Solution Space during Networking Days. The 3-story mill design requires 30% less space, 30% less installation time and 10% less energy. It includes pre-assembled modules, which can be installed faster.

“It’s basically a plug-and-play mill,” said Stefan Birrer, head of business area milling solutions.

Energy consumption is reduced due to the compact mill design and the integrated grinding system Arrius.

Whitworths Holdings Ltd., the U.K.’s largest milling company, is the first company that is using the Mill E3 system.

Collaboration will be critical in helping Bühler, and the industry, reach new levels of sustainability.

“We have we learned that we need to cooperate because many of our objectives we cannot achieve alone, we are reaching out, developing networks and developing talents,” Scheiber said.

Several start-up companies shared information about their projects with attendees.

This includes partnerships with start-ups in the company’s new CUBIC Innovation campus that is providing assistance to start-up companies, many of which are developing sustainable solutions. Networking Days attendees toured the CUBIC and visited with the start-up entities.

One company, Haleixa, is using DNA tracing to provide traceability for cocoa beans from the farmer to end product. Current supply chain management and chain of custody fail providing a physical link to the real-world product.

“This makes them vulnerable to fraud,” said Michela Puddu of Haleixa. “It’s very easy to replace or remove a product label, as well as modify or falsify the product information. Those are the challenges we are responding to. Tracers are applied to the product and they have a digital fingerprint that is unique. All the product information is physically locked to the product throughout its whole lifecycle.”

The system is flexible so it could be applied to other food industries outside of cocoa.

Bühler also has partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organization dedicated to accelerating the transition to a sustainable world and MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator.

The groups announced during the Networking Days that they are joining forces to identify the 10 most promising technologies, start-ups and small companies to mitigate climate change that can be multiplied globally before 2030.

The program, which will start in early 2020, expects to receive applications from industry and processing solutions, with a focus on food and agriculture, but it is open to all high impact applications.

Bühler also is working with One Young World, a global forum of young leaders. It inspired Bühler to create its Generation B program, a group of 500 young people from within the organization.

“These young people are creating impacts on many thousands of people within Bühler now,” Scheiber said.

In the spirit of collaboration encouraged during the event, Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World, pledged her organization’s support to the WBCSD and MassChallenge.

At the conclusion of Networking Days Scheiber said new networks and connections were made during the event.

“I do hope that you take the networks, the results, and hopefully also some of the inspiration back home to your businesses to foster change in your organization,” he said. “New technologies and solutions are there.

“We want as an industry to take responsibility for our businesses and for the generations who will lead the businesses in the future. We don’t want to be seen as a problem but actually be part of the solution.”