The six winners of the 5th European Award for Cooperative Innovation have been honoured at a ceremony in Brussels.
The awards, run by the European Agri-Cooperative Confederation (Cogeca) and sponsored by Spanish co-operative bank Cajamar Caja Rural, celebrate co-operative innovation in the European agriculture, food, fishery and forestry sectors.
The ceremony, delayed from last year because of the pandemic, offered a platform for actions that offer value to co-op members, develop new markets and promote new products and services from European co-ops.
The main focus of the 5th edition is sustainability-driven innovation. In the competition brochure announcing the winners, Cogeca highlighted the importance of creating new market outlets, products, services or processes driven by economic, social or environmental objectives in the current market and political environment.
The social value creation award went to Spanish fruit and veg co-op Mans, for its work with people facing difficulties including young people at risk of social exclusion.
The Belgian association of fruit and vegetable co-ops’ Care4Growing digital platform won the award for traceability and consumer information, and the Polish Piatnica co-op took home the prize for innovative product, for its whey protein consumer cocktail – the only produce of its kind on the Polish market.
Ireland’s Glanbia won the award for support to farmer-members for its beef production project Twenty20 Beef Club, developed to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of dairy calf-to-beef production.
Spanish co-op Càmara Arrossera del Montsià’s ORYZITE project won the bioeconomy and circularity prize. ORYZITE is a rice-based plastic substitute, created after more than a decade of research.
The natural resources and biodiversity award went to Swedish Lantmännen cooperative’s ThermoSeed project, a seed treatment which reduces seed-borne infections, reducing the need for pesticides.
Cogeca president Ramon Armengol congratulated the winners and said: “This 5th edition is a special one. It was launched at the beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning of a crisis that has required our enterprises to continue to adjust their business model. Great innovate efforts had been put in place to ensure food security, readjust the mechanisms of the value chain, remain competitive on the market, and address the arising needs of consumers and our food chain partners. Once again our cooperatives have demonstrated their resilience, their capacity and their commitment.”
Mr Armengol also pointed to the crisis co-ops are currently facing with the war in Ukraine and its impact on markets, calling for more co-operation and innovation to strengthen the resilience of the co-op movement further.