Almeria has once again focused the attention of a large part of the agri sector in Europe with two meetings that took place in November: the annual meeting of the European project, IPM Works,at the University of Almeria, and the 17th International Conference of Fruit and Vegetable Producers’ Organizations, ICOP 2023,at the Hotel Barceló Cabo de Gata (El Toyo).
What is IPM Works?
In the case of the European IPM Works integrated control project, in which COEXPHAL and the University of Almeria are participating from Spain, the objective is in line with the European Union’s Green Pact to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% by 2030.
In Almeria, biological control is the main tool to reduce this use and has been applied since 2007. Over the years, it has evolved through measures that go beyond the release of insects. Measures focused on biodiversity conservation both inside the greenhouse with the use of auxiliary plants and outside, with the use of perimeter hedges, demonstrate to the whole world how food can be produced sustainably in a greenhouse.
This practice has raised great expectation due to the difference in effectiveness with other types of technologies used in extensive cropping systems, such as cereals and fruit trees. More innovative and disruptive. And they were able to see it in situ thanks to José Nieto, from Costa de Níjar, and Esther Molina, from Coprohnijar, who opened the doors of their greenhouses to them.
The meeting serves to summarize what has been achieved through workshops and activities and to plan for the last year (2024) and to orient the results of the end of the project to a political level with the capacity to influence and demonstrate the good work of farmers and technicians who carry out their work in the field.
What does ICOP consist of?
ICOP 2023 brought together 150 representatives of the European fruit and vegetable industry to exchange views on relevant political and economic issues. Some of them were:
- How to produce more to supply the growing population and how to do it with fewer farmers, due to the high percentage of people over 55 years of age.
- Curb food waste
- European regulations hindering farmers’ work
- Use of phytosanitary products
- Strategies to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
- The importance of soil regeneration
- Sustainability (no longer a voluntary practice but a mandatory factor by law)
The horticulture of Almeria was present thanks to the interventions of Jan van der Blom, head of the Department of Production Techniques of COEXPHAL, and Juan Carlos Pérez Mesa, professor of Business Organization at the University of Almeria and co-director of the COEXPHAL-UAL Chair; as well as the companies CASI, Koppert, Hispatec and ANOVE.
Jan van der Blom explained the results and challenges after 50 years of horticultural development in Almeria, where there are more than 30,000 hectares under plastic distributed among 12,500 farms and families, generating more than 60,000 direct jobs. In his opinion, the strength of the union, materialized in the form of cooperatives, SAT, OPFH and other producer organizations, has been one of the keys to the important development of agriculture in southeastern Spain, which has been achieved thanks to sustainable production and biological control.
The ICOP 2023 conference also included visits to greenhouses in its program. This time to Agroconnect, a research center of the University of Almeria, and to the CASI and Vicasol cooperatives, to learn first-hand about the process of production, transfer, handling, packaging and output of fruit and vegetable foodstuffs.
Due to the great agricultural power of the province of Almeria, many countries take it as an example to follow. In our International Master in Agribusiness Management you will see many of the topics covered in the meetings mentioned above. Regenerative agriculture, sustainability and agro-strategies are some of the issues taught in the master’s program.