Expert Panel 7

New reality, new business: Lessons to learn from global mega crises

GFFA Berlin e.V. 

Time: Tuesday, 19. January 2021, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (CET), subsequent deep dive 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Languages: English, German

COVID-19 has turned our lives and economies upside down from one day to the next. Together with climate change, another global challenge is now penetrating deep into the reality of people’s lives and businesses. For many companies, these shocks represent a strategically difficult exercise to overcome. What is not up to date is abruptly buried, and proven methods are being compromised. On the other hand, so far undreamed-of opportunities pop up. This is especially true for businesses along the food chain, starting with agriculture and its suppliers and extending to trade and catering. Terms such as increased efficiency and global markets only seem to contradict buzzwords like local food and sustainability labelling. However, as important aspects of a future-oriented strategy for the entire sector, all of them are of enormous importance.

This podium has illustrated how agri-business companies deal with these complex demands. It has highlighted the instruments being used to anticipate the development of future markets. Especially the role of innovations such as new breeding techniques and their use in agriculture as well as food systems for the future were discussed controversially. It also became clear that the kind of discussion we see whether technologies are good or bad is not helpful. Instead, we need to ask ourselves what function a technology or system can fulfill and whether this is in the interests of sustainability.


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Charlotte Smith is a well-respected British journalist and broadcaster who specialises in food, farming and rural affairs. She presents the long running Farming Today programme on BBC Radio (though she hasn’t been there for all it’s 83 years). For the past two decades she has been a presenter on the popular TV programme’ Countryfile’.

Panel guests

Ortwin Renn is scientific director at the International Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam and professor for environmental sociology and technology assessment at the University of Stuttgart. He also directs the non-profit company DIALOGIK, a research institute for the investigation of participation processes. His research interests include risk governance, stakeholder and public involvement, and transformation processes in economics, politics and society. He is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences “Leopoldina”, and is affiliated with research institutes in China, the USA and Europe. His most prominent English publication is the book “Risk Governance. Coping with Uncertainty in a Complex World (London: Earthscan 2008).

Ngabaghila Chatata is a leading Malawian horticulturist and agriprenuer, with a strong passion for building skills for wealth creation. She is a Co-founder and Managing Director of Thanthwe Farms that is turning to be a market leader in the horticulture sector. They also offer specialized services in: Business Incubation, Agro–Processing, Greenhouse Manufacturing, Capacity Building in Climate Smart Technologies. Thanthwe prides itself in building agriprenuers as a way of building resilience given a changing climate. Ngabaghila holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences. She has four years’ experience in the private sector, 12 years’ in the NGO sector, and an additional ten years’ as National Coordinator at different projects.

Matthias Berninger (born 1971 in Kassel, Germany) joined Bayer in January 2019 as Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, Science & Sustainability. In his current role, Berninger has strengthened Bayer’s global public affairs practice and leads the implementation of a coherent global sustainability strategy. Previously, he was Global Head of Public Policy at Mars Inc. with responsibility for “Health, Nutrition and Sustainability” and Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture representing the Green Party.


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