By Narmina Mammadova
A two-day international forum "AgTech and Green Energy Forum. Innovation for the Green Future", organized by the Ministries of Agriculture and Energy, has kicked off in Baku on December 10.
Speaking at the forum, Azerbaijani Minister of Agriculture Inam Karimov said that introduction of innovations in the agriculture sphere in Azerbaijan will make it possible to reduce expenditures in the industry by 20-30 percent.
He noted that this will make it possible to increase productivity by approximately the same amount, and it will inevitably lead to reduction in the cost of food products by 45-50 percent.
“Today the issue of ensuring food supplies is paramount in the world. Demographic growth, along with the environmental factor, requires providing the population with high-quality food products, and to a certain extent, some difficulties also arise here,” the minister stressed.
According to the latest forecast of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there will be about 9.3 billion people in the world by 2050, Karimov said.
“This means that we need to increase food reserves by about 79 percent over the next 30 years. At the same time, there are also global challenges, such as climate change and global warming, drought, which impedes this. In addition, environmental protection, optimal use of water and land, as well as reduction of harm from the use of fertilizers and pesticides remains one of the main problems,” he added.
The minister remarked that agriculture sector in Azerbaijan is the leading direction of economic development, and in recent years tangible results have been achieved in this field.
“In the first nine months of this year, growth in agricultural production in Azerbaijan amounted to about 4.3 percent. In addition, Azerbaijan has become an exporter of agricultural products. The main task facing the agriculture ministry is to make optimal use of existing resources, increasing productivity and environmental protection. The ministry has identified priority areas of activity. This is, first of all, to support farmers, to build good governance in agriculture sphere, to ensure the application of innovation and modern technology in the industry,” Karimov said.
Aerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov speaking at the forum, noted that today the share of alternative energy in Azerbaijan accounts for 18 percent of energy production.
Shahbazov emphasized, the "green economy" is a new and important industry that Azerbaijan wants to develop.
“An integral part of this direction is alternative energy and efficient use of energy. Traditional energy is already beginning to give in to green energy thanks to numerous appeals and initiatives,” said the minister.
As the minister noted, energy resources are unevenly distributed throughout the world and, unfortunately, are becoming a political weapon.
"Changes in oil prices in recent years have shown that countries with rich energy resources should look for alternative solutions. In addition to energy security, environmental safety is one of the main tasks today. According to forecasts, by 2040 two thirds of investments in electric energy will be investments in renewable energy. Renewable energy will make up 40 percent of the electricity needs," said Shahbazov.
In the coming years, the minister continued, Azerbaijan is planning to launch new facilities operating on energy sources such as the sun and wind.
He added that the work to create favorable conditions for private sector entrepreneurs, whose role in the development of alternative energy is great, is underway.
Working groups are being set up for this purpose, and negotiations are underway with companies such as BP, Total, Siemens and others. At the same time, a pilot project of floating solar panels was launched in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank on Lake Boyukshor, Shahbazov added.
Addressing the event, Assistant to the Azerbaijani President for Agriculture Policy Issues Azer Amiraslanov noted that large-scale activity is being carried out in Azerbaijan for the development of the agriculture sector, however, much work remains to be done, Assistant to the Azerbaijani President for Agriculture Policy Issues Azer Amiraslanov said.
He noted that according to the decree of President Ilham Aliyev, projects are being implemented in the country using innovative technologies in the field of agriculture.
“We should apply innovative technologies in villages,” he said. “One of the main conditions for sustainable development is the development of sources of alternative, renewable energy and bioenergy. Among other things, the main task is to protect the environment and the ecosystem. The agriculture sector is considered one of the important directions in the country’s development, because this sector plays a special role in the diversification of the economy, providing the population with food, the development of districts, reducing poverty, addressing social problems and other issues.”
Amiraslanov stressed that considering all this, President Ilham Aliyev pays such attention to the development of the agriculture sector.
“Over the past 50 years, the agriculture sector has gone a long way of development. If earlier, this sphere was given special attention by less developed countries, now this sector has become a sector that requires major investments and is based on sophisticated innovative technologies. Now, developed countries are also paying special attention to this area. In the 60s-70s of the 20th century, the term “green revolution” entered the international lexicon,” he said.
Ramin Guluzade, Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan, in his speech underlined that agriculture sector is one of the biggest technology and innovation consumers in the world.
He said that this is proved by the signing of a memorandum in 2017 between the International Telecommunication Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) regarding the application of high technologies and innovations in the field of agriculture.
“The government of Azerbaijan also pays special attention to this,” he noted. “Information resources and systems in the field of agriculture have been created in Azerbaijan, and work in this direction continues. At the same time, high technologies are widely used in agriculture. This sector is receiving even greater development due to the application of drones, internet of things and BigData technologies. Our ministry can assist in the application of these technologies.”
An Innovation Agency is being created under the ministry, and this agency will create the possibility of expanding the use of innovations in the agricultural sector, Guluzade said.
The agency can offer the use of data center resources, as well as the resources of the sterilization unit, which has already been built and will be commissioned next year, he noted.
In addition, laboratories for product quality analysis have also been established under the ministry, he said.
“Serious steps are being taken to strengthen Azerbaijan’s export potential, creating favorable investment environment and expanding innovation activity. The strategic road maps adopted in the country create new opportunities for national economy. All this is reflected in international rankings. For example, in the latest WB Doing Business report, Azerbaijan ranked 25th among 190 countries. In addition, our country is included in the list of countries where many reforms are being implemented,” the minister noted.
In turn, Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said that Turkey is ready to share its methods and technological innovations in the agriculture sector with Azerbaijan.
He said that the exchange of views on agricultural reforms with Azerbaijan will contribute to the development of cooperation between the countries.
Speaking about global problems, Pakdemirli noted that by 2050, the population in the world will reach almost ten billion people.
“On the one hand, demand is growing, on the other hand, environmental problems are also growing,” he added. “We must do everything possible to solve these problems, and I hope that this forum will help us.”
The event was attended by government officials, farm managers, foreign green technology experts, representatives of start-ups, technology companies and the private sector.
The main objectives of the forum are to ensure the innovative development of agriculture and energy in Azerbaijan, strengthen ties between various stakeholders, and develop models and links in the field of sustainable business.
About 700 people, including diplomatic delegations from 20 countries, experts from 16 countries and founders of 15 startups from Israel, the U.S., Estonia and other countries attend the event organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Energy.
The forum is designed to help agriculture and energy sectors to develop a roadmap and create an innovative ecosystem in Azerbaijan that will help introduce modern technologies and new energy sources.
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