A year ago, the Polytechnic of Leiria, which is one of the partners within the RUN European University, invited Annukka Pakarinen, Director of the HAMK Bio Research Unit, to be a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Water, Energy, Food and Sustainability. Then came coronavirus, and the plans changed. The conference was held remotely this year, and here Annukka shares her experiences of it. At the same time, this article also kicks off HAMK’s new RUN European University blog.
My chosen topic was ’a smart bioeconomy facilitating a sustainable bioeconomy’. My idea was to present HAMK’s research profile and our excellent work on this topic. I highlighted the complexity of the challenges we face in our environment, such as the much-maligned palm oil and its production. The damage caused by the massive increases in palm oil production in Indonesia’s tropical forests is obvious, but on the other hand there may not be any more sustainable alternative for the very desirable addition of vegetable oils as raw materials for different products. Understanding sustainability, value chains, ethical responsibility and complex causal relationships requires a lot from us.
I also presented some thoughts about the inventions made by people throughout history and their impacts in the long term, and how people can contribute towards a sustainable future. We need assistance from technology that is smarter than us, and as we well know, this is increasingly becoming available.
Finally, I presented cases from HAMK’s smart bioeconomy research, development and innovation work, which were kindly prepared for me by Senior Research Scientist Iivari Kunttu. The presentation included the digital bale and bale exchange projects, the field observatory, drone imaging of soil and vegetation as well as our beloved cows in HAMK’s Mustiala campus and the impact of their behavioural models on milk production, which was studied using machine learning. The latter can be viewed in this video, for example. The audience asked how farmers responded to these new technological openings. I was very pleased to be able to answer that the situation in Finland is in many ways very positive and that we have been able to do this work together with agricultural operators.
Success in these areas requires getting to know one another, active building of cooperation, and enthusiasm. We have a great deal of the latter.
This time, my presentation was completed earlier than the night before the event, as the video presentation had to be sent to the organisers well in advance. It was new and different for me to follow my own video presentation remotely and live, and then participate in a real-time discussion.
The three-day conference included a lot of topical issues covering areas such as sustainable food production, COVID-19 impacts on food security, biogas, sustainable urban structure and green product design that utilises the ’green digital twin’ concept. I also learned about more sustainable methods of rice cultivation and technology for adding nutrients to vineyards and, consequently, to the vines themselves. There were many other interesting topics, but it was not possible to participate in all the parallel sessions.
We were evaluating the abstracts sent to the conference and acting as evaluators in the publication process. These have also been our first steps in getting to know our RUN-EU partners.
HAMK Principal Research Scientist Eija Laitinen also participated in the conference, giving two presentations and submitting a publication based on them. Unfortunately, however, one of the prepared and uploaded videos was lost, so the listeners missed out on seeing the presentation. Principal Research Scientists Maritta Kymäläinen and Marika Tossavainen also participated in the initial preparations for the conference. They, like me, were evaluating the abstracts sent to the conference and acting as evaluators in the publication process. These have also been our first steps in getting to know our RUN-EU partners.
Although the event was not only a RUN European University event, the organiser was the Polytechnic of Leiria, which is the coordinator of the European University, and a large proportion of the audience were also from there. I myself am involved primarily in the RUN-EU network’s working group for different European centres for innovation and competence and particularly the Bioeconomy Centre for Innovation and Competence. I am also involved with Jukka Pulkkinen, Director of the HAMK Smart Research Unit, in a work package that builds opportunities, funding options and networks for joint research involving European University researchers, companies and other external partners. Success in these areas requires getting to know one another, active building of cooperation, and enthusiasm. We have a great deal of the latter, and this kind of participation in conferences is an excellent tool for getting to know each other and for establishing a common path towards a sustainable future.
Annukka Pakarinen, Director of the HAMK Bio Research Unit