Data and Digital as Enabler for Circular Agri-Food Systems

World Bank Group (WBG)

Time: Friday, 20. January 2023, 09:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Room: M4-M5

Language: English, German


Data-driven and digital agriculture is a catalyst with wide-ranging potential to transform food systems and affect the lives of billions. Digitization can therefore enable circular agriculture and food systems by overcoming technical barriers and information asymmetries. To discuss the potential and challenges of data and digital technologies to enable the circular food-system transformation, the panel convened experts from academia, industry, private foundations, and the World Bank. The keynote introduced the topic, summarized concrete investment and capacity building activities of the World Bank related to data and digital as well as highlighted ongoing knowledge and learning platforms including analytical work and flagship reports. Panelists brought forward concrete examples from their work and a vision for future development and scaling of circular agri-food systems. Key take-aways were the need for systemic changes, global data streams, system integration and a holistic consideration of both culture and context in designing and implementing the discussed tools, technologies, and business models. Interdisciplinary work and cross-sector collaboration will be driving this transformation. The panel was well attended with active audience interaction and a wide array of questions covering technical, equity and sustainability aspects of circular agri-food systems. The discussion will lay the groundwork for further engagement, knowledge, and analytics on this topic.

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Keynote Speaker

Martien van Nieuwkoop is the Global Director for the Agriculture and Food Global Practice in the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Practice Group. As Global Director, Martien provides leadership to the formulation and implementation of the Bank’s strategy and knowledge in agriculture and food, oversees the operationalization of the Bank’s vision on agriculture and food in regional and country programs, acts as senior spokesperson for agriculture and food Bank-wide and globally and manages the Agriculture and Food Global Practice. The Agriculture and Food Global Practice has a portfolio of about 160 projects with close to US$ 20 billion in commitments in investment project, program-for-results and development policy lending and about 250 staffs. Martien holds a Final (“Doctoraal”) Examination (Cum Laude), Development Economics from Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands and an MBA (Beta-Gamma-Sigma), International Executive Program from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA. He grew up on a family-owned horticulture farm in Gouda, The Netherlands.

Panel Guests

Enock Chikava leads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work to reduce poverty for millions of farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by promoting inclusive agricultural innovations that drive productivity and income growth for smallholder farmers in a sustainable way. He joined the foundation in April 2015 as a senior program officer focusing on crop innovations. Enock trained in Agricultural Economics and Business Strategy, with 30-years’ experience in agriculture. His career spans from farmer organizations, private sector seed industry, agribusiness, food processing, and now philanthropy. Enock Chikava is a board member of the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) and former president of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA). He was raised on a smallholder farm in Zimbabwe in a family of eleven and has dedicated his life to working towards smallholder farmers’ success as they use technology to raise productivity, incomes, nutrition, and economically empower themselves.


Abhi (Abhijeet Sharma) is the Global lead for Blockchain, Mobile and Partner Universe practices for Agriculture in BASF SE. Abhi has been involved and leading the technology as a solver in Agri related sustainability projects and business models such as Ardena which is a north African project solving for 4/17 UNSDGs and mentioned in COP27, sustainable cotton in Greece, biodiversity in Germany and various other projects driving sustainable business models . He is currently in the quest of solving for traceability, carbon management and related concerns at scale using mobile, blockchain and APIs to bridge the gap between “data to value” with farmer focus at core. He is an Electrical Engineer and MBA with 20+ years of experience in developing and launching products across a range of industries and tech sector (Amazon, Time Warner, Dell and startups).


Hannah is an associate Professor at the Wageningen University Farming Systems Ecology group and expert in the domain of circular food production systems. It is her ambition to unravel how circular food systems can contribute to producing healthy foods for a growing population within the carrying capacity of the Earth. Her analytical and data-driven work showed that animals in a circular food system play an important role in feeding humanity while minimizing their environmental impact. This breakthrough contradicts the dominant view that a meat-free diet is most environmentally friendly, a view that originates from solutions locked within the current linear food system. For a far-reaching redesign, we need to think much more radically. With her team, she is developing a circular food systems (CiFoS) model where stakeholders can co-design and evaluate innovative yet attainable food systems that secure human and planetary health.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Cornelia Weltzien is head of ATB Department “Engineering for Crop Production” and chair of Agro Mechatronics at the TU Berlin since 2015. After studying agricultural engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne she completed her postgraduate studies in mechanical engineering at Technical University Braunschweig in 2006. In 2008 Prof. Dr.-Ing. Weltzien obtains her doctorate at the Institute for Agriculutral Machinery and Fluid Technology with the thesis “Assistance System for the Overloading Process with a selfpropelled Forage Harvester”. Before joining ATB she was part of interdisciplinary advanced engineering teams in the industry, developing electro hydraulic control systems for mobile working machinery. Her expertise are precision agriculture, automation of agricultural processes, smart systems, digitalisation in agriculture. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Weltzien is a nationally and internationally recognized elite researcher in the field of digital agriculture.


Parmesh Shah is the Global Lead for Data-driven Digital Agriculture in the Agriculture and Food Global Practice at The World Bank. In this role, he provides leadership to the Bank’s work and supports the development of global knowledge and learning in digital agriculture to offer solutions to clients and other development partners. Before joining the Bank, Parmesh worked for governments, civil society organizations, foundations and other bilateral and multilateral development organizations in Asia and Africa regions in the areas of community driven development, participatory approaches, institutional change and natural resources management. He holds a D Phil in Development Studies from Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and B Tech degree in Agricultural Engineering from Pantnagar in India.


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