Digitalisation and sustainability in focus as International Strawberry Congress returns to Antwerp

The 4th International Strawberry Congress returns to Antwerp this September, promising an outstanding programme of presentations, discussion and practical demonstrations based around the key topic of digitalisation and sustainability.

Under the theme ‘A Strawberry’s Journey: Leadership in a Digital and Sustainable Future’, the two-day conference programme on 21-22 September features presentations, panel discussions and networking at the Flanders Meeting & Convention Centre in the cultural Belgian city.

Organised by the Hoogstraten cooperative in collaboration with Research Centre Hoogstraten, VBT and VCBT, the event brings together a diverse mix of leading international growers, suppliers, marketers and retailers of strawberries to discuss a range of scientific and commercial topics.

From breeding, phenotyping and strawberry physiology to integrated pest management and innovative cultivation techniques, the programme has those with a primary focus at the production end of the chain covered. New technologies, which could include robotics, automation, AI and vertical farming then take centre stage, before a switch to issues around sustainability and net zero with talks and debates on sustainable water use, packaging, growing media, postharvest biology and more.

Complementing the conference programme is a day of field trips on 23 September, with the International Mechanisation and Demonstration Strawberry Fair the following day. This special biannual event at the Research Centre Hoogstraten features demonstrations in the glasshouse and the field, with mechanisation, sustainable water use, integrated pest and disease control, and digitisation and automation of strawberry cultivation all on display.

The conference comes five years after the previous edition in 2017, when 300 delegates from more than 26 countries took part in the flagship networking and information-sharing event. This year, the congress will once again be moderated by leading fresh produce industry journalist Michael Barker, who has more than 20 years of experience covering the UK and international food, farming and retail sectors. A recent editor and current contributing editor at the Fresh Produce Journal, as well as former fresh foods editor at The Grocer and editor of Commercial Grower magazines, Barker has extensive experience chairing conferences in the UK and around the world. He is also an independent board member of the UK’s Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board and a trustee of The Food Chain charity in London.

“The International Strawberry Congress is an excellent forum for debate and learning about the future of such an important crop,” said Barker. “It features leading speakers delivering high-quality presentations, as well as insightful panel discussions and the opportunity for delegates to have their say. Both socially and from a business point of view, it’s a great event for anyone involved in the global strawberry trade.”

The speaker lineup will be announced shortly. Registrations are now open at www.iscbelgium.com, and early-bird participants will receive a €205 discount on the registration fee.

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