Circular Economy, the trend that reaches the Chilean Agri-food Sector

With great success was presented, the study "Circular Economy in the Chilean Agri-food Sector", tendered by Odepa (office of agricultural studies and policies of chilean Ministry of Agriculture) and carried out by UC Davis Chile. The seminar, in addition to presenting the main results of the study, included a panel in which the relevance of the Circular Economy for the sector was discussed, as well as experiences of companies and producers that are moving towards a circular agriculture.

María Emilia Undurraga, Director of Odepa, said "the Circular Economy is a tool that allows us to move towards a more sustainable agriculture, which makes more efficient use of resources, promotes soil regeneration and natural capital and promotes territorial development.

Over the next few years, the agri-food sector will face the challenges of increasing productivity in a sustainable way, making efficient use of natural resources and contributing positively to the environment and society. In addition, it must respond to consumers who are increasingly demanding and informed about how food is produced, and interested in sustainably produced products. In this context, the Circular Economy emerges as a tool that can contribute in a systemic way to the sector's approach to the challenges described, involving the participation and synergy of multiple actors.

Olivia Valdés, Food Science Coordinator of UC Davis Chile, said that to accelerate the transition to a CE it is essential to bring knowledge and technological solutions to the different actors, so this study provides guidelines and makes visible success stories that show the benefits of implementing circularity strategies for decision making.

Gonzalo Muñoz, High Level Champion COP 25, participated in the panel moderated by Catalina Cuevas, head of Sustainability of Prochile, who pointed out that "garbage is a design error, that is our founding sentence, therefore we have to correct so many designs that have to do not only with the products, as we obtain them, as we package them, as we consume them and finally as we discard them with a logic of public policy design that we have to change",  Guillermo González, Head of the Circular Economy Office of the Ministry of Environment, who presented the progress made in the construction of the Circular Economy Road Map for Chile, by establishing  transversal criteria for all productive sectors, as well as the work done on the Strategy for Organic Waste Management. Karen Berríos, a milk producer and user of Indap (agricultural development Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture) from the Fresia area, then presented her experience applied in the territory on production based on sustainable intensification, through water management, energy efficiency, plastics and organic waste management. Finally, Renato Rodriguez, Sugal Chile's Technical Manager, commented on the company's progress in waste recovery, such as tomato, sludge from RILES treatment plants and wood totes recycling.

Background of the study

The study presents the state of the art of the Circular Economy in the sector, and its specific objectives were to review international experiences of strategies or programs of Circular Economy in the agro-food sector and its sub-sectors (cereal, fruit, horticulture, livestock and wine), including aspects related to promotion instruments, and to research, development and innovation.

At the national level, it identifies and characterizes  key initiatives, agents and actors, both public and private, recognizing opportunities and challenges. In addition, it recommends the steps to be taken to promote EC in the agri-food sector and its sub-sectors.

Among the results of the study, the analysis of international initiatives leads to the conclusion that the transition to a circular economy in the sector must be a gradual process, and requires above all the commitment and will of the different actors to build a common agenda, with a systemic and collaborative approach in line with the principles of circularity.

At the national level, while it is perceived that the Circular Economy represents great opportunities for the agri-food sector, it is also evident that there are important challenges to be addressed. Among the opportunities identified, the development of new lines of business stands out, mainly through the recovery of waste and the generation of new products from it; making more efficient use of resources, mainly water, energy and agrochemicals, with implications in economic and environmental terms; taking advantage of new technologies to develop containers, packaging, etc.