Exploring the Bioeconomy Landscape: Insights from the Conference “Sustainable Bioeconomy Development 2024: Theory and Practice” | VDU Žemės ūkio akademija

Exploring the Bioeconomy Landscape: Insights from the Conference “Sustainable Bioeconomy Development 2024: Theory and Practice”

On May 8, the fourth online conference “Sustainable Bioeconomy Development 2024: Theory and Practice” took place at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). It was the 4th conference, held biannually by the VMU Faculty of Bioeconomy Development. This time, it was organized in cooperation with the Bioeconomy Research Institute of Vytautas Magnus University Agriculture Academy. This year’s conference brought together experts in social sciences from a number of different countries: Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Norway, India, Greece, Israel, Finland, Estonia, and Belgium. In their welcome address to the participants of the conference, Prof. Dr. Astrida Miceikienė, Chancellor of Vytautas Magnus University Agriculture Academy, and Prof. Dr. Bernardas Vaznonis, Dean of the Faculty of Bioeconomy Development, highlighted the importance of research for Sustainable Bioeconomy Development.  

Prof. Dr. Lene Lange from the LL-BioEconomy in Denmark, who is the expert in Bioeconomy,  underscored the importance of knowledge and skill sharing to preserve recourses and boost transition to a circular economy. ” By conducting research in the field of bioeconomy, researchers can accelerate the transition from the linear to circular bioeconomy. So far, these processes are niche processes, with many experiments being conducted in practice, but they are rarely described and analyzed”. Prof. Dr. Lene Lange called for a more rapid implementation of alternative supply chains, forms of farming, and management systems, greater attention to social innovations, integration and amendment of political documents for them to turn into decisions at the regional, local, and organizational levels. 

Prof. Dr. Agnieszka Jaszczak, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (Poland), who also holds a position at Vytautas Magnus University Agriculture Academy, spoke about the R(evolution) of Sustainable Design and highlighted that today’s education is the key vector guiding us towards greening the economy.  

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sandija Zeverte-Rivza from Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies presented the results of research on transformative digitalisation in the bioeconomy: Unleashing Innovation and Sustainability. She focused on the integration of digital technologies in production, new business models, education, etc. She explained the risk related to energy demand, use and recycling of resources, and security aspects for sustainability. 

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Patrik Rovný, a researcher from Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra (Slovakia)  delivered the plenary presentation on the Alternative Agricultural Systems and Their Impact on Consumers. The researcher shared insights into today’s issue of fruit, vegetables, and other foods having lower content of protein, minerals, and vitamins. He presented the research results on sustainable agriculture and customer opinions on alternative farming systems. Regrettably, the results show that only 33% of respondents disagree with the idea that the benefits of pesticide use in the EU outweigh its risks.  

Wim Haentjens, representative of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation – ‘Bioeconomy & Food Systems’ Unit, European Commission (Belgium), discussed the EU bioeconomy strategy as a key policy. He presented the timeline of the bioeconomy strategy in the EU and the support to change markers. 

Plenary Session 

Keynote Speaker Prof. Dr. Agnieszka Jaszczak 

Keynote Speaker Prof. Dr. Lene Lange 

Keynote Speaker Assoc. Prof. Dr. Patrik Rovný 

Keynote Speaker Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sandija Zeverte-Rivza 

Keynote Speaker Wim Haentjens 

The Theory and Practice Synergy Session on “Territorial Circular Systemic Solutions for Sustainable Bioeconomy Development”, hosted by the Agro2Circular and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, brought together experts to discuss innovative approaches to residue upcycling into high-value products. This special session was organised by the VMU Agriculture Academy Bioeconomy Research Institute and moderated by Virginija Kargytė. Presentations from Spain, Italy, Finland and Lithuania explored the implementation and replication of solutions, alongside the discussions on circularity impact assessment and business model development. Led by organisations such as CETEC Research Centre, Tecnoalimenti, Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and GREEN – Bocconi University, the session aimed to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange to advance sustainable bioeconomy initiatives in Europe. 

Discussions on the Theory and Practice Synergy Session 

The conference featured around 30 oral presentations and 35 poster presentations by researchers from countries including Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Norway, Kazakhstan, Romania, Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania. 

The first session of the most recent conference on “Bioeconomy Contribution to the European Green Deal” offered a rich tapestry of insights and discussions, shedding light on various facets of this critical issue. Led by moderators Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jurgita Baranauskienė and PhD student Kristina Gesevičienė, the session brought together experts and researchers to explore the challenges and opportunities in the field of bioeconomy. The first session drew attention to society’s growing concern for environmental safety and sustainability, highlighted by Assoc. Prof. Dr. A. Novikova from Lithuania. The need for increased awareness of environmental threats and ways to achieve a greener future was eloquently articulated by researcher Steliana Rodino from Romania. While showing promising progress in its bio-economy efforts, Romania still lags behind the EU’s average and has been encountering significant hurdles along the way. A key point underlined by Lect. Dr Joanna Storie from Estonia was the need to promote bioeconomy products without compromising biodiversity, emphasising principles such as avoidance, minimisation, restoration, and compensation. 

Moments of the first session

Moving to the second session “Role of Innovative, Sustainable and Inclusive Bioeconomy in Development of Rural Areas”, moderated by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anne Poder and lect. Dr. Algirdas Justinas Staugaitis, the focus shifted to the key role of an innovative, sustainable, and inclusive bioeconomy in rural development. Presentations revolved around the promotion of bioeconomy-centred entrepreneurship, strategic planning, and the infusion of innovation for circular transitions. Notable discussions included the integration of culinary tourism in rural landscapes and the facilitation of bioeconomy entrepreneurship through collaborative models such as hackathons involving industry stakeholders. The interactive nature of the session allowed presenters to explain their ideas, synthesise observations, and engage in robust discussions with participants. 

After a break, the second session continued with contributions by moderators Assoc. Prof. Dr. Gintarė Vaznonienė and lect. Dr. Ingrida Kazlauskienė, which were characterised by a scientific perspective, focusing on empirical research results rather than theoretical reflections. This session provided a platform for the speakers to share their findings and raise scientific and practical questions. Moreover, the session served as a fertile ground for fostering international collaborations, as researchers found resonance with peers from different backgrounds, paving the way for potential joint ventures and collaborations in the future. 

Moments of the second session 

The third session, “Logistics and Marketing of Biological Resources and Bioproducts”, moderated by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milita Vienažindienė and Dr. Elena Plotnikova, focused on the logistics and marketing intricacies surrounding biological resources and bioproducts. Drawing on the global pool of expertise, presentations by researchers from Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia and beyond addressed pertinent issues such as green marketing, sustainable logistics, and the need to bridge the gap between academic research and commercial application. The discussion on sustainable consumption patterns and the imperative of aligning academic knowledge with tangible market needs was particularly important. 

Moments of the third session 

The fourth session was dedicated to research on “Innovative Business Solutions in the Bioeconomy”. It was moderated by Dr. Lina Lauraitienė and PhD student Silva Katutytė. Researchers from five countries (Greece, India, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania) shared their insights, focusing on innovations in the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly products. The session also covered the topic of the assessment of the challenges faced by companies and governments in implementing policies that lead to sustainable business and economy. Finally, the possibilities of using artificial intelligence and taxation methods to promote green innovation were discussed. 

Moments of the fourth session 

The conference essentially served as a platform for the exchange of ideas, fostering interdisciplinary dialogues, and exploring pathways towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and robust bioeconomy—a testament to the collective commitment towards realizing the goals outlined in the European Green Deal.