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Innovative management strategies to address challenges in the agri-food sector | Prof. Charlebois

Professor Sylvain Charlebois

Dalhousie University

Agri-Food Analytics lab


At the invitation of the Business Science Institute, Professor Sylvain Charlebois, an international distribution and agri-food expert based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, presented a lecture on the innovative management strategies needed to meet the challenges of the agri-food sector in a context of sustainability and technology.

He begins by emphasizing the crucial importance of agri-food research, which is driven by both passion and necessity. Food security, affordability and safety are major issues, accentuated by recent events such as the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, which have disrupted global supply chains. These disruptions have demonstrated the extent to which agri-food systems are interconnected on a global scale.

Prof. Charlebois highlights several current issues facing the sector. Climate change is disrupting not only agricultural systems, but also public policy, with initiatives such as the carbon market. In addition, cybersecurity is becoming a major issue, as food supply chains are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. He stresses the importance of real-time risk management and predictive analysis to anticipate fluctuations in demand and costs, which are essential to the sector's resilience.

Another key point in his speech was transparency, which has become essential to win consumer trust. However, this transparency also presents challenges for the industry, which must balance disclosure of information with protection of commercial interests. Prof. Charlebois stresses the need for companies to work together to solve common problems, such as those linked to climate change and technological advances.

Technological advances are playing a major role in the industry's transformation. Artificial intelligence, long used for machine learning and forecasting, is now accessible to the general public thanks to tools like ChatGPT. The traceability of food products is also being enhanced by new tools enabling more accurate data management, facilitating rapid food recalls and minimizing waste.

Prof. Charlebois proposes a conceptual framework for understanding agrifood risks on a global scale, pointing out that problems in one region can affect the whole system. He notes that companies in the sector, often family-owned with very slim profit margins, show a resistance to change, making the adoption of new technologies more complex.

Managerial strategies need to include adaptive management to respond to rapidly changing consumer tastes and market conditions. Innovation is also crucial, but must be constantly redefined to adapt to new realities. Access to quality data is essential for effective management, and performance measurement is becoming increasingly important in a sector where margins are very low.

In conclusion, Prof. Charlebois mentions his podcast "The Food Professor", which offers a platform for weekly discussion of agri-food issues with experts and researchers. He encourages students and researchers to explore areas of research such as agri-food geopolitics and the impact of emerging technologies, stressing that these areas are crucial to the future of the sector.


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