Digitalisation and sustainability will be the focus of Hoogstraten’s fourth International Strawberry Congress when the conference returns to Antwerp in Belgium this September.

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, networking and demonstrations at the Flanders Meeting & Convention Centre in the Belgian city.

Organised by the Hoogstraten cooperative in collaboration with Research Centre Hoogstraten, VBT and VCBT, the event brings together a mix of 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 is geared to producers.

New technologies, which could include robotics, automation, AI and vertical farming will 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. The event at the Research Centre Hoogstraten, which is called the International Mechanisation and Demonstration Strawberry Fair,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 on display.

The International Strawberry Congress comes five years after the previous edition in 2017, when 300 delegates from more than 26 countries took part in the networking and information-sharing event.

This year, the congress will once again be moderated by FPJ’s contributing editor 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, and early-bird participants will receive a €205 discount on the registration fee.