21 Mar 2018


Food designer, Innovator broker in agriculture and sustainable travel agent: these are the golden jobs in the world of agro-food. The first ever MOOC on sustainable food systems in the Mediterranean area is now online.

The food artisan who uses traditional production methods and 3D printing; the Hydrologist, the water expert who has knowledge of chemistry and biology and can apply a holistic approach to the use of this valuable resource, and, finally, environmental engineers, agronomists, urban planners and genetics experts. Globally, these are just some of the job profiles most in-demand in the agro-food sector in the last few years. Some of these jobs have been re-invented from the scratch, adding technology to traditional knowledge, others are brand new - they did not exist until recently, and all are in demand, which means they are highly sought after by the job market. A new set of skills is now required in the agro-food industry, where climate change (Mediterranean summers are warming at a rate that is 40% higher than global warming; combined with rainfall expected to decrease between 2% and 7% in the short (2025) and medium (2050) term1) is prompting a new approach to the way we produce food now and in the future. These new profiles are not easy to find on the job market, particularly among young people. According to the Food Sustainability Index2, in the countries of the Mediterranean basin, on average, only 11% of 15 to 24 year olds are working in the agricultural sector. As a response to these challenges, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation co-developed with the University of Siena, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) and SDG Academy, the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) “Sustainable Food Systems: A Mediterranean Perspective”. The MOOC is an online university course open to everyone and focusing on the challenges and opportunity of the sustainable food systems in the Mediterranean, and its ability to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations for 2030.

Structured on 10 interactive module, designed and realized by high profile environment and sustainability experts, such as Prof. Jeffrey Sachs – who is in charge of the project's Scientific Direction - or Riccardo Valentini, IPCC Group Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007, the MOOC will also feature a module specifically focused on the new skillsets required by the agro-food industry. The MOOC is addressed to students from different backgrounds, for example business and management, cultural heritage, farming, geography and sustainability, but also to business professionals and policy-makers. The diverse modules include pre-recorded lectures, conferences, quizzes, debates, forums and other activities to complement the MOOC. Each component can be completed at any time, and those who complete 85% of the course will receive a certificate. You can find the MOOC online on the SDG Academy website

Angelo Riccaboni, University of Siena professor and BCFN Strategic Advisor, explained: “the MOOC helps us understand the core role played by farming and the food industry in Euro-Mediterranean societies and economic systems, with a focus on innovation and sustainability. This role is not only explained by the industry's workforce, but also by the fact that food and farming are a valuable part of our identity, culture and traditions, with a strong potential for local development". 

"There are many university courses on food: from agriculture and food science, to tourism. Currently, the job market demands skills and knowledge that schools are not adequately supplying”, explained Sonia Massari, teacher at Gustolab International. “The course was created to enhance the current educational offering with a new “format capable of teaching young people about the importance of transdisciplinarity, which is indispensable to get to know more about the world of food and its sustainability ”in scientific, humanistic and economic terms. However, there is also a need for soft skills like creativity, using critical thinking in order to find non-conventional answers to real problems, and thus forge a link with the real world". To achieve this goal, universities need to teach new skills, including empathy, that is the ability to understand sustainability through greater interaction with the actual context and through group work”.


One of the most in-demand jobs is that of food designer, a professional who applies design concepts to the food industry, finding opportunities that a scientist would not be able to see. An example of this line of work is that of a Florida brewery where the food designer created a new version of the pull tab on the beer can, using a biodegradable material that decays when in contact with water, turning into fish food. The idea is to turn a polluting material into nourishment.  

Another highly demanded job is the innovation broker in agriculture, a figure who is highly trained to find innovative project financing for agriculture within Universities and research centers. This professional is hence a figure linking researchers, financiers and farmers to create synergies that can revolutionize the agro-food system. To get an idea of the financial scope of this profession, consider that Italy has earmarked 312 million euros - from now to 2020 - to finance the operations of 626 Groups3 .

Another popular job is that of sustainable travel agent. This is a travel agent who promotes 'new' forms of tourism, that can have a positive impact on the environment and on tourist destinations. In other words, a professional who proposes the kind of tourist experience that can offer social and environmental value, on top of the traditional economic benefits of tourism. An example? A holiday where tourists travel by bike or contribute to setting up nurseries or helping poor families.

 1 BCFN & MacroGeo, Food & Migration, 2017. Paper: “Climate change and human migrations"

 2 Index developed by BCFN in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit that analyzes the sustainability of the food system in 34 countries, which make up 87% of the global GDP and 2/3 of the world's population.

3 http://www.fidaf.it/index.php/comunicato-stampa_-convegno-14-luglio-2017-presso-regione-lazio-linnovazione-in-agricoltura-pei-agri-ed-il-ruolo-dellinnovation-broker/# 


Simone Silvi - Senior Account Media Relations - s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it - +39 335.10.97.279

Mariagrazia Martorana - Media Relations Consultant - m.martorana@inc-comunicazione.it - +39 333.57.61.268


Valentina Gasbarri, Communication and External Relations Manager, valentina.gasbarri@barillacfn.com , +39 338 7882700