Head of the Agro-Equipment and Construction Division of Comexposium and SIMA Director since 2019, Isabelle Alfano is an expert in managing (agricultural) events for 25 years. Women in Ag asked her about SIMA, its next edition and the role of women in agriculture.
Isabelle, tell us about yourself!
I was born in Paris and have lived there for a long time, and studied in Nancy, another French city, before working in London for several years.
Nowadays, I am the head of the Agro-Equipment and Construction Division at Comexposium, one of the world’s leading event organisers, and manage the Intermat, Intermat India, Construction Days SIMA and SITEVI fairs.
My job is to ensure, in collaboration with the different teams (commercial, marketing and communications, logistics, finance,…), the organisation of these fairs. In this capacity, I draw up the strategies and development of these events and create new ones in my area of expertise.
How did you come to work at SIMA, and why did you choose to work in the agricultural sector?
Since I already was head of Intermat, a fair for construction equipment and solutions, taking over as a director for SIMA and SITEVI (international fair for wine, olive and fruits/vegetables equipments, red.) in 2019 seemed like a natural choice to me. The fair proposes solutions and technologies for a more performant and sustainable agriculture. There are many similarities and synergies connecting these fairs, such as their size, the type of presented products and exhibitors.
Do you notice differences in perception between men and women in our sector and at the fair? Is there room for improvement in your opinion?
Instead of focusing on differences in perception, I would like to elaborate about the differences in practices between men and women. What I am noticing is that women are more likely to look for short chain possibilities in order to sell their products, and are often the ones taking initiatives at local markets, where they are in direct contact with the consumer. They are also the ones that look to diversify, offering tourist activities or accommodation on or around the farm. In Italy, for instance, the development of agrotourism and the feminisation of agriculture are connected.
Do you propose special actions for women in agriculture at SIMA? What are they, and how do people react?
During our last SIMA edition, we have presented three portraits of innovating women farmers. The first one is Sarah Singala, who manages a mixed farm in Aveyron (France) according to the principles of circular and regenerative farming. Our second profile was that of Tato Moagi from Limpopo (South Africa) who also manages a mixed exploitation and focuses on producing organic products and selling them locally. Finally, there was Rebecca Hyde from Canterbury (New Zealand) and her combination of running the family farm and working as a consultant with farmers and industry to improve environmental management.
Moreover, the moderator for our SIMA African Summit in 2019 was Denene Erasmus, editor of Farmers Weekly South Africa.
There will of course be specific initiatives for the women in agriculture at SIMA 2022.
What can we expect for this 2022 edition?
SIMA has worked alongside all the players in agriculture (manufacturers, farmers, breeders, businesses,…) for almost 100 years now. It is a fair for all agricultural activities and has always wanted to support the professionals by presenting the latest innovations and adapted solutions, no matter the size of their exploitation and their production methods.
All of our teams are working hard towards an innovating and complete concept to be in touch with the people from our sector and listen to their concerns and priorities until November 2022.
SIMA 2022 has three ambitions. First, to present the latest innovations with several contests (SIMA Innovation Awards and SIMA Farming Awards) and a partnership with the Nuffield Foundation. Innovation has always been one of the foundations of our fair, that is why we have wanted to organise the 2021 edition of the SIMA Innovation Awards in spite of the current difficulties. The nominees are known and the winners will be announced during a Axema/SIMA event on 22 April 2021.
The second ambition is to animate our ecosystem by creating events with added value, such as webinars about the big issues agriculture is facing today or promoting jobs and formations in agriculture by setting up interviews with students, educators and professionals.
Finally, our third ambition is to enhance business by setting up online and specific B to B appointments. These appointments will give us the chance to keep in touch with all the players in our sector until the next edition of SIMA (6-10 November 2022).
SIMA 2022 will be a completely new concept, with a new brand platform, new signature, new visual identity and nomenclature and a fully developed digital component. With “SIMA TALENT”, we will be at the centre of jobs and education while “SIMA TECH” will propose the latest innovations.
This article was published in Women in Ag Mag 2021-1. Click here to read the full article.
Text: Kim Schoukens
Pictures: Antoon Vanderstreaten