Expert opinion

SPACE 2021: Bit by bit, the buzz is getting back

For anyone in Europe’s swine industry it was a touch exciting what to expect at the first major international trade show after the Covid-19 pandemic. Pig Progress editor Vincent ter Beek was happy to cross the borders again and take a look around at the 2021 edition of SPACE, held 14-17 September in Rennes, France.

Driving up to Rennes, I was wondering what I could expect of the first large live European swine event in 18 months. Entirely empty hallways with occupants drinking their own stock of booze to get through the days? Or packed booths completely full of agricultural professionals, all craving for that one opportunity to get back together again?

Green light to 2021 edition of SPACE

As always, the truth was in the middle – and that was a pleasant outcome. After all, the SPACE organisers had been so audacious as to give the green light to this edition of the show, and they were not to be disappointed. The show was held over 3 days (plus a 4th digitally) and the atmosphere reflected both sentiments: enthusiasm and hesitation.

The 2021 edition of SPACE will probably be the only one where people could be seen wearing face masks. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek
The 2021 edition of SPACE will probably be the only one where people could be seen wearing face masks. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek

The hesitation obviously was due to things reminiscent of Covid-19 being still among us. Visitors were required to wear face masks inside the show buildings, upon entrance a QR code had to be shown, indicating good health and visitors from the Americas or even the UK were scarce. The amount of farmers that actually made it to the show was substantial, even though it may not have been as large as it was in conventional years.

The enthusiasm was also clear to see. There was a good buzz about the show, at various moments hallways were full, queues lined up for lunch everywhere. Exhibitors emphasised the flipside of things being slightly calmer than normal: they had plenty of time to sit down and have really good conversations with every visitor.

Antibiotic reduction and sustainability

The Covid-19 break had been used by various companies to refocus more strongly on timely themes like antibiotic reduction and sustainability. Various animal nutrition exhibitors explained how they had stepped up feed services and ingredients to support a transition to antibiotic-free production or to make the impact on the environment as low as possible.

A free farrowing crate displayed by French livestock equipment company I-Tek. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek
A free farrowing crate displayed by French livestock equipment company I-Tek. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek

Obviously also, free farrowing was a clear theme with various designs for free farrowing crates being on display.

Official figures: 75,000 visitors

On the swine side, what helped was that the market situation in France has been reasonable of late. The country may not be profiting as obviously from the demand to pork as for instance its neighbour Spain does, yet African Swine Fever has not impacted France’s herd, so the situation is considerably calmer than in Germany.

All in all, that led to a pleasantly busy trade show as almost 75,000 visitors made it to the Parc Expo in Rennes to visit the 1,100 exposers. In doing so, it did not quite match the 2019 edition yet (1,400 exposers and 105,000 visitors). Yet I much rather like to take the optimistic view: SPACE 2021 certainly outperformed 2020 as in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, that live event got cancelled. Hoping to see more of that!