We meet Andrea Segrè, the creator of F.I.CO – Fabbrica Italiana Contadina – along with Oscar Farinetti,that will answer questions from our editorial staff and some of our food bloggers.

1) What episode jumpstarted your passion about food?

At the end of the 90s, I visited a number of supermarkets to understand the dynamics that lead to put products on different shelves. While I was “behind the scenes” I found out that some of the groceries were going to expire soon and I realized that they would be “discarded” and not offered for sale, despite being still edible. Such a waste. It was then when I realized that there was a need to do something and that food had to be valued.

2) If you were to invite to dinner a foreign friend, visiting Italy for the first time, what typical dish would you recommend?

If I were to invite him to dinner at my house, I would prepare a couscous with vegetables. If I were to take him out to lunch in the city where I live, in Bologna, I would recommend the tortellini in broth without cheese.

3) In your opinion, what is the least known abroad “Made in Italy” product?

Everyone and anyone. The Italian sounding keeps on producing daily products that are not actually Italian. We complain of this phenomenon, but we are all a bit responsible.
The real problem lies in making our products recognizable abroad. The Italian mass distribution should have the strength to be able to go abroad with real Italian products.

4) About the Italian Sounding phenomenon, how do you think it can be struggled?

Our country has enormous potential. In 2013 the total value of exports of agri-food products Made in Italy totaled € 33 billion, but food international piracy almost double that amount. If we think that the Netherlands export market double the Italian one, we realize that we are wrong to complain about this situation. They “steal” our products but the reality is that we are not actually able to export them. We must build up our customer base through the mass retail channel, which is what Farinetti did with Eataly.

Questions from our food bloggers Alessandra Chiara, Alida Zamparini and Jessica Montanari.

5) The acquisition of Italian companies by major foreign holdings is a known phenomenon: unfortunately, these purchases do not spare any sector of the economy, least of all the food industry. In your opinion, what should do the Made in Italy to defend itself and to give voice to the quality that this brand should express? (Alessandra Chiara).

We have lost a lot of opportunities. If a person goes to the grocery store he immediately realizes that our brands have all been acquired by foreign multinational corporations. Choices have been made without preserving our heritage, without thinking that those products represent the workforce and the Italian economy. Going is difficult. In a time of crisis like this one, the mass retail channel does not even have the chance to make large investments. At this point, it should be the Ministry of Agriculture to seriously consider the internationalization of agricultural and food industries. Yes, he is doing something, but like I said before, we need a multitude of actors.

6) How was the idea of F.I.CO born and which are the expectations for this important project, which is described by some as the Disneyland of food?
(Alessandra Chiara).

The idea spans from the Agricultural and Food Centre of Bologna, of which I am currently the President, and from the need to revive this space. The idea was to establish, in the space of the market, an agri-food park “from field to table” with a supply chain-like approach. To let you better understand what I mean by these words I bring to you an example: in the agri-food park there will be a field of 500 square meters of wheat to be cultivated with the rotation, a fourth mill that turns the wheat into flour, a factory and a restaurant where you will enjoy the product finished. To achieve this we needed a partner, our goal was to collaborate with Eataly who accepted the challenge. It is a unique project that has become sustainable in less than 100 days. We want to open by November 2015, before the end of the Expo. It is a challenge but we will do our best.

7) Do you think that F.I.CO can help to create a new image of a contemporary Italy abroad, both involving food and ethics, promoting Italian food as an asset while leading to a consequent increase in food export? (Alida Zamparini)

This is the goal of our project, which is to create a showcase that is touchable, explorable and concrete. The success of F.I.CO depends on visitors, while the export success will depend on what I said before. It will be called Eataly Word Bologna, which is an attempt to promote the city. Bologna is the food! It has a long history consisting of at least 900 years of university and recipes from our land.
We don’t need to invent a brand. If Orlando is famous for Disneyland, Bologna will not be known for F.I.CO, but because it widely represents the Italian cuisine by itself.

8)In the first year of operations more than six million visitors are expected to visit F.I.CO, taking advantage of the wave of Expo in Milan. How do you look for investors for a project like this? (Jessica Montanari)

I want to clarify that 6 millions of visitors are the average of a shopping mall. It will be a mix of these inputs that will create our success. We looked for investors offering them a simple but unique project.

9) The attention to waste and the passion for the quality of Italian products have definitely sealed the synergy between you and Oscar Farinetti. Do you join a common vision? (Jessica Montanari)

He is an entrepreneur, I am a professor. We come from different approaches, but our agreement relies on the revaluation of food. I have been preventing food waste for years: our Society is in crisis and it produces a lot of waste, which means that we have lost the value of food.
We spend less for feeding ourselves, without keeping in mind that by doing that our own health could suffer. Farinetti gives economic value both to the food and to the food chain, because of his profession. It was this conduit that I was missing in order to create and make F.I.CO.

Photo credits Roberto Serra