Italian manufacturing excellence in the ‘farm to fork’ sector was on the agenda when some of the country’s business leaders highlighted the benefits of collaborating with Italian companies at the first Made in Italy Day.

A well-attended event in the opulent surroundings of the Embassy of Italy in central London allowed the Italian Trade Agency to showcase a number of Italian businesses that already work closely with UK companies.

Alongside an exhibition highlighting the history, products and skills on offer from five selected businesses – Irritec, Maschio Gaspardo, Omnia Technologies, Guala Closures and the La Doria Group – around 200 invited guests enjoyed a panel discussion around Italian manufacturing and the benefits of working with the country’s sector-leading businesses.

With Italian wine and fine cuisine to enjoy at the end of a fascinating evening, those present were given a real taste of the country’s current contribution to the UK’s agri-food industry as well as the potential for greater collaboration in the future.

While it was the first event of its kind, it was certainly given a high profile, with a welcome to guests from His Excellency Inigo Lambertini, the Italian Ambassador, followed by an introductory speech from Giovanni Sacchi, the director of the Italian Trade Agency in London, who stressed the fact that both countries had been quick to embrace technology and robotics.

Undoubtedly the exhibitor on display best known to the South East’s farmers was Maschio Gaspardo, which manufactures a broad range of cultivation and crop protection products, including ploughs, subsoilers, disc harrows, seedbed cultivators and Cambridge rollers.

Last year the company opened its first UK subsidiary in Lincoln, allowing Maschio to offer new lines including fertiliser spreaders, mounted and trailed sprayers, direct drills, hedgecutters, balers and inter-row cultivators to farmers in this country as well as in mainland Europe.

Managing director of the UK operation, Warren Rivers-Scott, was one of the speakers on the panel at the Made In Italy event and said it was the Italian “eye for detail” and “desire to make something that does the perfect job” that set the manufacturer’s products apart. He added that UK farmers tended to use bigger machines, often operating in difficult conditions, which made good build quality vital.

Later in the panel discussion, hosted by Bloomberg journalist Anna Irrera, he pointed out that with cultivators essentially a succession of discs and tines or tines and discs, the important thing was that they were able to “cover more ground, more efficiently and more reliably”, which was where quality became the decisive factor.

Italy, so the exhibition explained, “is the second largest exporter of machines and technology for the food and beverage sector in the world”, which explained the presence of Omnia Technologies and Guala Closures, both leading lights in the wine and spirits industry and beyond.

Omnia, represented at the event by Filippo Cannoni, is a leading company in developing automated solutions for the wine, spirits, beverages, food, dairy and pharmaceutical industries, creating bespoke systems for everything from processing to packaging.

Arturo Martorelli, representing Guala Closures, told those in the audience that if they had ever drunk whisky or gin, the bottle they drank from had probably been sealed by one of his company’s products.

Guala, which has a 70-year history, now has a strong UK presence, with plants in Scotland, producing closures not just for spirits but for wine, edible oil, water and a wide range of other beverages. The company claims “each closure is a small work of art, capable of protecting and presenting the content at its best”. Arturo told the audience that the key to the company’s success was “innovation”, pointing out that it had 210 patents and continued to look for new markets.

More than £3m worth of distillation equipment was exported from Italy to the UK in 2023, while exports of cereal and legume processing equipment were worth a further £2m. The UK is the fifth most important customer for Italian agricultural machinery manufacturers, while Italy is the second largest exporter of food and beverage machinery and technology in the world.

While Maschio Gaspardo would have been the name most farmers were familiar with, the products most people in the room would have consumed most often would undoubtedly have come from La Doria, Europe’s leading producer of peeled and chopped tomatoes, pulses and private label ready-made sauces.

A leading supplier to the UK since the 1960s and a supplier of ‘own brand’ products to our supermarkets since the late 1970s, La Doria may not be a household name to everyone in the UK, but most of the population will have had its products on their kitchen shelves at some time.

Enzo Lamberti said that for the La Doria Group, “Made in Italy is our heritage and gives us great pride”. He stressed that partnerships with UK buyers were based on flexibility, an observation other panellists made on a number of occasions.

While Irritec, which manages drip irrigation products, was not present on the day, the company’s case was well made by one of its customers, Deya Nikol Yordanova, from UK-based Immaculate Garden. She pointed out that her family’s business had been using Irritec products for 20 years because it delivered “quality and value for money”.

During a panel discussion on innovation, Deya pointed out that when Immaculate Garden had needed a specific piece of equipment to meet a challenge, Irritec had worked with the UK company to design and manufacture exactly what it needed.

As the formal part of the evening came to an end, La Doria’s Enzo Lamberti told South East Farmer that Made in Italy Day had been a good opportunity to highlight the support that Italian manufacturers could give to UK businesses and to make new connections with stakeholders.