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Last week, the Astana Economic Forum came to in Kazakhstan. The forum, which has been taking place for over 10 years, has become a highly influential event which brings together economists, politicians and business leaders from all over the world – this year it was attended by over five thousand delegates.

This year, the theme of the forum was ‘Inspiring Growth’ and talks centred on topics relating to people, cities and economies. As 2019 is the Year of Youth in Kazakhstan, a number of the talks allowed young people to engage with the experts in attendance – no doubt in these audiences are the AEF keynote speakers of the future, attending to draw inspiration from some of the world’s leading minds.

For myself and for Kusto Group the talks on the future of agriculture, and the first Kazakhstan Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals, were of particular interest. The rapid, technology-enabled, advance of Kusto Agro has been a particularly exciting feature of the business in recent years. I am pleased to see that the topic of digital agriculture and ‘smart farms’ was discussed by a number of experts in the field, looking at the use of satellite imagery, GPS tracking and mobile apps, as well as the contributions these technologies can make to lessening the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector in Kazakhstan and beyond. On this last point, Kusto is fully aware of the responsibility we have as a leading agriculture company to run our operations in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

To this end, I was particularly intrigued to hear what Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, had to say on the implementation, both past and future, of the SDGs in Kazakhstan and their contribution to social development. In 2018, Kazakhstan put in place the necessary institutional structures to work towards the 2030 SDG targets, so this was a good time to be receiving the architect of the SDGs in Astana.

The forum’s outlook, which is both regional and universal, closely reflects Kusto’s values, and we are pleased to welcome this impressive gathering of experts each year.