Sustainable Food Summit – Vision of a Future Food System

*This blog was republished in part on Food+Tech Connect as ‘How Technology will decentralise the global food system’, Fair Food Network and Sustaination’s “3rd Industrial Revolution”.

 

How do we create a food system which is sustainable in the face of growing population pressures, changing weather patterns, declining natural resources, and a sharp decline in soil health?

A summit to co-create the future of the food system in Australia, and indeed around the world

This is one of the questions we held, when we recently headed to the shores of Australia to attend the National Sustainable Food Summit in Sydney, to hang out with some of the visionaries who are engaged in the dialogue of how the future of Australia’s food system will play out.

 

The summit was re-convened after last year’s successful meeting which brought people from around the country to listen to key note speakers, and engage in workshop sessions to talk about & co-create the future.

 

Several of the attendees were live tweeting the event on the hashtag #FoodSummit & #SFS12, and a Storify was being built as the event progressed: you can check it out here.

 

Asides from the fascinating conversations, great connections & pretty tasty conference food, there was a fair few insights into where the food system would be moving over the course of the next 20 years or so, and it’s our recollection of these insights we want to try and capture for you:

  • The food system, much like other industries around the world, is one of the next major industries that will become decentralised thanks to the web, peer-to-peer trading, and as a response to 30 years of legacy which has served financial interest more than the people & planet it relies upon.
  • A flexible, resilient & sustainable food system is already emerging, and with software & other food tech as a catalyst, is going to emerge even more rapidly. It will form a meshed web reaching around the world, of localised food systems within a bigger global food system.
  • The food system of the future will be complex – made up of traditional agriculture, urban agriculture, small-scale farms, bio-domes, vertical growing spaces, hydroponics, backyard gardening, community gardening, and more.
  • Organic Farming can feed 10 billion people, and small-scale sustainable agriculture is the way it will happen. Several recent reports, including one from the UN Special Rapporteur have identified this, and there is a growing focus on ecological / biological farming methods.
  • We will have to shift from the 99% industrialized food system we currently have globally, as resource pressures (peak oil & the likes) will mean current techniques will continue to push the cost of food up.  The transition may not be easy for all concerned, those with vested interests in keeping the status quo are likely to resist, but they will be swept away if they do not change (see changes in Music Industry!).
  • Huge advancements can be made as we shift to a decentralized food system, especially in the area of food & resource waste, which accounts for the main reason for current artificially high prices.  In 2010 we produced enough food to feed c.12 billion people, we just wasted a large portion of it.
  • Remove the ‘squeeze’ caused by the Food Distribution ‘profit centre’, and we will ease the financial, environmental & social strain currently put on food production & consumption.
  • Local & Regional food economies will be rejuvenated with a new set of values based on more than profit, beginning with the foundations that People & Planet should be at the centre of the food system, with Money/Profit playing the role of social exchange lubricant rather than sole economic measurement.
  • The emergence of vege box schemes, CSA’s, co-ops, buying groups & food hubs are all proving the future path of the food system right now. Software is a major lever of change to catalyse these forms of enterprise.
  • More farmers will be needed and more small-scale distributors.
  • The future food system will have a much greater transparency & traceability from Farm to Fork, enabled by food tech.

There were of course many many more, but these are some of the strongest trends that we heard at the conference.

 

The early keynote by Jeremy Rifkin was one of the talks which set a lot of the context for the conference, and whilst it’s fairly lengthy – there’s some great insights into economic trends which are worth a watch.

Take a look at more of the notes, podcasts, videos & other Food Summit resources collated by the 3 Pillars Network.

 

The summit felt like a positive reinforcement for a project we’ve already committed to, a great learning experience to push the boundaries of our knowledge, and a great opportunity to share space with so many other who had a similar vision of a decentralised food system.  We’re really excited by some of the projects which are happening around Australia, and indeed around the world as we speak – one of the blogs which we follow regularly is Food+Tech Connect which showcases some of the most exciting Food Tech projects in the States (and a few like us, outside). Make sure you read the ‘Hacking The Food System’ articles.

 

We recently spoke at the Changemakers Convention in Christchurch, New Zealand, where people from around the country outlined their passions, visions & actions in their chosen area of interest.  We spoke about “Food Security & Resilience in an Uncertain Future”, which led us to deliver a ‘state of the nation’ of how our food system currently teeters, some examples of food system fragility (largely taken from our blog about disasters & resilience), and the bright future that is emerging with technology enabling new ways for our food system to thrive.

 

For now, it’s back to work on supporting our fantastic beta customers, and spreading the word to more local food distributors who might make use of our system – please feel free to share with your networks if you might know someone who would like to change the food system for the better!

Mapping a peer-to-peer food system of the future

Creativity in the Local Food Movement

Don’t you just love it when people get all creative with the topics you love?

Well lately we’ve been admiring from afar the awesome Lexicon of Sustainability (photography of Sustainability initiatives), Perennial Plate video series focused on adventurous & sustainable eating, and Erin Gleeson’s fantastic food photography with a twist.

 

We wanted to share with you some of our favorite features of each of their work, but strongly encourage you to seek them out and spend some time flicking through more of their fantastic creative outpourings of local food goodness.

 

First up, the wonderful photography of the Lexicon of Sustainability…

Community Supported Agriculture through the lens of the Lexicon Project

Farm to Plate through the lens of the Lexicon Project

Permaculture through the lens of The Lexicon ProjectFood Security through the lens of the Lexicon ProjectFood Miles through the lens of the Lexicon Project

See more of the Lexicon of Sustainability’s photgraphy exhibit here.

 

And here’s the very talented Daniel Klein and his video series ‘Perennial Plate

You can find more of the Perennial Plate video series at the website here, or at their vimeo stream here.

 

The extremely talented Erin Gleeson is based in San Francisco; a highly talented photographer & illustrator, she captures the beauty of food in the rustic surroundings of the Forest on her new blog ‘The Forest Feast‘.  Check out her work here (thanks to Erin for allowing us to ‘borrow’ this beaut image!):

We hope you agree her work is totally amazing.. I’ve never wanted to eat Zucchini bites so much in all my life!  Make sure you check out her professional website here, and The Forest Feast blog here.

 

We’re looking forward to releasing a few of our own creative projects in the not too distant future. If you know of any other great uses of design / creativity / the arts, to celebrate & catalyse the local food movement, please send us a link!

Biology of Business : Creating prosperity for People & Planet

What a totally inspiring weekend I’ve just had in Auckland. A last minute decision to stay in town and go to see Elisabet Sahtouris speak, has turned into a full on learning experience which I’m really grateful for.

Image courtesy of Lexicon of Sustainability

Let’s take a step back – the last 50 or 60 years has been a pretty formative time here on Earth, with a couple of competing ideologies having diverged how various nations have approached creating prosperity for their citizens. I grew up in the ‘Western world’ which took a Capitalist approach to things. Undoubtedly there has been significant advancements in standard of living, and drastic shifts & innovation in many industries. Only now, however, is mass awareness emerging for how this value is being ‘created’ and at what cost.

 

From my understanding, it’s fair to say a lot of this prosperity has been borrowed from Earth & borrowed from our future. Capitalism has ramped up the Industrialised way of ‘manufacturing value’ over the last 50-60 years, which could be characterized as largely ‘extractive’ and linear in it’s approach to creating good & services; extract, process, trade, dispose. We’re now seeing around the world that this paradigm is not only unsustainable with a growing global population, but is in fact simply a race to the bottom.

 

This conference titled ‘The Biological Business Model’

Image courtesy of weretable: http://bit.ly/H6uUQa

began with the basic idea of regeneration of environmental, social & cultural capital, to create prosperity for People & Planet. It identified, of course, that people & planet are inseparable as we exist in a Living System, and therefore what’s good for the planet is also good for us.

 

We delved into Dr Sahtouris’ 16 principles for a business or organization which can create Regenerative value, which are inspired by her work in the deep study of nature, and the billions of years in which evolution has happened. Some people call the application of nature’s principles “Biomimicry”. I want to share these principles (which are available on Elisabet’s site) with you all as I find them really insightful:

  1. Self-creation (autopoiesis)
  2. Complexity (diversity of parts)
  3. Embeddedness in larger holons and dependence on them (holarchy)
  4. Self-reflexivity (autognosis/self-knowledge)
  5. Self-regulation/maintenance (autonomics)
  6. Response ability to internal and external stress or other change
  7. Input/output exchange of matter/energy/information with other holons
  8. Transformation of matter/energy/information
  9. Empowerment/employment of all component parts
  10. Communications among all parts
  11. Coordination of parts and functions
  12. Balance of Interests negotiated among parts, whole, and embedding holarchy
  13. Reciprocity of parts in mutual contribution and assistance
  14. Efficiency balanced by Resilience
  15. Conservation of what works well
  16. Creative change of what does not work well

The interesting part of this for me, is beginning to form a model for how we can build better businesses in c21st.

Image courtesy of gijsbertkoren : http://bit.ly/H6uUQa

How do we build businesses based on the fundamental needs of our global society rather than short term fads and wants? How do we ensure our businesses really create value (social, environmental, cultural & economic combined) rather than taking from the future generations? How do we build the future of business in the mold of mature ecosystems (cooperative & incredibly efficient) instead of pioneering ecosystems (competitive & wasteful)?

 

We’re going to be taking some great learnings away from this conference and seeing where we’re working well and where we can improve. We can already see there’s some good elements to our model, but we think we can do more, inspired by 3.8 billion years of evolution.

“No Business has ever faced a challenge that a Rainforest has not already created a solution for.”
~ Elisabet Sahtouris

 

If any of that is interesting to you, make sure you check out:

Elisabet Sahtouris’ website
Biomimicry Design Inspiration : AskNature
Biomimicry 3.8 : the portal to all things Biomimicry
Ashton Wylie Trust – hosts of the event