Sustainable Brands : ‘Taking Cues from Nature’ by Bucky Box

image courtesy of http://bit.ly/15xkKzd

image courtesy of http://bit.ly/15xkKzd

 

The food system is not a machine, but this is how we have treated it in the last 50 years.

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With the growth of industrial food production, manufacturing and distribution, we have seen a vast range of short-term benefits and a swathe of longer-term challenges. The ramifications of this highly centralised food system can be seen in some of the well-documented symptoms: Nearly 35% of all food grown globally is wasted; we have a billion obese people in the world, and an almost equal number who go to bed hungry; and around 80% of the world’s hungry are involved in food production. Clearly something needs to change.

 

To understand how we will feed a growing population with decreasing resources and a changing climate, we must shift our mindset to understanding it is a living system. We can identify and create new opportunities for innovation by acknowledging it is a living system, and designing products and services for that reality.

 

The blueprint for a sustainable system already exists and indeed is all around us: After 3.8 billion years of R&D, nature has already solved many of the challenges we face, so if we can learn to take more lessons from the natural world we can design better solutions for our own society — doing well by doing good.

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Trends for 2013 for the Local Food Movement

Bucky Box brings you top 5 tips for trends in Local Food in 2013

Where are the big trends of 2012 going to lead the local food movement in 2013?

 

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It takes a lot of research and conversations to fine tune software for the local food movement, so we’ve spent much of the past year doing just that – in the course of our endeavours we have probably spoken with over 300 food distributors, a plethora of small farmers, a large number of business people & academics looking at food systems, and read one or two articles about where the food movement has come from and is headed. So here’s our thoughts on the spaces to watch in 2013.

 

Big Data 

The rise of the internet, smartphones, tablets, and affordable technology around the world has meant that we are producing more data on our lives and all the elements which make up our society, culture and environment than ever before. In fact 90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years. [tweet this]

 

What does this mean? With much richer background data, analysis could reap some huge rewards in terms of insights for the local food movement.

 

Generating data on food purchases, prices, food source, distance travelled, and consumer purchasing decisions, among other things, could yield some interesting insights. What would you want to know?

 

Platforms like Sustaination, Real Time Farms, and Local Harvest are all taking advantage of the ability to quickly and easily map food enterprises – imagine if they were also then capturing what was happening at those enterprises, and opening the data for other people to work with. Thanks to innovative Kiwi company Conscious Consumers, we may soon have rich consumer purchase data thanks to a mobile app they’re soon to release. There’s also data being collected increasingly by organisations such as Grameen Bank on agriculture & food projects they’re involved in which are building the picture of the food system in developing nations.

 

Transparency & Traceability

There’s rising distaste amongst consumers for the industrial food menu. Whilst fats, sugars & salts have become the staple fare on our supermarket shelves over the last 30 years, so we have seen corresponding rises in the level of health problems around the world.

 

Consumers are increasingly aware that we cannot trust big corporates to have our best interests at heart (instead of just having an eye on the rising profits), and are taking matters into our own hands as technology begins to answer the challenge by raising the levels of transparency & traceability of our food – a trend which is also highlighted by Forbes. Traceability is also explained here in ICT in Agriculture.

 

Whatever your interests or ethics, most people at least want the choice to know what’s in their food and where it’s from [tweet this] (unless you’re part of the 51.5% of voters in California who voted ‘No’ to Prop 37 – amazing what $45m in TV advertising can do for big food!).  Traceability and transparency can deliver that information about where our food is from, how far it has travelled, how it is grown, produced & reared, and make sense of nutritional statistics to show us what the likely impact on our long term health would be should we eat it regularly – after all, a label which simply reads “Fresh” isn’t much help to anyone.

 

Mobile devices are bringing information to the fingertips at the point of purchase, so despite big corporate interests in our food system opting out of voluntary food labelling, there will be increasing demand from consumers for the information and everyone from tech companies to real food advocates to ensure people at least have the basic information to make informed decisions. As a food producer or farmer, this is an excellent opportunity to use the rise of awareness of consumers to keep food simple, clean, wholesome & nutritious and tell this story about your food to show the difference between yours and the processed, heavily treated/preserved food on the shelves of many supermarkets – it’s a recognised trend in the hospitality industry too.

 

Collaboration

Collaboration is the new black.

 

As pressures on our food system rise, we will be forced to do more with less. We face unprecedented challenges which require innovative, connected solutions, whether it’s the need for a shift to low energy agriculture, our rising global population, a health burden of rising obesity, hunger, malnutrition, wild weather events due to climate change, a global food waste scandal, the disappearance of the small farm, a missing generation of young farmers coming through, or losing the quality of our soils, our water & our air.

 

Whilst the trend for household spending on food is decreasing across developed nations, there is a rising willingness in hundreds of thousands of people to create a better food system by bringing traditionally divergent actors in our food system together to work more closely.

 

Traditionally software developers, graphic designers and farmers haven’t had a huge amount to do with one another, but now with projects such as Food+Tech Connect’s “Hack Meat” project, or Forum for the Future’s Wired4Food series they’re increasingly getting together in cross-sectoral collaborations and ‘hackathons’ to address issues which only multi-lens approaches and skill sets can solve. This is a symptom of wider collaborative approaches by private, public and community sector organisations around the world, to tackle big challenges with fresh thinking such as Kiva’s efforts to take an holistic approach to aid, development and agriculture.

 

Designing for the 90%

The rise of social enterprise (that is: mission-driven businesses focused on social & environmental challenges) around the world shows the growing appetite to make meaningful change to the lives of all, not just improve the lives of the 10% of the world which controls 93% of the wealth [tweet this].

 

With quotes like “inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere” ringing in our ears, individuals, social enterprises and even some progressive corporates are throwing off the shackles of thinking philanthropy-alone-will-save-the-world and embracing market-based solutions to create genuine long lasting & sustainable change. Projects such as South Africa’s Foodpods deliver entrepreneurship & small business training, as well as quality small-scale agriculture infrastructure for its franchisee’s. Or, take d.light’s solar lamps which were designed for the developing nations to improve health, education & provide the opportunity for additional income-generating opportunities in the extended hours of light in Atauro.

 

Design for the 90% is an exciting trend to the team at Bucky Box, as we view ourselves as part of the movement which is aiming to make our product affordable to developing nations through innovative GDP-adjusted pricing, as well as focusing the redistribution of 67% of our profits back into improving global food systems [tweet this].

 

Distribution

Most of the last 50 years have been spent improving yields and efficiencies in food production; despite some advancements we still have many challenges – increasing numbers of people hungry (1 billion), a drastic rise in obesity, food price hikes, a population disconnected from their food, and huge flow-on effects into our societies.

 

Recently, speaking with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, we came to the conclusion that the global discussion about ‘Food Utopia’ will rapidly shift focus from Supply to Distribution [tweet this], and we believe the time is nigh in 2013.

 

The ideas that have been promulgated for the last 50 years by industrial food companies have led us to a fundamentally unsustainable food system where our reliance on oil means that we are putting 10 calories into our food system for every 1 calorie we get out. We’re losing the health of our soils due to chemical farming techniques, and whilst we’re growing enough food to feed 10 billion, we’re wasting 30% of it – something has to change soon.

 

 

2013 may herald the shift in focus from supply to distribution, and from centralised control of our food system, to decentralised food distribution through an advancement in technology, cultural education and willingness, and a rising awareness of the pressing environmental need to change the way we grow, distribute, consume & dispose of our food.

 

We see a more complex, yet more efficient future of food distribution, with a host of smaller distributors operating a variety of models – be they vege box schemes, community supported agriculture, corporate wellness programs, game-driven health schemes, or whatever other weird & wonderful ideas entrepreneurs put forth. Driven by new & improved enterprise-grade software to rival that of the industrial agriculture system – these entrepreneurial distributors will change the balance of power in our food system and ultimately, create a better food system for everyone.

 

We can see it coming, and we look forward to 2013 because of it.

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
– Rumi