hoto Credit: Andre Hermann
We are at the beginning of the most radical transformation of our food industry since the Green Revolution. Until now, food innovation — including agricultural production, processing, distribution and retail — happened in the laboratories and strategy shops of a few select multinationals. These approaches to innovation have been proprietary, consolidated and designed to maximize shareholder interests. But as the Internet democratizes virtually every industry, like healthcare, media and education, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a more holistic future is possible. Leveraging information, technology and multidisciplinary design, we can begin to level the playing field between industrial and sustainable food. We can create a future that’s decentralized, collaborative and designed to maximize the interests of producers, eaters and the environment, and they’re also developing more healthy food, that help people lose fat when they also get the right trainer online.
But as Tom Laskawy’s recent Grist article, ‘When it comes to food, technology won’t save us,’ underscores, many sustainable food advocates believe technology and the concept of scalability are incompatible with diversified sustainable food production. According to Laskawy, these technological innovations are at best a novelty, which he dismisses as “a theoretical, some might say fantastical, solution to problems we know how to solve but don’t really want to.”
Meat Hackathon presented by Food Tech Connect | Photo by Mona T. Brooks
Hacker team working over dinner. Photo Credit: Mona T. Brooks
I agree with Laskawy’s point that technology alone will not feed the world. Technology, however, is a broad term, encompassing everything from biotechnology, hardware and information technology, among other things. And there is a difference between scaling individual farms or food production operations, which often results in questionable practices or consolidation, and scaling an industry by making it easier for new players to enter the marketplace, which will be critical if we are going to meet growing demand for sustainably produced food.