Foodtech

Roadmap towards a Sustainable Food System

Roadmap towards a Sustainable Food System

The experts of the Future Trends Forum identify the main challenges facing the sustainable development of the future of food.

The future of food is in each of our hands, in the decisions we are currently making as consumers, distributors, producers, investors and governments, which will determine what is to come in the following decades.

The journey towards that horizon must be based on urgent decisions and actions, led and coordinated globally by organizations and entrepreneurs committed with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), pursuing global food security by 2030.

Players Involved and Challenges to Address

What are the most pressing challenges that the food system will have to face in the 21st century in order to become sustainable?

To answer this broad question, challenges have been divided based on how they affect each of the five groups of stakeholders engaged in the food system. Each of them is called to become a player and change agent in the coming years:

  • Agribusiness (economic activity resulting from or related to agricultural products)
  • Governments and regulatory bodies
  • Technology entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Consumer rights organizations and NGOs
  • Investors

The challenges faced by these groups, as identified by our experts, are:

Agribusiness

  • Innovation of the business model: ‘think globally, act locally’. Glocalization and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) must become the axis around which the global supply chain transforms.
  • Education: we need to change how we communicate with consumers, empower them in their decision-making processes, raise awareness about the type of food they eat and whether these products are healthy and sustainable as part of the production chain.
  • Real cost allocation: We need a process to review and modify the global accounting system to guarantee that environmental problems are represented within macroeconomic frameworks. We also need to take into account the system’s economic impact on sustainability and biodiversity.
  • Vested interests: Currently, certain stakeholders have a dominant position in the industry and too many financial incentives not to change the production method. FTF experts have pointed out how developing a new economic framework is paramount to promote all aforementioned changes.

Vincet Rosso, co-founder and CEO of Consentiopointed out that getting rid of hierarchies and making the model much more horizontal could result in less food waste.

Governments and regulatory bodies

The challenges faced by this group are:

  • Urgent regulatory framework: nationally and internationally, it must encourage cooperation so that all players engage in the production of sustainable, healthy food. Those that do not comply with legislation must be penalized.
  • Leadership and coordination: they are essential at all governance levels, particularly internationally. There is no agenda with priorities for the future, since many governmental agents do not coordinate with other players involved. Some illustrative examples: Global push to invest in foodtech to be applicable worldwide (alt proteins), or Governments could push to achieve the SDGs.
  • Consumer education: in order to support consumers’ food choices, governments must provide them with true, complete information on the authenticity of food products and the raw materials, as well as the production and distribution processes.
  • Promoting biodiversity: poor practices must be penalized, and sustainable, environmentally friendly ones must be rewarded. We need to look for new mechanisms to incentivize the players involved.
  • Promoting innovation in the industry by reducing entry barriers and adding incentives for the immediate implementation of Foodtech solutions; by doing this, governments can also influence private investors and, ultimately, spread these new resources far and wide, and supporting international collaboration.
  • Emily Broad, director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School believes that it is a priority to increase coordination among governments and regulatory bodies in order to achieve the goals.

Technology entrepreneurs and innovators:

At present, one main problem lies in the high level of investment despite the few success cases; therefore, we need investors and government funding in order to implement a national plan for entrepreneurship and innovation. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to focus on local production to prevent a shortage of supply, as well as the need to develop collaborative proposals with the agriculture and livestock industry. These are the needs detected:

  • Support local farms to produce enough food for the local community.
  • Establish local farmers’ markets to purchase local food.
  • Teach educational workshops: use these local markets to educate citizens about nutrition and healthy, sustainable practices.
  • Establish a direct relationship between local food producers and distributors.

Why is investing in a foodtech startup appealing? According to Jon Etxeberria, founder of BAIBA, it is essential to create innovative products and services to impact the entire value chain.

Consumer rights organizations and NGOs:

These are the challenges and solutions identified for this group:

  • Global alliance between consumers and NGOs to achieve a more nutritious, environmentally-friendly agriculture that is also more profitable for farmers all over the world. 
  • Triple bottom line: we must ensure that both investors and corporate management boards include sustainability in their profit and loss account as one more KPI of their business performance.
  • Promoting KPIs (key performance indicator) that measure the environmental impact of the food chain.

According to Simon Winter, Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the solution could lie with BlockchainInvestors

Investors

Some of the hurdles along the way include the lack of maturity of the foodtech market and the need for consolidated companies to emerge, particularly in the field of cellular agriculture

But this new food technology has plenty of potential and offers great advantages to global food security. On top of studying the return of an investment (naturally), these are some of the questions an investor should ask themselves about a Foodtech opportunity. They are similar to questions asked in other emerging industries:

  • Is it technologically possible?
  • How can it scale?
  • How can we avoid copies?
  • What are the legal barriers?
  • Who will develop it?

Sejal Ravji, Director of Open Innovation at Calidad Pascual stated that investors must perceive their money serves a ‘greater purpose’; they must be social investors.

According to this expert, food waste can be a great line of business in the future, we need to research alternatives and technologies that shift the current paradigm.

It is necessary to promote specific incubators and accelerators for the industry

In general, leadership, coordination and cooperation will be essential tools for all stakeholders to achieve our global goals. Only by addressing and resolving most of the previously mentioned challenges will we be able to achieve a sustainable food system.

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Related experts

Vincent Rosso
Vincent Rosso

Co-founder at Consentio

Emily Broad Leib
Emily Broad Leib

Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Simon Winter
Simon Winter

Director ejecutivo en Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

Jon Etxeberria

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