2018 Innovator Summit: Transformation of the Food System
The 3rd annual Innovator Summit was co-hosted by IIFH, together with the Energy Institute at Colorado State University (CSU), the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), and The Mixing Bowl on April 23, 2018. More than 200 guests from industry, research, technology, finance, government and non-profit sectors came together to address common challenges and uncommon solutions across food, ag and health.
The event focused on transformation of the food system along three distinct tracks: Biotechnology, Digital, and Energy. A range of keynotes, breakout sessions, and innovator showcases provided opportunity to develop joint interests and collaborative efforts. Read on to learn more.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER Andy Hargadon: Leading Innovation with a Network Mindset
How can we more effectively work to lead innovation? How do we move innovation from idea to reality?
Consider that the biggest breakthroughs will come not from new ideas, but from new networks. The network becomes the innovation. For example, penicillin as an antibiotic was a ripe idea, but it was not until a new configuration of complementary ideas, individuals, organizations, technologies, polices, and resources enabled penicillin to reach patients that it truly became the innovation that we know it to be today. The right people with the necessary expertise came together, and the right technologies and policies moved it forward. The same is true for modern examples such as Apple’s iPod, where a network of individual parts was purchased rather than invented. In both cases, the innovators recognized that they had opportunity to build a better network than had existed previously, and deliver a product through a seamless user interface.
Innovating is nexus work – building new networks where they did not exist before, perhaps centered on an existing idea, but being aware of enabling factors that can be networked to make that idea successful. It is about finding other nexus workers who will help support the growth of the network, and of the idea. With this new lens, consider what faculty, industry, students and researchers are doing, and how to better connect them for success.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER Jon Foley: PlanetVision – Solutions for a Better Future
We need the additional lenses of history and culture, together with a better focus on technology, science and entrepreneurship, to solve the challenges facing us in the 21st century. Between explosive population growth and increasing pressure on resource use, including the atmosphere, the planet is being degraded. We are also burdening future generations with the incredible challenges of climate change, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and the decline of natural resources that we depend upon such as soil, water, fisheries and landscapes. Agriculture is by far the biggest displacer of land on Earth, increasing pressure on land and water use; 35-40% of all land is used for food, 70% of water is taken out of the watershed, of which 90% is not put back in.
Human activities are pushing the planet to its limits mostly from resource use for food, water and energy. At the same time, the human condition has substantially improved over the last 50 years – we now live longer, healthier lives in a safer, more connected world. This is both a planetary crisis and a moment of opportunity. We can seize this opportunity to build the future we want, but we need a new approach. How do we live better without compromising the future, creating a future where people and nature thrive together without compromising the lives of people today or the people of tomorrow? Leaders must guide us to solutions that build a better future.
Today, political leaders and media pundits instill fear and divide America for their own gain. Trust in media and government are at all-time lows. We are paralyzed by fear, anxiety and division. This cultural impasse is by far the biggest barrier to a better world. Improvements to science, technology and policy have limited effect in a polarized world. Culture ends up trumping these other advances.
A better future must be envisioned together. New messengers are needed, such as trusted cultural institutions (e.g., museums, libraries and parks), along with new messages that use hope instead of fear to talk about solutions instead of problems, and about collaboration instead of conflict.
A desirable future will only come from rethinking food, water and energy. A change in the cultural narrative will be key to shifting the conversation, whether we come from technology, policy, science or other disciplines. People must be able to culturally talk to one another with respect in order to make necessary progress, no matter what science, markets and tools tell us is possible. These goals may not directly save the planet, but will help inspire people at scale and remind us that we can make changes together. By working with long-term projects and long-term generational changes, we can prepare for a successful future.
PLENARY FoodShot Panel
FoodShot Global, Generation Investment, UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health, Acre Ventures, Rockefeller Foundation
How do we best pursue uncommon collaborations and outcomes?
How do we produce healthy foods to meet the demands of a growing global population, while considering planetary margins?
How do we transform the food system into one that is more healthy, sustainable and equitable?
This will have to be a global collaborative effort. Even bringing together experts from foundations, institutes, finance or investment, no single company or funder will succeed in making the necessary long-term meaningful change. It will take a network of peers that share knowledge, resources, best practices and insightful learning along the way. An entrepreneurial team alone is not enough, it also involves changes to cultural communication, public policy, and public health interactions. We must mobilize our efforts in an orchestrated, proactive way to shift the paradigm and make way for new innovations to mature more efficiently than they have in the past.
This socioeconomic construct is the driving force behind FoodShot Global, a collaborative platform of innovators, investors, industry leaders, and advocates who are working together to solve our biggest food system challenges. By connecting knowledge, networks and funding across the private and public sectors, FoodShot creates scalable, impactful and inspired solutions – MoonShots For Better Food. It represents a unique hybrid model that aligns equity, debt and prize dollars to empower visionary entrepreneurs and change agents.
FoodShot is focusing on protein security, feeding the microbiome, carbon farming, regenerative agriculture, 100% food transparency, zero food waste, and establishing food secure cities. FoodShot is a critical resource for young companies who are trying to solve big technological challenges. The effort, time, burn rates and funding that goes into supporting these efforts is immense. Thus, it is necessary to create a space where companies can engage R&D and use funding, science and technology to find viable solutions. Often, success requires getting other people involved, creating a network where there is access, capital and expertise all along the way.