In its fourth year, the 2019 Innovator Summit at Davis, CA brought together leading experts, investors and changemakers to continue accelerating Transformation of the Food System. This year, the event focused on:

The Summit featured an evening reception on May 20, followed by two days’ of invigorating keynote presentations, parallel sessions, innovation showcases, and a tour to the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia campus in Napa Valley on May 21 & 22. Guests from industry, research, technology, finance, NGO and government further developed joint interests and collaborative multi-sector partnerships to bring solutions to market.

KEYNOTE Presentations

Keynote Speakers


Drawing from deep research, communications and industry expertise, we were taken on a journey of possibility regarding future options for transforming the food system.

Carlito Lebrilla, Distinguished Professor at UC Davis and Co-Founder of Evolve Biosystems and InterVenn.

Opportunities in Carbohydrates (An Academic’s Experiences in Starting Companies): The food system could benefit from better analytics, lending itself to food and gut health investment opportunities. However, good science is not enough – it must also be accompanied by the right people and technology transfer strategy.



Charlene Finck, Division President, Producer Media, Farm Journal

Building Trust, Inclusion and Confidence: Full-circle inclusion involves breaking down silos and engaging all stakeholders to harness different perspectives from a collaborative network. Pre-competitive collaboration turns food and agriculture goals into sustainable outcomes by guarding against unintended consequences. 

Ralph Jerome, former Chief Innovation Officer of Mars, Incorporated

GoMo – A Partnering Journey: A good partnership is about creating a team
that transcends organizational boundaries. Presentation link

DAY 1 Summary

Day 1 Summary


LINK TO AVAILABLE PRESENTATIONS

ENERGY
Co-hosted by Colorado State University

David Lee, Lead Technologist, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, Booz Allen Hamilton
Sophisticated data analytics are helping to phenotype different kinds of soils and make determinations about best practices for future crop production. Building scientific communities through ‘transformative technologies’ will be crucial for implementing new technology in the agriculture and energy arenas.

John Field, Research Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University
Researchers are working on methods to retain greater levels of carbon within soil biomass using ‘frontier technologies’ like enhanced root growth. Such large-scale carbon sequestration has the potential to absorb and retain much of the carbon dioxide currently emitted into the atmosphere.

Kerri Wright Platais, Special Advisor to the Chancellor for International Agriculture at National Western Center, Colorado State University
Energy and agriculture technology share a unique bond in helping to develop the food system sustainably, especially in parts of Africa where the private sector is poised to play a greater role over the next thirty-years through ‘market first’ models.

COMMUNICATION
Co-hosted by UC Davis Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

David Zilberman, Professor, Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley
Public reluctance and opposition to new food technologies has the potential to disadvantage producers and consumers, especially in resource-restricted regions of the world.

Sarah Davidson-Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science, Cornell University
Scientists are using a naturally occurring soil bacteria as a limited-application pesticide, leading to a significant reduction in pesticide use.

Nassib Mugwanya, Outreach Officer, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) at the National Crops Resources Research Institute
New food technology appears to be a sustainable solution for meeting one of Africa’s greatest challenges of feeding its growing population. Promising results include crops resistant to threats related to climate change and insect infestation.

HEALTH
Co-hosted by UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

Rick Peters, Technology Innovation Lead and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dell Medical School, University of Texas
Proper food and nutrition intake for infants and children is widely debated throughout the medical field. Food-related diseases like diabetes are the subject of continual research, showing greatest promise in treating the disease rather managing symptoms.

Rachael Callcut, Associate Professor of Surgery, Center for Digital Health Innovation, UC San Francisco
Integrating nutrition and diet into outpatient care needs more priority in the health care sector. Better coordination between the food science industry and health care could unlock learnings from complex data, and provide deeper insight into how food affects health.

AGRIFOODTECH
Co-hosted by UC Agriculture & Natural Resources and The Mixing Bowl

Irwin Donis-Gonzalez, Postharvest Engineer, UC Davis
Food scarcity in developing countries results in better care and less waste. Reevaluating food consumption and sustainability practices at scale will require us to change wasteful practices.

Eric Tilton, Chief Technology Officer, HermetiaPro Inc.
Waste streams in agriculture can themselves be utilized to produce food for animals and insects, resulting in new protein sources for human consumption that have the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Adam Behrens, Co-founder and CEO, Cambridge Crops
New technologies are being developed to extract natural proteins from silk for the preservation of perishable foods, where topical application could improve the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

Emily Gousen, Capital and Innovation Manager, ReFED
The US stands to learn from international examples of reduced food waste through school education on food conservation practices, which are then transferred into the family unit.

DAY 2 Summary

Day 2 Summary


LINK TO AVAILABLE PRESENTATIONS

COMMUNICATION
Co-hosted by UC Davis Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

Robert Paarlberg, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
Several African countries have adopted new technologies for crop production, but not all African nations utilize such breakthroughs. Sensitive to international regulations, production and distribution efficiencies are being affected.

Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, UC Davis
Africa expects a 50% increase in population over the next 30 years. Deemed the ‘2050 Challenge’, it may turn into a ‘crisis of major proportion’ unless food supplies and systems improve.

Anne Barnhill, Associate Faculty; Research Scholar, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, John Hopkins University
Food ethics relates to the ethical, practical, and logistical implications of agriculture, nutrition and food production. Advocates for ‘ethical framework’ tools insist that better trade-offs can be realized between competing interests when a diverse group of stakeholders is consulted.

HEALTH
Co-hosted by UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

Bruce Ames, Senior Scientist, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute
Proper vitamin and mineral intake through diet and nutrition is crucial to improved life expectancy.

Jordan Bisanz, Gnotobiotic Core Facility Consultant at the Hooper Foundation, School of Medicine, UC San Francisco
In their expert study of a healthy gut, researchers find low calorie diets change the gut biome, but considerable debate remains over how these factors influence host energy balance and other biological responses.

AGRIFOODTECH
Co-hosted by UC Agriculture & Natural Resources and The Mixing BowlCo-hosted by Colorado State University

Silke Hemming, Head of Greenhouse Technology, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Artificial intelligence seems poised to play a larger role, taking over some of the complexity in greenhouse management. Growers and farmers play a pivotal role, but can make different kinds of informed decisions to assist and direct machine learning protocols.

Michael Schutt, Partnership Development Manager, Raley’s
Consumers have already responded positively to products branded as ‘sunless’ produce. When awareness and demand converge, it is anticipated that consumers will gravitate towards indoor grown products.

Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO, Gotham Greens
Indoor and greenhouse farming offers a value proposition for many in the food production chain, especially city dwellers. Machine learning could potentially bring about an ‘autonomous greenhouse’ that needs less human intervention to produce and harvest crops.

Melanie Yelton, Vice President of Research, Lumigrow
Growing produce with LED lights can provide more nutritious food and reduce the need for plant growth regulators, with specific light spectrums changing the density, size, color, and other aspects of indoor crops.

ENERGY
Co-hosted by Colorado State University

Jeff Callaway, Associate Director of Fermentation Science and Technology, Colorado State University

Sustainable brewing practices are producing new kinds of beverages and optimizing brewing procedures. Beyond the environmental factors of energy and water, these efforts also offer opportunity for social and economic sustainability.

Brent Young, Agricultural Business Management Economist, Colorado State University
Greenhouse gas inventories from agriculture, livestock and soil management industries demonstrate they are significant contributors to global emissions, opening the possibility for solar power as a viable alternative to ease emissions during energy use.

Hailey Summers, Mechanical Engineering PhD Student, Colorado State University
‘Sustainability’ is a prominent buzzword in agricultural science, but it remains quantitatively elusive. Researchers are designing tools to quantify measures of sustainability beyond superlatives.

Attendees

Attendees


Please reach out to innovation@ucdavis.edu for any assistance in connecting with an attendee directly.

ADM Research

AGR Partners

AgStart

Anubis Bio

BASF

Bayer Crop Science

Bennett Consulting

Better Food Ventures

BioLumen

Booz Allen Hamilton

Bow Capital

Buhler, Inc.

Cambridge Crops

Carnegie Institute of Science

Cayuga BioPharma

CHORI

Colorado State University Energy Institute

Colorado State University & Extension

Cornell University

Elemental Excelerator

Engage3

Erisyon

Farm Foundation

Farm Journal

FemTech Fund

FME

FoodShot Global

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

Frinj Coffee

FTW Ventures

Genoa Ventures

Global Crop Diversity Trust

Gotham Greens

Greater Sacramento Economic Council

Harvard Kennedy School

HermetiaPro, Inc.

HM Clause

IBM Research

in’Sight Labs

Johns Hopkins Berman

Institute of Bioethics

Land & Ladle

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

LumiGrow, Inc.

Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc.

Mars, Incorporated

MISTA / Givaudan

MIT

NASA Ames Research Center

National Crops Resources Research Institute

National University of Singapore

Novozymes

Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust

Nuritas

Oaktech

PRIME Market Access

International

Rabobank

Raley’s

ReFED

Rockefeller Foundation

Salim Group

Stanford University School of Medicine

Swick Consulting

TechAccel LLC

The Culinary Institute of America

The Food Business School of the CIA

The March Fund

The Mixing Bowl

The Morning Star Company

The Production Board

The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School

The VINE

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

TripleDNA LLC

Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy

UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

UC Berkeley

UC Davis

UCD Agricultural Sustainability Institute

UCD Biotechnology Program

UCD Coffee Center

UCD Global Tea Initiative

UCD Graduate School of Management

UCD Health System

UCD Innovation Institute for Food & Health

UCD Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

UCD Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

UCD Net Impact

UCD Office of Research

UCD Olive Center

UCD Policy Institute

UCD Russell Ranch

UCD Seed Central

UCD Undergraduate Research Center

UCD World Food Center

UC San Diego

UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

UC Santa Barbara

UniRely

University of South Florida

Vitality Biopharma

Wageningen University & Research

White Dog Labs

WHNRC

Guest Interviews

Guest Interviews


LINK TO FULL VIDEO PLAYLIST

Expert interviews with event attendees:

  • Carlito Lebrilla, Distinguished Professor at UC Davis and Co-Founder of Evolve Biosystems and InterVenn
  • Charlene Finck, Division President, Producer Media, Farm Journal
  • Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Irwin Donis-Gonzalez, Postharvest Engineer, UC Davis
  • Kerri Wright Platais, Special Advisor to the Chancellor for International Agriculture at National Western Center, Colorado State University
  • Marie Haga, Executive Director of The Crop Trust
  • Abdul Momin, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis
  • Ralph Jerome, former Chief Innovation Officer of Mars, Incorporated
  • Rob Trice, Founder of The Mixing Bowl and Founder & Partner of Better Food Ventures
  • Sarah Davidson-Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science, Cornell University
  • Silke Hemming, Head of Greenhouse Technology, Wageningen University and Research Centre

Carlito Lebrilla, Distinguished Professor at UC Davis and Co-Founder of Evolve Biosystems and InterVenn
Explaining ‘nutrition opportunity’ to consumers is a key challenge for food and nutrition scientists. Personalized nutrition plans seem poised to play a greater role in nutrition, with advanced artificial intelligence determining what diets, foods, and nutrition will work best for individuals based on their unique gut microbiome profile.


Charlene Finck, Division President, Producer Media, Farm Journal
Within the agricultural community, it’s important to establish an understanding and engagement of practices that support ongoing sustainability measures. This involves bringing diverse community stakeholders to the table when making large-scale decisions, and considering the unique needs of family farmers in addition to corporate farmers.


Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Increasingly, farmers are looking to new technologies to solve issues related to labor, sustainability, compliance, and efficiency. Establishing stronger collaboration between Silicon Valley and ‘food valleys’ like the Sacramento-Davis region will help the next-generation of startups thrive in the food system space.


Irwin Donis-Gonzalez, Postharvest Engineer, UC Davis
California is a pioneer in food system technologies, with the next generation of farmers poised to further integrate agriculture and technology. New horticulture practices like the “dry-chain” process developed at UC Davis are helping farmers and markets keep products dry throughout distribution.


Kerri Wright Platais, Special Advisor to the Chancellor for International Agriculture at National Western Center, Colorado State University
Improving the logistics and organization of emerging science in Africa will be pivotal towards helping the continent unleash its incredible potential. International research institutions are partnering with leading African universities and key partners in the private and public sectors to establish a more streamlined and self-determined diffusion of scientific innovation.


Marie Haga, Executive Director of The Crop Trust
Food scientists are working to safeguard the diversity of major crops and protect their unique array of attributes from disappearing. Selective breeding that prioritizes the size and yield of corn today, for example, may discard other attributes needed for sustainable growth in the future.


Abdul Momin, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis
Food preservation through drying is a crucial step for most agricultural products, and lack of sufficient drying increases the likelihood of mold mycotoxins and resulting food waste. Researchers are developing consumer tools, practices, and procedures for effectively drying foods and accurately measuring their level of dryness.


Ralph Jerome, former Chief Innovation Officer of Mars, Incorporated
The exact needs of emerging markets in the developing world are not always understood by researchers, investors, and those in the development space. Most agree that establishing new markets for nutrition products in countries like India will require a mixture of public education and rapid supply chain development.


Rob Trice, Founder of The Mixing Bowl and Founder & Partner of Better Food Ventures
Agriculture is one of the least digitized industries, which means huge potential exists for application of artificial intelligence to horticulture. Machine learning will soon optimize US farming operations by helping growers make informed decisions about managing their land based on advanced climate data.


Sarah Davidson-Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science, Cornell University
Aspects of agriculture are politicized and contentious, with biotechnology receiving considerable backlash. Researchers are advocating for science-based policy, and stress the need to educate and improve public perception about the benefits and challenges associated with biotechnology.


Silke Hemming, Head of Greenhouse Technology, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Protected cultivation systems like greenhouses are evolving to be more sustainable, productive, and technologically advanced. Methodologies for optimizing greenhouse production vary based on environment and atmospheric conditions, but researchers are studying how artificial intelligence might be applied to ensure optimal greenhouse environments in any climate.

Full Proceedings

Full Event Proceedings


Bringing together researchers and investors in agrifoodtech, nutrition, sustainability and communication, this year’s theme discussed ‘Transformation of the Food System.’ Exciting scientific innovations have the potential to revitalize global food systems and personalized health care, including the intersection of nutrition science and artificial intelligence, where researchers are studying how the gut microbiome influences both long-term and short-term health outcomes for consumers through diet.

Over the two-day event, presentations underscored the need for climate scientists, sustainability experts, and crop producers to collaborate more closely. Determining quantitative as well as qualitative indicators of sustainability is increasingly important in agricultural science. New greenhouse management practices and process models use sophisticated computer systems and data analytics to inform resource decision-making, including more efficient energy use, as well as socioeconomic considerations for community food production. Inviting diverse stakeholders to the table will enrich large-scale agricultural determinations.


Day 1

KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Carlito Lebrilla, Distinguished Professor at UC Davis and Co-Founder of Evolve Biosystems and InterVenn

Carbohydrate structures are abundant throughout all forms of life, including at the cellular level. Researchers have found that short carbohydrate chains coating cells can be indicative of certain cancers. Additional studies reveal that carbohydrate compounds in breast milk help regulate an infant’s immune system and influence the gut microbiome. The relatively new practice of food and nutrition analytics helped scientists discover glycosylated oligosaccharide compounds in breast milk that serve as important fuel for gut bacteria that positively influence infant brain development. It appears that children who lack certain milk oligosaccharides experience stunted growth, and so researchers are working to isolate and introduce these compounds to improve health outcomes.

ENERGY

David Lee, Lead Technologist, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, Booz Allen Hamilton

Agriculture has a huge energy impact, and climate change will introduce countless issues for intensive crop farmers. As a significant consumer of fresh water the world over, there is considerable incentive to conserve resources and preserve energy in agricultural practices. Bioenergy production will be a challenge to implement and diffuse across agricultural systems. Soil health may also suffer as a result of climate change. Sophisticated data analytics are helping to identify and manage different soil types according to best practices for future crop production, yet environmental data varies across different climate conditions and these factors must be taken into consideration.

John Field, Research Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University

Soil carbon and organic matter play a significant role in soil fertility and sustainability, and also in climate change mitigation. Soil is a large reservoir of carbon, but land use change and related human activities have resulted in its release. Restoring carbon to the soil may help combat climate change, especially by reducing losses through the activity of soil microbes. Researchers are working on methods for retaining carbon levels within soil at a greater scale using ‘frontier technologies’ like enhanced root growth. Large-scale carbon sequestration could theoretically absorb and retain much of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

Kerri Wright Platais, Special Advisor to the Chancellor for International Agriculture at National Western Center, Colorado State University

Energy and agriculture technology share a unique bond in developing parts of Africa. New technologies have brought about genetic gains in the growth and harvest of sweet potatoes, bananas, and a variety of beans throughout the African continent. Technologies led and owned by women are also important to this process. Researchers advocating for a revolutionary transition from a ‘farmers first’ approach to a ‘market first’ approach use farm and value chain analysis to determine economic potential, including marketing, profitability, and promotion of rural and low-income famers in the value chain. Addressing poverty, nutrition, and the common diet of Africans, the private sector is poised to play a greater role over the next thirty-years in developing countries through pursuit of similar models. Stronger policy environments and lower transaction costs for domestic and foreign investment in the agriculture sector will help emerging countries.

COMMUNICATION

David Zilberman, Professor, Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley

Opposition outside of Africa to the introduction of new food technologies often seems impractical and shortsighted. Research shows that these technologies can help African farmers increase crop yields by 20% and reduce pesticide use. It can also be useful in giving developing countries access to alternative sources of protein like soybean. When food prices unexpectedly increase, it creates worldwide disruption and instability. Yet waiting to implement new technologies is costly due to dire health, economic and other consequences for developing countries with food shortages.

Sarah Davidson-Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science, Cornell University

In Bangladesh, eggplant is grown by ~150,000 farmers on less than an acre of land each, but it is often infested with fruit and shoot boring moth larvae. This results in extensive pesticide spraying by approximately 98% of farmers, often twice daily. Scientists in Bangladesh decided to use a form of soil bacteria as a natural, yet limited, pesticide. Rather than apply it topically, eggplants were engineered to defend themselves using the bacterial mechanism. Made available in 2014, this is considered the first genetically engineered food crop adopted by farmers in South Asia, demonstrating the benefits of such technology.

Nassib Mugwanya, Outreach Officer, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) at the National Crops Resources Research Institute

Compared to Uganda and elsewhere throughout Africa, consumers in the US enjoy a ‘food privilege’. For example, Americans enjoy many variations of milk (2%, half-and-half, whole milk) in grocery stores that are not on offer in Uganda. Certain key Ugandan crops like bananas and maize are threatened by insect infestations, bacterial wilt, and drought caused by climate change. Fall Army Worm is estimated to cause annual maize yield losses between 8.3–20.6 million tons (USD 2.48 – 6.19 billion) across 12 countries. To feed its own growing population, Africa faces one of its biggest challenges, and such new food technologies appear to offer sustainable solutions. Farmers in favor of this technology face opposition as a result of differing food privileges, ideologies and information sources.

HEALTH

Rick Peters, Technology Innovation Lead and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dell Medical School, University of Texas

Proper food and nutrition intake for children and infants is widely debated throughout the medical field. In this information age, marketing prevails over education for parents managing the healthy choices of children’s diets that are increasingly high in sugar. A surprising number of products marketed to children claim to have health or developmental benefits but lack nutritional value. A precise understanding of how the gut microbiome responds to nutritional intake is still emerging. Food research needs to be given more attention, and physicians need to work together more closely to understand and experiment with different methods for achieving favorable outcomes. A genetic versus metabolic approach to disease intervention can provide opportunity for optimizing healthy patient environments and behaviors. For example, in Europe where researchers have characterized five different kinds of diabetes (insulin autoimmune, insulin deficient and insulin resistant diabetes, then two metabolic syndromes of adult onset and obesity onset), new studies suggest that applying fresh foods beyond direct medical intervention could create ‘radical’ changes to health outcomes across all types.

Rachael Callcut, Associate Professor of Surgery, Center for Digital Health Innovation, UC San Francisco

Integrating nutrition and diet into outpatient care needs more priority in the health care industry. The health care sector deals with complex data, and the food science industry can offer insights into how food consumption affects health. Analytic techniques and artificial intelligence can play a greater role in determining patient care, involving medicine as well as food and nutrition considerations. Especially in hospital admissions, nutrition influences critical care during trauma, which is the leading cause of death for those aged 1 to 44 years. Patients experiencing trauma are in a dynamic physical state that has not yet been fully catalogued for decision-making and management in advance of a deciding catastrophic event such as hemorrhage. Analytics using artificial intelligence will soon convert patient data into a visual tool, according to researchers who are developing this predictive capacity using large health data sets. Across the US, microbiome researchers are still determining the best way to measure and understand clinical data, revealing many methodological questions and matters of nutrition and critical care.

AGRIFOODTECH

Irwin Donis-Gonzalez, Postharvest Engineer, UC Davis

Reevaluating our food consumption and sustainability/reusability practices on a mass scale will take education of future generations to change wasteful practices. Where food is scarce, such as in the developing world, people tend to take better care and reduce waste and loss. Yet climate change presents a challenging uncertainty to food production and preservation. New technology that assesses the dryness of stored produce can help avoid mycotoxins from perishable foods, but this technology needs to be more widely accessible. Researchers have developed an inexpensive way of assessing produce dryness, which can be used across the US for small and large producers, but is especially practical for the developing world. Known as a ‘dry card’, its color measurement indicates moisture content, and is easy to use for as little as $0.25 cost to the consumer. Estimates suggest that around 4.5 billion people are chronically exposed to mycotoxins and remain unaware. Success in this area will be found by making inexpensive technology accessible and easy to use for all.

Emily Gousen, Capital and Innovation Manager, ReFED

In the US, the majority of food waste has been recorded at the post-consumer level, following distribution to restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers’ homes; approximately 63 million tons of food is wasted in this way annually. Internationally, countries like Denmark and South Korea have achieved considerable success in reducing food waste by teaching food conservation practices to school children, which are then transferred into the family unit. Yet a change in the waste management practices of companies and corporations is likely to have the biggest impact on food waste.

Eric Tilton, Chief Technology Officer, HermetiaPro Inc.

Waste streams in agriculture (like byproducts from almond production) can be utilized to produce food for animals and insects. The black soldier fly is a popular edible insect in the developing world, and researchers are rearing colonies for use as a supplemental protein product; they can also be used to enrich soil. This procedure produces virtually no waste, and the bodies of adult flies have application in the pharmaceutical industry as chiton. The mass rearing of black soldier flies will also be useful to farmers as protein-rich feed for chicken and other livestock. Raising such protein sources has the potential to dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions, yet significant investment is still required to produce insect feed at sustainable levels (cleared for livestock consumption to date, but not yet for human consumption).


Day 2

OPENING KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Charlene Finck, Division President, Producer Media, Farm Journal

‘Authentic advocacy’ for farmers and ranchers is a challenge in the face of climate change, given pressures from special interest groups, and the industrial forces influencing agriculture. Farm Journal, a 140 year-old publication, serves as an advocating voice for farmers to communicate issues of technology, change, and conservation to the agriculture industry. A generational disconnect between the food we consume and where it comes from underlies a greater challenge between our nutrition needs and the economic wellbeing of farmers. The practical concerns of farmers and ranchers are typically overlooked and misunderstood with regard to food system sustainability and technological advancement, which is exacerbated by the issue of intergenerational farm ownership that influences significantly how farmers communicate their needs and challenges. This dialogue can be supported by greater exploration of consumer health and nutrition, where a considerable information gap exists between the messaging families receive and the nutritional basis of their food. As a critical component of our health, nutrition is deserving of deeper studies for greater access to accurate information about food being consumed and produced. The agriculture industry can learn from other sectors how to better convey the benefits of technologies and innovations so that they can be understood and embraced by farmers and consumers. For example, in launching new drugs, the pharmaceutical industry goes to great lengths to communicate product benefits.

COMMUNICATION

Robert Paarlberg, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

African countries like Sudan and Nigeria have adopted new breeding technologies for growing cotton, but not all African nations utilize this new technology. Genetically modified food crops are only grown in South Africa, but genetically modified strains of cotton are grown in four African nations. However, entities like the European Union are imposing strict regulations on such procedures that may set the tone for worldwide diffusion. Under these guidelines, gene edited crops would be segregated from traditional crops and subject to heavy regulatory tracking, trade scrutiny, and commercial screening. European court decisions and pending regulation remains controversial within the scientific community, and in many cases contradictory. Leading scientists have cautioned these rulings could significantly stall biotechnological advances in Europe and across the world.

Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, UC Davis

Climate change is one of the main challenges of our lifetime, but there are also concerns regarding our food supply system, especially considering food waste. The human population will triple in our lifetime, requiring new resources and technologies to satisfy the demand for food. Africa alone expects to have 50% increased population by 2050, which could become a potential crisis if food supply systems fail to improve. Countries in the developing world often inefficiently manage livestock and related resources, for which smarter sustainability practices are required in countries like India and Brazil. We must share technologies to improve international food system efficiency, or else struggle to meet this ‘2050 challenge. Strategies for meeting this challenge include launching a second ‘green revolution’ to reduce the density of livestock in developing countries and embrace CRISPR crops like eggplant, cowpea, and other sustainable sources of food to supplement heavy reliance on animal proteins.

Anne Barnhill, Associate Faculty; Research Scholar, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, John Hopkins University

Food ethics relates to the ethical, practical, and logistical implications of agriculture, nutrition and food production. As a practical activity, food ethics recognizes the necessity of ‘trade-offs’ when considering how power-brokers and stakeholders make decisions about agricultural development and related issues. ‘Win-win’ outcomes are not always available, so certain trade-offs are made on both the micro and macro level as a means of compromise. These tradeoffs can occur on a personal level, like an individual’s decision to eat fruit as a snack rather than a cookie, but they also concern large-scale ethical decisions like those made by farmers regarding land utilization or labor rates. Different groups with distinct interests make different trade-offs, and the current generation regularly makes trade-offs with future generations. The decision-making processes behind our food system and its related power struggles are inherently ethical matters, but not always considered through an ethical lens. One tool created at Johns Hopkins is called the “core ethical commitments,” a set of ethical statements for assessing food products and production practices, like the avoidance of child labor. Such frameworks can help advocates recognize trade-offs and think through priorities, offer ethical guidance to investors, and advise policy makers to recognize trade-offs inherent in food and agricultural policies.

HEALTH

Bruce Ames, Senior Scientist, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute

Proper vitamin and mineral intake through diet and nutrition is crucial to improved life expectancy. The average diet of contemporary adults appears to lack crucial nutrients, and modern food and drink trends like high-sugar sodas provide no nutritive value. Consumption of green vegetables appears to be lacking in overall dietary trends, and 70% of the population seems deficient in Vitamin D. Numerous Vitamin D clinical trials show positive results in cases pertaining to mortality, cancer mortality, and blood pressure when supplementing deficient subjects. Levels of vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and C are also deficient in the average person’s diet. Vitamin deficiency redirects the body’s resources towards short-term survival rather than long-term health. This process ‘starves’ the proteins that protect the body against cancer and heart disease. Obesity is also an epidemic rooted in vitamin deficiency worsened by the consumption of ‘empty’ carbohydrates.

Jordan Bisanz, Gnotobiotic Core Facility Consultant at the Hooper Foundation, School of Medicine, UC San Francisco

Study of the gut microbiome is drawing increased attention and research in the medical field, but experts continue to debate the exact characteristics of a healthy gut. Although its microbiome can be manipulated through probiotics, fecal microbiota transplant and gene therapy, today the best-known way to influence its structure is through low-fat and high-fiber diets. Low-calorie diets also appear to affect the gut microbiome by decreasing the presence of certain species of microbes, with follow-on benefits shown in studies to be successful weight loss and improved body composition, yet its exact mechanism is still being elucidated. Gene editing may one day help modify the microbiome structure, and microbiome calibration may also help predict and influence diet outcomes and weight loss.

AGRIFOODTECH

Silke Hemming, Head of Greenhouse Technology, Wageningen University and Research Centre

Greenhouse environments can enhance the growth of certain high-yield crops. Additionally, LED lighting can be used to accelerate this growth. One drawback of ‘sunless’ environments is the overall cost of energy production. Other indoor systems involve hydroponic irrigation systems coupled with advanced sensors for optimizing conservation and sustainability outcomes. However, greenhouse production systems are complex and demand knowledge of numerous aspects of horticulture, pest control, and labor management. In order to do this at a large scale, artificial intelligence seems poised to play a larger role, with algorithms taking over some of that complexity. The grower will still be needed in the future, but make different kinds of decisions to assist and direct machine learning protocols.

Michael Schutt, Partnership Development Manager, Raley’s

Consumers have shown a positive response towards products branded as ‘sunless’ produce. When awareness and demand converge, consumers will gravitate towards indoor grown products. Yet the ultimate determinant is still price: for example, if indoor growers can provide a product for thirty cents cheaper than competitors, customers will appreciate that value and pursue alternative produce.

Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO, Gotham Greens

Indoor and greenhouse farming offers a value proposition for many in the food production chain. Urban farming connects city-dwellers with fresh produce and brings people closer to high quality and sustainable foods. Sophisticated computer control systems track a host of data points such as temperature, humidity, and other factors related to the internal greenhouse environment. Monitoring of nutrient and delivery systems informs the decision to turn equipment on or off based on desirable conditions. Growers use data on plant growth, plant physiology, pest management, and labor as dependent greenhouse variables for producing high quality crops. Supplemental lighting ensures production is even throughout the year, including in the winter months. Gotham Greens has been operational for almost a decade across various geographies, and is able to plot these inputs against key performance indicators like yield, quality, shelf life, and pest incidence so growers can make better informed decisions.

Melanie Yelton, Vice President of Research, Lumigrow

Growing produce indoors appears to be encouraging for future implementation. Growing with LED lights can help provide more nutritious food and reduce the need for plant growth regulators. Specific light spectrums can change the density, size, color, and other aspects of indoor crops. Many small factors will help increase consumption of such healthy produce, beginning with the education of young children. Indoor-grown products may only be accessible to a certain kind of affluent or geographical consumer, but in the developing world many depend on food from different sources. It is important to consider the complexity of meeting these challenges.

ENERGY

Jeff Callaway, Associate Director of Fermentation Science and Technology, Colorado State University

Sustainable brewing practices are producing new kinds of beverages and optimizing brewing procedures. One example under development is a kind of beer brewed from using deformed or rejected cantaloupes. Malting companies are now sourcing barley grown without irrigation to minimize energy inputs and environmental footprints. Manufacturers and brewers concerned with sustainability are focused on increased water use efficiency. Sustainability efforts concern environmental factors, but also social and economic sustainability beyond resource inputs. For example, large breweries are capturing carbon dioxide from their processes and using it to create an on-site fuel source.

Brent Young, Agricultural Business Management Economist, Colorado State University

Greenhouse gas inventories from agriculture, livestock and soil management industries demonstrate that they are significant contributors to global emissions. Solar power is a proven alternative that helps these sectors reduce emissions through alternate energy use. Irrigation systems are being customized to include more energy-efficient solar panels, but such upgrades are not always cost effective to purchase and maintain in all geographic locations. California is particularly fortunate with its annual number of sunny days, but Colorado is considering pivot photovoltaic potential at the farm level. Square or rectangular fields that use center pivot irrigation systems are candidates for solar panel installation in dry corners. A feasibility study will help the producer assess the potential for solar energy and pursue state and federal grants, and low-income or low-interest loans in order to install the systems.  Solar power can enhance the financial sustainability of production operations while also reducing the overall emissions that agriculture adds to global warming.

Hailey Summers, Mechanical Engineering PhD Student, Colorado State University

A prominent concept in agricultural science, quantitative determination of ‘sustainability’ remains elusive, but researchers are designing measurement tools for sustainability. Using the example of brewing beer, it’s important to consider every ‘input’ and ‘output’ of a brewing operation, including waste streams and the mechanical components of the process itself. Mechanical engineers and sustainability experts have together designed process models for specific industries and businesses. These models use artificial intelligence to optimize every component of the production process, including a facility’s equipment and raw materials. Areas of analytic interest include energy from pumps, heat exchangers, turbines in a system, and all other mechanical components associated with developing a product. When using such systems models or process model inventories, materials and energy inputs can help engineers understand the environmental impacts of each consumable, and can help in setting the product’s minimum selling price. Lifecycle assessments also enable determination of other outcomes, such as carbon emissions, human health impacts and potential water toxicity.

CLOSING KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Ralph Jerome, former Chief Innovation Officer of Mars, Incorporated

The corporate sector seems poised to bridge some of the key gaps between research, funding and innovation in the nutrition space, but considerable barriers still exist to technological diffusion in the developing world. By taking a grand challenge approach to building sustainable products and processes, activities can focus on defined objectives that leverage shared resources for different short, medium, and long-term goals. Strong partnership creates teams that transcend organizational boundaries and promotes shared values and complementary skills. Good collaborations set clear roles and expectations, and cultivate trust and respect. Yet the most compelling element of any cooperative venture needs to be the project’s purpose, which can drive the team players as well as the organizations that support them.

2020 Innovation Forum – Mark Your Calendars!


We look forward to you joining us again next year in Spring 2020 for an international innovation forum – planned to be our biggest yet!