How can we grow and enjoy better food, closer to home, further into the future? MIT Media Lab’s Kevin Slavin hosts a conversation with Caleb Harper from MIT Media Lab's CityFarm project, the Barbarian Group's Benjamin Palmer, Andras Forgacs of Modern Meadow, who is growing victimless meat in a lab, and food artist, educator, and entrepreneur Emilie Baltz. The discussion will address issues of sustainable urban farming, closed ecosystems, technology, food supply chains and the broad environmental and humanitarian implications.
Beyond that however, the conversation will also address how these changes in food production will change what we find delicious ... and the other way around.
In 2015, talking about food seems so obvious. We think we know everything about it, but we don't. The panel showed us how far away we are from a deeper thinking about food, food production and consummation.
Only 40% of US citizens support taxes on sugared drinks but want mandatory labels for meat - where it came from, what kind of quality - and up to 80% want mandatory labels for food with DNA in it. Well, ...
One of the main questions for the future will be: How can we produce affordable and high quality food for the growing population of the world, especially in mega cities. Space is limited and space is one role model for Caleb Harper (MIT) and his research. In space the astronauts only have limited space but want to grow a huge amount of food. They produce their own climate - the same Caleb Harper tries at the MIT with vacuum cubes etc. His research group is working on food computers and the future of food computing.
Andras Forgacs (Modern Meadow) mentioned the absurd situation of shipping meat around the world to have a high quality piece of meat on the table. This is expensive and should not be a food only affordable for rich people. His company tries to grow meat from the cells - that's not absurd anymore for a lot of regions in the world, e.g. China. The meat production in life stocks uses most of land, water and produces the most greenhouse gases. How to handle this problem while the population is still growing very fast?
Emilie Baltz mentioned that we not only should focus on the ingredients, distribution and the production of meat. The new possibilities also need a good storytelling. How do we fall in love with the new stories? How do we attract people to buy these new products? We need a full body experience, we need to see and to understand, a imaginative change.
All around the world you can see such agricultural movements and urban agricultural projects - but often they are hidden away from the public, Benjamin Palmer mentioned. He thinks we should create an anticipation and desire in front of the people in a way they get really excited about it. It's extremely futuristic and sexy if it is presented in an awesome way.
"Holy shit, it's 2015, I'm in the future!"
They all agreed: modern food production should be turned into a microbrewery experience - instead of brewing beer, brewing meat and see the whole process of the production. Maybe people will understand and find a better connection to this new kind of food production. Because: We have reached the end of industrial food production. Now we need to learn how to communicate with our plants. Maybe something like facebook. A plant could have been an account with friends, connected with other plants. We could also talk to the plants. We could ask questions and get feedback.
The panel showed we have to re-think our relationship with food. This is difficult because eating is a very intimate process. We put it into our bodies. Where have we come to as a human? We are conditioned to believe things, but we are innovative people, remodeling our world. Why not food? What counts?: is it good for me? What's in it? How fresh is it? Is it local?
It's the role of media, advertising, marketing and storytelling to change the perspective on food as the US did with their "cuisine", the junk food. You learned via media that it's okay to eat something unhealthy and to love it.
Same is possible with the future of food: education, experience, understanding and a good story - people will consume it. And this is only the beginning...