When it comes to our food system, we are not innovating fast enough. That is the overarching feeling during the seventh edition of F&A Next. This annual event brings together start-ups and investors in the field of agriculture and food. This connection is paramount to accelerate the pace of innovation, which in turn is crucial in order to achieve the sustainability goals. Because if we want to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have to act now.
Crisis drives change
This is no easy chore. Over the past two years, we have had a pandemic and immediately after that the war in Ukraine broke out. Our economy is shaking on its foundations. Most people tend to adopt a wait-and-see attitude when a crisis threatens. But that is exactly what we should not do, as Tony Fadell advocated during F&A Next. He is one of the co-creators of the iPod, the iPhone and the Nest. He contends that a crisis is the perfect moment to change course. As earning money (fast) is less of a given in times of crisis, people are more driven by their mission. Fadell is convinced of this.
The consumer points the way
In the field of food, which is what F&A Next is all about, we still have to take some major steps. Fighting climate change, preserving biodiversity in nature and tackling global inequality. These are important challenges that we, society as a whole, are facing. The food system is where all these issues converge, according to Peter Bakker, CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, in his keynote speech at the event. Sustainable and efficient agriculture, more sustainable transport and more attention to animal welfare and waste: this is what companies and non-profit organisations will all be working towards over the coming period.
But what will our food look like in the future? Will we still be eating meat? Or will we have completely switched to plant-based protein? How will we grow fruit and vegetables? Vertically in greenhouses? Or in the field? These are all relevant questions that still do not have clear-cut answers to. What is really important in order to implement crucial changes? That comes down to consumer behaviour. Experts from various fields are in agreement on this. After all, consumers will either buy new or differently produced products, or not. In this respect, price, taste and quality are really important.
Source of inspiration
Habits also play an important role among consumers and it is extremely difficult to change habits. This is why, according to Maartje Frederiks, founder of HelloFresh, it is very important to inspire consumers. Companies and other organizations need to introduce new ideas to consumers. In this regard, not just good sources of inspiration, but education also plays an important role. People need to learn to cook new things and know what to look out for to be able to serve good, complete meals on their table.
Fall down, get up again
The various start-ups and corporates that are working on a more sustainable food system are well aware of this. The magic word? Grow, fall down, get up again and scale up. Only if a lot of companies focus together on the production of sustainable food can they really disrupt to the system. Because ultimately, it must be possible to produce, for example, plant-based protein on a large scale and thereby make it cheaper. After all, the meat industry also started out small. So, we should actually be patient for a few more decades. But we simply do not have that time. We only have a few years left to turn the tide as far as global warming is concerned.
Getting that done requires cooperation. It sounds like a cliché, but according to the experts at F&A Next, it is the only way to bring about real change. For example, universities can help larger companies with scientific knowledge, SMEs can use their experience to help start-ups improve their prospects for success and consumers must give new developments and new companies a chance. This is how we can jointly make sure we have a sustainable supply of food and a liveable world.