The food industry has increasingly prioritized sustainability, as eaters care more about where and how our food is produced, as well as who produces it. There is even growing interest around soil health and the potential for agriculture to regenerate the health of the planet, not just sustain the status quo. There has been far less attention, however, to the diversity of what’s being grown.
About 75 percent of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and 5 animal species. Almost half of our plant-derived calories come from just three foods: wheat, corn and rice. While estimates vary, it is believed that there are over 30,000 edible plants, and we only eat 150 of them. Thirty percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction, and six breeds are being lost each month.
This concentration around just a few food sources puts our food system at risk, as evidenced by the story of the Cavendish Banana and The Irish Potato Famine. It also robs eaters of awesome, nutrient dense foods and flavor experiences.
How did we get here? Historically, the food industry prioritized commoditization, mass yield, and uniformity over flavor, nutrition, and sustainability. As a result, we are losing plant and animal species at an alarming rate, while diet-related disease, obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies are on the rise.
Now, we as an industry have a chance and a responsibility to make things right.
The Future of Food is Biodiverse: Where Flavor and Sustainability Meet
Building a food industry that promotes agrobiodiversity – the variety and variability of plants, animals, microorganisms and biocultural systems linked to agriculture and food – makes our food system more sustainable and allows us to delight eaters with new and exciting foods from a diverse set of cultures.
As an industry, agrobiodiversity ensures supply chain resiliency and food security by safeguarding the genetic material needed to ensure crops can evolve in the face of pests and disease, climate change and extreme weather. A biodiverse food system also supports economic development, enables greater dietary diversity, which leads to better health, and helps preserve cultural traditions, techniques, and flavors.
It won’t be easy, but there are some key ways we as an industry can support biodiversity:
Innovate: For food manufacturers and chefs, introduce your customers to new flavors and food experiences by developing new products with forgotten and underutilized crops and animal species. The Rediscovered Food Initiative is a great resource for identifying crops. For retailers, find ways to stock and bring exposure to foods that use underutilized ingredients.
Invest: Promoting Biodiversity will require additional investment to enable farmers, manufacturers, and supply chains to move toward more biodiverse practices. For example, Biodiverse brands such as Kuli Kuli, Yolélé, and Kaibae, as well as many of the companies listed below are helping to draw awareness and funding to the biodiverse production infrastructures their products are built upon.
Identify: Evaluate your existing supply chain to understand how it impacts biodiversity and identify areas for improvement. While there is currently no single standard to measure Biodiversity, initiatives such as Biodiversity International’s Agrobiodiversity Index and TEEBAgriFood’s measurement framework are examples of measurement approaches.
Influence: Tell the story of biodiversity to your customers by connecting taste to improved sustainability and biodiversity. For example, sweetgreen and Row 7 Seed Company’s campaign to promote the Koginut Squash, a unique new varietal that Row 7 created, included placement on the sweetgreen menu, influencer dinners, digital promotion, and a even a Times Square billboard. This is a great example of how to share the wonders of new foods that promote biodiversity with your customers.
40+ Industry Leaders Explore Biodiversity in Food
Intellectually, you might agree with our premise that the future of food is biodiverse, but what does it mean in practice?
To help us understand what a biodiverse food industry looks like, we’ve partnered with The Future Market to host an editorial series from January 7 -31 inviting leading CEOs, executives, farmers, investors and researchers to share insight into their thoughts and strategies for supporting biodiversity in food. Check out our incredible list of contributors below.
The Future Market at Fancy Food Show
The Future Market is producing a Biodiversity Exhibit at The Winter Fancy Food Show January 13-15. The exhibit offers a deep dive into biodiversity in food and explores what a more biodiverse grocery aisle might look like. It will feature 9 new concept products, 26 biodiverse crop spotlights, and a digital shopping experience filled with concept product ideas for the next 5-25 years. See content from the exhibit and learn more here. We hope to see you there!
Editorial Series Contributors:
- Aerofarms – Marc Oshima, Co-Founder & CMO
- Almanac Ventures – David Barber, Founder; Valerie Christy, Founding Partner; Elly Truesdell, Portfolio Manager; and Brian Halweil, Portfolio Manager
- Applegate – Gina Asoudegan, Vice President, Mission and Innovation
- Back to the Roots – Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Vélez Ramírez, Co-Founders
- Believe in Bambara – Holly Tassi, Co-Founder & CEO; Tamara Cohen, Co-Founder & CCO
- Bowery Farming – Susan McIsaac, Head of Agricultural Sciences
- Burlap & Barrel – Ethan Frisch, CEO
- Crops For The Future – Professor Sayed Azam-Ali, CEO
- Culinary Institute of America – Greg Drescher, VP of Strategic Initiatives & Industry Leadership
- Dig Inn – Larry Tse, Farm Manager, and Taylor Lanzet, Director of Supply & Sustainability
- Farm.One – Rob Laing, Founder & CEO
- Food Systems 6 – Renske Lynde, Co-Founder & Managing Director
- Food Tank – Danielle Nierenberg, President
- Foodstirs – Greg Fleishman, Co-Founder & President/COO
- FoodShot Global – Victor Friedberg, Chairman and Founder
- Global Crop Diversity Trust – Marie Haga, Executive Director
- GODAN – Andre Laperriere, Executive Director
- Gotham Greens – Viraj Puri, CEO
- Impossible Foods – Pat Brown, Founder & CEO
- Institute for the Future – Sarah Smith, Research Director, Food Futures Lab
- KAIBAE – Barbara Berger Maes, Dr. Luc Maes & Thomas Cole, Co-Founders
- Kuli Kuli – Lisa Curtis, Founder & CEO
- La Quercia – Herb Eckhouse, Co-Founder
- MAD – Melina Shannon-DiPietro, Executive Director
- Masumoto Family Farm – Nikiko Masumoto, Farmer, Artist, Community Leader
- National Young Farmers Coalition – Lindsey Shute, Executive Director & Co-Founder
- Powerplant Ventures – Daniel Gluck, Managing Partner
- Rebbl – Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO
- rePlant Capital – Robyn O’Brien, VP
- Row 7 Seeds – Charlotte Douglas, COO
- Seeds&Chips – Marco Gualtieri, Founder and Chairman
- SDG 2 Advocacy Hub – Paul Newnham, Director
- Sir Kensington’s – Rebecca Gildiner, Impact Strategy Manager
- Slow Food USA – Richard McCarthy, Executive Director
- Soylent – Bryan Crowley, CEO
- Starbucks – Michelle Burns, Senior Vice President, Global Coffee & Tea
- Sweetgreen – Nicolas Jammet, Co-Founder & Chief Concept Officer
- Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University – Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director
- Tender Greens – Erik Oberholf, CEO
- The Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills – Shauna J. Sadowski, Head of Sustainability
- Thrive Market – Nick Green, Co-Founder & CEO
- Unilever Food – Jostein Solheim, CEO
- Wholesome Wave – Michel Nishan, Chef, Author, Food Equity Advocate, Founder & CEO
- WWF – Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Food & Markets & Executive Director, Markets Institute
- Yolele – Philip Teverow, Co-Founder & CEO
- You Can Group & Future Food Institute – Sara Roversi, Co-Founder
The post Introducing Biodiversity: The Intersection of Taste & Sustainability appeared first on Food+Tech Connect.
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Author: Danielle Gould