Emerging from almost 2 years of hibernation to attend a conference of any kind is surreal. Extra Kafkaesque to be attending Sustainable Brands San Diego. A gathering of environmental champions, casually discussing their work, like 3D printing residential communities to cut down on material waste or producing vodka out of captured carbon, while chowing down on tacos.
Despite the lively company on taco night, the most inspiring dialogues I had were with farmers and those working alongside them in the agricultural supply chain. Block chain and other technology is increasing transparency in the food system. Consumers can now follow a production journey from farm to fork, not just for the artisanal farmers market experience, but for brand names on the supermarket shelf. This technology also arms independent farmers with valuable data and insights, making it easier to chart a course for various certifications or improve long term stewardship of their land.
This transparency is also inviting, or possibly pressuring, ingredient innovation. Organizations like How Good maintain an impressive ingredient database to help brands produce responsibly sourced products. One such hot ingredient right now is Kernza, a perennial grain that can be used in cereal or beer. Replacing a more traditional grain with a perennial grain can have a real payoff in energy and water savings. And now that we all love QR codes (pandemic souvenir?!), that entire altruistic product journey can be passed along to the consumer. I’d like to think this visibility into the food system will help our kids to be smarter consumers, when they sit down in the future to eat inside their 3D printed home.