In ten years, what will be changed about the way we grow, produce, process, transport, prepare and consume our food? And what will be different in the way these activities impacted our society, incomes, environment, and climate following the COVID-19 pandemic? Students of Wageningen University & Research developed short films with their outlook on food systems in the period 2020-2030. Team SeaweedSensing won the jury award and team CROP won the audience award.
Worldwide, people are affected in the way they have access to food, the way they consume food or the way they perceive the impact of their behaviour on the economy, environment, and society. Vulnerabilities and dilemmas that are already present are exposed and aggravated by COVID-19. To what extent could our future food systems cope with these challenges? And who should be involved in implementing and supporting the changes we need?
Food System in 10 years Challenge
In the ‘Food system in 10 years Challenge’ WUR students were challenged to think about the necessary changes AND about a way to visualize these changes in the food system to convince other people to support. Focussing on the changes in the way we grow, produce, process, transport, prepare, and consume our food. And the way these activities impacted our society, incomes, environment, and climate.
On 7 December 2020 seven student teams travelled 10 years into the future. In Stinger Dome, on the World Food Centre grounds, they creatively exhibited their reflections on the period of 2020-2030 in the form short 2,5-minute films. A skilled jury assessed the presentations and asked question while people watching from home could enjoy the presentations via a live stream and voted for the winners of the audience award.
The jury consisted of Channah Durlacher (media consultant, WUR), Leon Meijer (Municipality Ede), Melchert Meijer zu Schlochteren (film maker, Greendocs Film & National History Unit NL) and Roland van der Vorst (innovation specialist, Rabobank)
Presentations and winners
In the extraordinary ambiance of the Stinger Dome, in a corona proof setting, the attendees could experience the live presentations in the form of short films via headphones. In the following order the student teams presented their short films.
In an animated short film the first team, Elot, focussed on maize production in Mexico. Maize is the most important food and yet much of the corn consumed there comes from the US. At the same time, Mexican farmers prefer to produce the less sustainable but more profitable avocados. With the help of a platform where producers, farmers and traders can trade their maize products based on cryptocurrencies, a model could be created that makes it profitable for farmers to grow maize for their own population.
Team Frooters (Food Rooters) sees the consumer as the key to changing consumption patterns. Consumers really do want to consume more consciously but get overwhelmed by the grand variety of labels. An app must offer a solution by providing all the relevant information about each product and automatically showing the consumer exactly what the best mix of products is, based on their wishes, including health and environmental aspects, so that a ready-to-use and optimal shopping list is created.
The third team wants to be the first to tackle the production process in Africa by providing small farmers with the best possible advice regarding the cultivation of food via an app, the Regenapp (Regenerative Agriculture). Custom-made thanks to technology to be able to assess soil conditions locally and evaluate the growth process via photos. The app should excel in simplicity.
African Food System
Team African Food System also focuses on Africa. Not only on the production but also on the consumption of healthy and nutritious food. Knowledge is the key both for consumers and producers. Good digital technology, knowledge of programming and blockchain technology must ensure that the African population develops digitally and therefore can create their own solutions.
Team Addam concludes that the growth of the world's population continues to put an ever-increasing strain on our food system. This means that in the countries where the fastest growth is taking place, in the sub-Saharan part of Africa, solutions need to be worked out, both for the production and in the consumption of food. At the same time, our consumption patterns in the thriving western world needs to change. Here we have all the knowledge that is necessary in Africa. And what do we do with it? What is our own behaviour here? Only together can we solve this. The responsibility also lies in the western world.
Team CROP made a dashing film about 70 years of changing, increasingly international, consumer diet which mean an ever-greater impact on the planet. CROP stands for Continental Approach Revitalises Our Planet. CROP also stands for cutting back systems and production lines that have gotten out of hand, starting by reducing it to a continental scale. In each continent, we would consume only what is produced on that continent. You do not need the whole world on your plate. The film, which was both dynamically and substantively well put together, particularly appealed to the audience. CROP therefore received the audience award.
The seventh and final team, SeaweedSensing, sees the solution mainly in the sensible use of the oceans for the cultivation of seaweed crops. This is already happening in various places, but by linking the technology to remote sensing via satellites it is possible to optimize different types of seaweed in different places using different techniques. This potentially makes an enormous amount of protein-rich and healthy food available.
With this solution, which is practical, visionary, and realistic, the team received the appreciation from the jury. Team SeaweedSensing received the prize of € 500, - from Leon Meijer from Municipality of Ede.