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Fighting food insecurity, food waste and an unsustainable food system

Posted by Joseph Gridley - Guest Blogger / 3-Aug-2017

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The Good Kitchen is Europe’s first accelerator programme focused on supporting innovative, early stage startups that address food poverty. We define food poverty as a group or individual not having access to an adequate or nutritious diet.

The approaches to tackling food poverty are vast: from urban agriculture to food tech, and from edible education to redistributing surplus food. We believe that the organisations supported by our programme have great potential to scale and address the deeply entrenched problems of our food system.

This year, The Good Kitchen selected the five first organizations to be part of its accelerator programme and get funding to grow their business, receive training and be mentored by leading food entrepreneurs.

I am Joseph Gridley, Director of The Good Kitchen. I am taking over the Winnow Blog to talk about the importance of technology driving innovation in the food system, in which ways the hospitality sector can support social entrepreneurs to help solve the problem of food poverty, and what we should expect for the future.

 Addressing food poverty from its core

First, let’s start at the core of the food poverty problem: our current food system. Today, just six companies control 70% of the world’s seed market, four corporations control 75% of the global grain market and 26% of global food markets is controlled by ten food processing companies. The implication of that is a food system with little incentive to change itself. As such, innovation within the food system has been worryingly absent - particularly with regards to innovations that are kind to the planet and our bodies.

The good news is, in recent years, the first shoots of innovation have started to appear; with companies like Winnow leading the way to a more sustainable food system.  From smart farming to agroecology, from food waste management systems to food education programmes, we believe investing in high-risk, high-growth, innovative food social enterprises has the potential for great social, environmental, and financial returns.

Here is a glimpse of what the first five social businesses supported by The Good Kitchen are working on:

  • Outdated data collection and closed information systems mean that it’s difficult for farmers to balance supply and demand. Cultivando Futuro’s online platform revolutionises Colombia’s smallholder farming industry. It connects smallholder farmers directly to wholesalers, tackling challenges posed by food waste, increasing efficiencies in distribution, and helping pay farmers a fair wage.
  • 4 million hectares of rainforest are destroyed each year in South America, primarily for the cultivation of soy for animal and fish feed. Entocycle is replacing soy with insect protein as the go-to option for fish and livestock feed, disrupting the current unsustainable fish and livestock farming practices.
  • Each year, Turkey discards US$2 billion of edible food. Fazla Gida has developed the technology to easily and profitably distribute supermarket food surplus to food banks and humanitarian organizations - addressing food poverty and the refugee crisis.
  • The UK has the second highest rate of obesity in Europe, whilst one in 10 children are living with adults who report experiencing severe food insecurity. Make Kit distributes low-cost, nutritious recipe kits through community outlets to tackle childhood obesity and malnutrition in urban settings.
  • The average UK family throws away £470 (US$600) of safe and edible food each year—the cost equivalent of 8 weeks food for the average UK family. Mimica Lab has produced the first biologically accurate food-spoilage indicator; a game-changer in the fight against food waste in the home.

Technology accelerating innovation

Our first group of startups are tackling food poverty in different ways but all are harnessing technology to drive their innovations. This growth in tech has the real potential to change our food system and is fuelled by an increase in investments in the space.

Since 2012, venture capitalists started investing increasingly in food technology companies. According to the AgTech Investing Report, over $4.6 billion was invested in food and agriculture tech startups in 2015. It is nearly double the amount invested in 2014.

Smart farming, big data control, online stock management systems, and food investment platforms. The potential for technology in addressing food poverty is endless and plays a vital role in all the social businesses we support. But, for real systems change we also need to supplement food-tech investment with a focus in holistic, community driven initiatives which help drive behavioural changes in production and consumption.

How can the hospitality sector contribute to the minimizing the problem and beneficiate from modernization at the same time?

At The Good Kitchen, we think there are two main ways that social enterprises can help the foodservice and hospitality industry. Firstly, food waste has huge economic, environmental and social costs. There are a variety of social enterprises springing up to help business take control of their food waste and distribute it to those in need or repurpose it once it's no longer good to eat.

Secondly, we believe the best foodservice and hospitality organisations know where their products come from and treat their suppliers with respect. Again, a growing number of brilliant social enterprises are helping organisations prove the provenance of what they are buying, ensuring fair conditions for producers and gaining access to the most delicious products in the process.

What can we hope for the future?

We’re on the brink of food innovation revolution. Just like the green energy in the 90s or fintech in the 00s, now is food’s time to be revolutionized. From farm to fork, food innovators across the world are reshaping the food system to be fit for people, profit and the planet. With enough innovation-hungry, risk-taking, patient investors, there is a real chance that we can support ideas that take control away from the big agri-businesses, and give consumers a real say in how their food is produced and consumed.

         

I have deJoseph Gridley.jpgdicated my working life to designing, developing and delivering projects that make a difference in the lives of others. From huge educational events at Wembley Arena to award-winning youth unemployment programmes, and most recently managing an accelerator programme focused on supporting startups that address food poverty. I am at my best when working with a dynamic team to tackle a social problem in an innovative and sustainable way. Joseph Gridley, Director, The Good Kitchen

 

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