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Steering The Food Industry Into The Future

The best exchanges often transpire in a car. Benjamin Swan, CEO of Sustenir Agriculture, and restaurateur Liling Ong, director of Cicheti Group, field questions on future-proofing the food industry while on the road in the Audi A6.

Steering The Food Industry Into The Future

What is the future of food? To answer this big-picture question, we sought out some expert opinions from Benjamin Swan, the CEO of Sustenir, and Liling Ong, the director of Cicheti Group. By far, the consensus was that the food industry needs to tackle the issue of sustainability — the question is, how?

To hear what these two industry insiders think about food sustainability, technology, and more, watch the video below and read on for deeper insights oh how the food industry can stay on track for the future.

What is the greatest challenge facing the food industry now?

Benjamin Swan Being able to produce quality ingredients in a sustainable way. Food always comes at a cost, either through environmental impact of certain farming methods or compromised food safety due to demand.

Liling Ong The traditional approach towards success in the food industry has favoured quick profit gain over long-term positive impact. This mindset is a challenge when businesses want to switch to a more long-term sustainable model.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for being sustainable. Can technology help?

LO Yes, as long as it’s not creating more problems by solving the problem at hand. Industry brands that are using technology to disrupt our traditional approach to food production like Sustenir and Impossible Meats are great examples of how leveraging tech can create a huge impact.

BS Technology can help farming methods to both meet high demand and take less from the environment.

Can sustainability and profit-making go hand in hand?

BS Yes, and it is imperative that they do. Sustainability should not be a nice-to-have value, it has to be integrated into the core of the business. By being sustainable, you safeguard your business for the long term.

LO But if a business isn’t rooted in sustainability to begin with, the danger is that it could come across as contrived. To be sustainable involves time and financial commitment, right down to changing the habits of your staff. Simply by doing very well in small aspects like minimising wastage is, in itself, doing your part to future-proof the industry both in terms of produce as well as the eventual burnout.

We take a holistic approach at the Cicheti Group, from cutting back on single-use plastics and food wastage to our ever-evolving natural wine programme, and working with local and regional food producers for seasonal produce.

How can the food industry become more sustainable?

BS The simplest step is to choose locally-grown produce. This helps the local economy as well as reduces carbon emissions, because even though a vertical farm like Sustenir uses a bit of electricity to grow our produce, that has a far smaller carbon footprint than if we were to transport fresh produce from abroad.

LO Stakeholders need to be more transparent about the real cost of their operations so that the cost can be spread out and not burden a single link in the chain. We also need governments to take a more serious approach in creating policies that ensure local food producers receive support to evolve and grow. The saying “it starts with me” holds true but for there to be real long-term impact, legislation must follow.

What is the future of food?

BS The future of food is in smart technology. What we’re doing at Sustenir is growing impossible products in impossible places, like strawberries in Singapore. We want to make sure that we can be efficient whether we’re growing indoors or outdoors, whether it’s in a city or rural area. And that’s only possible through the integration of smart technology.

LO Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) farms and plant-based meat producers. The next step could also well be using insects for other edible protein-rich products. The cattle industry is a massive culprit in greenhouse gas emissions and overconsumption of red meat has been linked to heart disease and cancer. Cutting back will have a positive impact on not only our bodies but also the environment.

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