Food has the power to drive change. To highlight this, we will continuously report on forward-looking food-related sustainability initiatives worldwide. At our Global Gastronomy Awards ceremony in New York on September 25, 2017, we identified twelve laudable projects––including our two new awardees––that bring into focus different aspects of an emerging sustainability-forward food culture.
This list is a mixed bag of initiatives that vary widely: from small to large-scale; from high- to low-tech, from new to well-established. From projects that look to the past to recover lost wisdom, to those venturing far into the future through science. And most importantly, from all over the world. We believe that diverse approaches are the key to finding solutions to the complex, multi-faceted problem of feeding the world sustainably.
We will periodically update this list with new initiatives that relate to the UN Sustainable Developments Goals 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. We welcome all proposals.
• An open-source, high-tech development platform
OpenAg: Open Agriculture Initiative, MIT / Caleb Harper – USA
Works to unite academia, government, and industry in a research collective that creates collaborative tools and open-source technology platforms for everyone to use in the development of future food and climate systems. The team is developing a universally available “food computer” that will not only empower efficient, high yield and zero-emission indoor farming, but also use AI technology to create self-learning greenhouses that can enhance the flavor, and health benefits of plants.
• Nano-scale food management with mega impact potential
International Iberian Nanotechnology Lab / Lars Montelius – Portugal
Develops nanotechnology applications in agriculture and the food industry to create healthier and tastier food, more sustainable packaging and less chemical spread in the nature. Nanotechnology can improve the delivery of nutrients and flavor molecules, by targeting the timing and destination of their release into the body. Likewise, in agriculture, nanomaterials can reduce the extent of agrochemicals discharged by releasing pesticides and fertilizers at specific time and locations.
• Exploration of an unmapped world
Mater Iniciativa / Virgilio Martinez – Peru
Maps the diverse terroirs/habitats of Peru, unveiling a parallel universe of flavor, nutrition and healthfulness through the discovery of new or forgotten ingredients, and introducing these to the world through leading restaurants, especially Martínez’s own Central in Lima. Though it focuses largely on plants, the initiative has also featured chaco, an edible dried clay that the Incas of the Acora highlands prized for its nutritional and medicinal properties.
• Urban farming in unfriendly environments
Alesca Life Technologies / Tsuyoshi Stuart Oda – China & UAE
Enables local food production by anyone, anywhere, through all-season, climate- and weatherproof, cloud-connected farming platforms that use no chemicals, drastically less water, almost no land and produce zero emissions. The project aims to create commercially viable, small-scale urban farming units for on-site use in restaurants and homes, especially in regions where traditional farming is difficult due to climate conditions.
• Bringing a World Heritage agricultural site back to life
Chinampas revival, Yolcan/ Lucio Usobiaga – Mexico
Takes the lead to revive the ancient Aztec cultivation beds and agricultural methods in the chinampas––Mexico City’s unique, man-made archipelago. Bringing the chinampas’ rich flavors and nourishing, organic produce to the capital’s tables, this project improves the region’s food sovereignty and supports the local farming community. Read more
• Taking farm-to-table back to the farm
Farm of Ideas / Christian Puglisi – Denmark
Works to build a common ground for chefs and farmers by creating a collaborative platform where ideas, seeds, and practices are exchanged, aiming to promote biodiversity, organically improve crop flavor and resilience, and protect heritage varieties. Situated on an experimental farm outside Copenhagen, this initiative will affect how key players in forward-thinking gastronomy relate to farming and evolve their work. Read more
• Putting more nutrition and flavor into hospital food
Nutrional Intelligence / Niko Romito – Italy
Improves hospital food by increasing its nutritional value and taste through a standardized method that can be realized within a normal hospital budget. Chef Niko Romito of three-star Reale restaurant collaborates with La Sapienza University to combine high-end gastronomy techniques with nutritional science. An application protocol prescribes how each ingredient should be treated and how the entire work flow should be organized, to achieve the intended high standard wherever the method is applied.
• Cook it clean
Global Alliance for Clean Cook-stoves / José Andrés - United States & worldwide
Accelerates the production, deployment, and use of clean and efficient cook-stoves––and fuels––in developing countries. Three billion people around the world cook their food each day over open flames or on a crude stove, using solid fuels (like wood, coal, crop residues, and animal dung) that increase carbon emissions and air pollution. Replacing these fuels with clean cooking methods will lessen the environmental impact and reduce the 4 million premature deaths that can be attributed annually to household air pollution.
• “Make China green again”
Juccce, Joint US-China Collaboration for Clean Energy /Peggy Liu, Chairman – China
Promotes sustainable consumption and smart cities in China by combining mega-scale city-planning projects–– “China scale, China pace”––with community initiatives designed to change consumer habits in the short and long term, including teaching children how to eat in ways that are good for them and for the planet.
• Converting surplus food to nutritious meals through “food-banking”
Food Forward SA /Andy Du Plessis, MD – South Africa
Provides nutritious meals to thousands of hungry people every day, by collecting surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers and redistributing it to vetted nonprofit organizations. Converting every donated US dollar to 13.87 USD worth of food (the “food-banking” model), they prepared 15 million meals last year from food that would otherwise go to landfills—like nearly a third of all the food produced in South Africa does.
• Turning Australia into a giving nation
OzHarvest / Ronni Kahn, CEO & Founder - Australia
Reduces food waste, alleviates hunger, and encourages people to help vulnerable others. Australia’s leading food rescue organization collects quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivers it directly to more than 1,000 charities nationwide, salvaging over 100 metric tons of food per week from over 3,000 donors.
• The soup kitchen we all want to dine at, but can only work for
Food for Soul /Team Bottura: Lara Gilmore, Cristina Reni, Massimo Bottura – Italy & worldwide
Works to de-stigmatize the soup kitchen, by launching well-designed community canteens around the world that serve––with dignity––delicious food to those in need. The team collects surplus food from restaurants, producers, retailers and wholesalers, and turns it—with the help of skilled volunteer chefs—into great meals, with full respect. Read more