Solving for the Future of Food with Daniel Ruben, Food Tech Advisor

We speak to Daniel Ruben, FoodTech advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation and others, about the future of food. Right off the bat, Daniel points out the consequential role food plays in all our lives. First, he specifies that “today, the number one risk factor for disease, disability, and premature death is poor diets.” This translates to roughly one in five deaths, or over ten million people yearly.

Another main concern for global populations and modern food is the environment. According to Daniel, the current food system utilizes “70 percent of fresh water, half of vegetative land, and is responsible for […] a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.” To move forward from these pitfalls, Daniel says we must focus on creating a system that is “more nourishing, more environmentally sustainable, and more resilient.”

So what needs solving? In our interviewee’s opinion, these three things: increased productivity in emerging markets, reduction of food waste, and creating diets that are both more sustainable and more nourishing. Luckily, there are a cohort of startups looking to solve these problems.

When asked to name a few, Daniel first mentions Impossible Foods in the US, an initiative to offer plant-based meat proxies. He also signals to work being done optimizing alternatives for animal feed habits, and suggests checking out Netherlands-based Protix for their approach to creating a more circular food system. For a company solving for food waste prevention, he points to Apeel Sciences, also in the US. There are, he says, numerous companies beyond these three hard at work on every facet of the food system.

Daniel’s prediction for the future of food is, in short, technology. He specifies increased automation, more sophisticated AI and data capabilities, and agricultural systems that will incorporate satellites, drones, and more. These tech aspects, paired with cultural shifts in food habits and alternative diets, are on the horizon of our current global food systems.

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Morten Seja
Economic Growth Adviser
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