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Our report of the third stage of the Food Innovation Global Mission: Toronto, New York and San Francisco

Our Food Innovation Global Mission (FIGM), the official mission sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, led 16 researchers in two different groups, of the third edition of the Food Innovation Program (FIP), to Toronto and New York. The group then came together again in San Francisco continuing the mission in search of the most significant food hubs in the world. The tour once again touched important food innovation centers, reaching the heart of Silicon Valley through a vast series of meetings and initiatives.

The two groups of researchers left on May 26th, for Toronto and New York. Toronto, a multicultural metropolis is a gastronomic destination; in fact, the union of different nationalities has manifested in culinary representation among restaurants in the city. On May 28th the group visited CCI Bioenergy – Anaerobic digestion Plant, which deals with the disposal of organic waste through the use of alternative sources. On May 31st the group had a successful meeting at NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) promoter of the Future of Food Protein event, addressing future investment in alternative proteins and innovations related to laboratory meat.

The Big Apple, known as an aggregative center of cultures coming from all over the world, was the other location for the research team. New York is a multifaceted city considered a fertile ground for innovation and a source of inspiration in various fields. The delegated research group was able to visit the markets that have always represented points of exchange between local producers and consumers. The team of researchers visited New Fulton Fish Market in lower Manhattan and other local markets including the Fulton Stall Market and Chelsea Market. The researchers also came into contact with thought leaders in the field. Among these were the Community School 55 where Stephen Ritz’s educational project called the Green Bronx Machine began. The latter proposes a model of local agriculture within the educational sphere, exploiting its aggregative potential with students. The initiative proposed by New York restaurants is also interesting from a social point of view including Emma’s Torch, which uses culinary experiences as a means to enhance the inclusion of refugee children. Also significant was a meeting with Burlap & Barrel, which is rethinking international spice supply chains to make them direct, transparent and traceable. Linking small spice growers to high-value markets the organization educates consumers about the impact of product traceability and human rights, emphasizing unique products that are biodynamically cultivated using traditional techniques. They work to end inequality and exploitation in food systems that support skilled and serious craftsmen along the entire chain. Additional innovators in the field were Ocean Hugger and Heritage Radio Network. The researchers interviewed the founder, deepening an understanding of the concept of the future of proteins, with reference to the first vegan tuna in the world which is made from Roma tomatoes, soy sauce, and sesame oil (to name a few of the ingredients) used mainly for sushi. The tuna has a phenomenal color and texture, shared chef David Benzaquen with enthusiastic reviews obtained from New York Times, Epicurious and Bon Appetit.  

At Heritage Radio Network, the researchers embraced the unique atmosphere of a recording studio for food radio, situated in recycled containers next to the innovative Brooklyn restaurant called Roberta’s Pizza.

Additional visits were to Blue Apron, a mealkit concept that carefully selects customized ingredients to consumers to cook directly at home; Aerofarms the world’s leader in vertical farming and the James Beard Foundation, a foundation that not only creates educational programs dedicated to the various culinary events in America, but also supports and promotes chefs and other professionals in the sector who support culinary heritage to grow and prosper every day.

Finally, on the last day in New York, the delegation had the opportunity to talk about the mission at the United Nations European office. A great opportunity for sharing. On this occasion it was possible to see how the most important stakeholders in the sector are pointing in the same direction, a more sustainable food system. Murray Elphick, researcher of the Food Innovation program commented “We felt proud to be there and we were honored to be welcomed and listened to with so much attention and interest from such an authoritative audience.”

 

On May 31th, the delegation went to San Francisco where they had the opportunity to closely observe the reality in which the employees of one of the biggest giants in the world are immersed: Google. There are more and more companies that, like Google, have adopted as a philosophy of treating their employees with higher standards, starting from the food provided inside the work spaces. There are numerous researches that work in the field of food and health at Google. They are investing with the aim of having employees “the best, at their best.” This is why the great technology giant supplies spaces dedicated to lunch breaks for its employees with healthy food and snacks. The Director General of Google Food Services, Michiel Bakker, argues that “food is a combination of culture and sharing and that this should take top importance above all within the workplace.”

Another event of significant importance was San Francisco Design Week with the support of Airbnb. The event Food is a Conversation, also in collaboration with the non-profit organization Farming Hope, was based on the meeting of students of the Food Innovation Program and experts in the food sector focused on hunger who gathered around a table to explore alternative solutions on social and nutrition issues. The collaboration between the two realities mentioned above was possible because Farming Hope is a reality born with the intent of offering work to the homeless and to people with a very low economic income, through gardening activities and pop-up restaurants.

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