When a small delegate from the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California arrived on Italian shores, the week started with a bang… and that bang left an echo that lasted the entire week, and will continue to reverberate into the future.
Everything began on the 22nd of June at the press conference in Confindustria Emilia Romagna in Bologna, where the Local Dynamics of Global Change project was launched. The project will map epicentres of food innovation in our global food system, and how these regions are using diverse technologies, creativity, and culinary legacy to develop local responses that have potential to reimagine the future of food.
The next day the Institute for the Future (IFTF), the Future Food Institute and Food Innovation Program students were off to Milan Expo for another important press conference with the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Maurizio Martina, to launch wikiexpo.org. The platform is an aggregator of crowdsourced content that will record and memorialize all of the events and conferences that take place at Milan’s Universal Exhibition. It will be curated by an international team, selected and managed in partnership with the Food Innovation Program, and it will also involve young journalists, foodies, Future Food Institute fellows and of course, the general public.
This was also an opportunity for Rod Falcon to present the IFTF’s 2015 research agenda to local stakeholders. After the conference, the IFTF team were able to fully immerse themselves in the international realm of Expo to discover global signals for the future of food production, distribution, manufacturing, shopping, and eating, as well as conduct on-the-ground ethnographic interviews with visitors. A host of international people were presented with the ‘field guide to the future‘ that invites exhibition attendees and anyone around the world to help map the future of food.
On Wednesday the 23rd, the IFTF team were waltzed around the countryside of Reggio Emilia to meet local cheese and balsamic vinegar producers and sample their traditional products.
The first stop was Nuova Castelli, the largest producer of certified D.O.P. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Guiding the tour was Nuova Castelli general manager Sergio Raglio who spoke about the importance of terrior, and how producers strive to strike a balance between meeting traditional processes and quality requirements in conjunction with using more modern automation technologies.
The second stop was Acetaia San Giacamo, owned by Andrea Bezzecchi, a third-generation producer of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. The team were given a tour of the grounds to learn about the production process (12 years of care and dedication in the battery, or series of barrels, up in the attic) and authenticity of DOP vinegars, which are classed into three categories Oro (Gold), Argento (Silver) or Aragosta (Crimson) depending on the assessment of Master Tasters.
A beautiful lunch was held inside the majestic stone homestead where guests were treated to a selection of regional cured meats including Prosciutto di Parma and Mortadella, Erbazzone (a typical savoury pastry of Reggio Emilia akin to a spinach pie) as well as Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled in aceto balsamico. A main dish of ricotta and parsley filled ravioli was also peppered with the luxurious condiment, adding an additional sweetness to the hearty meal. Dessert was perfectly modest too – a cup of vanilla ice cream bathing in homemade apple vinegar with a bonnet of aged balsamic. Delizioso.
Over lunch the Institute for the Future discovered how Andrea is working with the local Fab Lab and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia to develop a DIY wine vinegar making kit for the home. Increasing international interest in vinegar production and resurgence in craftsmanship helped spur the idea, which has now commenced its prototyping phase. It aspires to be what fab@home is to the 3-D printing world, an open-source vinegar making tool kit for the home, primarily for wine enthusiasts, lovers of tradition and no-waste advocates. It will help keep the tradition of vinegar making alive, and also allow for increased experimentation in flavour.
The regional tour concluded in Spilamberto, a comune in the Province of Modena, with a visit to the Balsamic Vinegar Museum and Slow Food prepared dinner with Mayor Umberto Costantini. The event was part of the grand opening of the Festa di San Giovanni, a typical provincial festival with music, art and cultural activities that reflect the traditions of the town and local community.
The following day, IFTF took over Officucina to hold a forecasting workshop with DIY technologists, nutritionists, food designers, local chefs, entrepreneurs, and experts from across Emilia Romagna who have global influence — such as Tetra Pak, Barilla, Alce Nero, and the European Food Safety Authority — to create shared alimentary scenarios from divergent viewpoints and shape IFTF’s research. Many group work activities were conducted, and discussions were documented with the help of graphic facilitator Marcello Petruzzi.
That evening a beautiful dinner was held inside Palazzo dei Musei with the Food Innovation Program students and partners. A wonderful spread of cured meats and gourmet cheeses from Nuova Castelli were put on display including Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Toscano, Taleggio, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella.
On Friday, Rebecca Chesney and Sarah Smith were back at Milan Expo to officially present their research at the USA Pavilion’s rooftop terrace. If you happen to be at Expo on July 17th, keep your eye out for Miriam Lueck Avery, who will present a keynote speech at the Conference on Food Safety and Nutrition in 2050 held by the European Commission.
The Institute for the Future’s weeklong research launch was packed with inspiring immersions, conversations, and tastes of the future, and we are so proud that the Future Food Institute and Food Innovation Program are supporters and collaborators of such dynamic research.