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Techonomy Events

Food & Tech on the Menu at Techonomy NYC’s Final Session Tuesday

Zoe Leavitt, Senior Retail and CPG Analyst, CB Insights, at Techonomy NYC. (Photo: Rebecca Greenfield)

We need more food.

Ten billion people are going to need a lot more food, but climate change and food waste make producing and delivering it a challenge.

So said Zoe Leavitt, Senior Retail and CPG Analyst, CB Insights, in her presentation at Techonomy NYC. “We need more food better allocated, and we want personalized good, deliberately allocated,” she told the audience.

But it will take new strategies and technologies to make that happen, Leavitt told the audience. “There are new strategies to tackle the problem,” she explained. “The three main ones are new food products, improved agricultural strategies, and better distribution.”

For new foods, we are now seeing things like lab-grown meats, fish, and dairy products. New agricultural strategies include retailers and manufacturers tapping into technologies — such as AI, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), drones — as well as indoor farming solutions that can increase the nutritional value of food. Increased safety and reduced waste will be large part of the supply chain of the future.

“In the future, it will not only be about feeding ‘humans,’ but about feeding ‘persons.’ There will be DNA-based personalized diets, where IoT gathers data while AI designs meal plans,” Leavitt said. “And it gets better. P&G is already working on IoT-based auto-delivery, while Amazon is experimenting with flying warehouses.”

The key takeaways, she said, are that new technologies will mean “new ingredients, more efficient farms, and better delivery of food.”

Chef Eric Ripert, at Techonomy NYC. (Photo: Rebecca Greenfield)

To wrap up the food portion of the day, Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick welcomed one of the top chef/restauranteurs in the world, Eric Ripert, co-owner of the Michelin-star Le Bernardin, to the stage.

“I have always been passionate about eating well and the craftsmanship of food. My dream was to be the chef I am today at a restaurant like Le Bernardin.”

Ripert was clear about his respect for food and where it come from. “We don’t serve endangered species,” he said (Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant). “And we pay the right price for our food so the fisherman can follow the rules and maintain sustainability and make a living.”

He said he believes technology is just a tool — it’s neutral — and we can use it for good or bad. “Our motivation is important,” he said. “Fisherman could take everything out of the ocean, but technology can be used to monitor the catch and keep things healthy. It’s time to use technology for the right reasons.”

Ripert concluded by saying how proud he is of his role as Vice Chairman of City Harvest, which “exists to end hunger in communities throughout New York City. . . through food rescue and distribution, education, and other practical, innovative solutions.”

When asked by an audience member what he has been most surprised about, over the years, in his life as a world-famous chef, Ripert said: “I am mostly surprised by the interest that the media has had with chefs like me and how we have become so famous. Forty years ago, no one would have called me to do this.”

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