The 2016 Food+City Challenge Prize: Innovation Within the Urban Food System

The 2016 Food+City Challenge Prize: Innovation Within the Urban Food System
From, by Katie Opalinska

The digital revolution is on track to completely transform our food system. But we’re not the only ones who think so: technology companies such as IBM, entrepreneurs like Jorge Heraud, and philanthropists such as Bill Gates all agree that we are only beginning to see big changes in how we produce and consume food. We can’t wait to see what develops. The 2016 Food+City Challenge Prize plans to witness the revelation of this new revolution.

In 1750, Scientific Agriculture in Britain launched the beginning of a dramatic increase in food production. Jethro Tull, the inventor of the seed drill, was among those who optimized the use of land. By the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution took place, and inventors applied new technologies such as steam power. Food traveled to cities by rail, transforming food distribution throughout the world.

During the early 19th century, the world felt the impact of the Technological Revolution when steam, electricity, and other technologies made it possible to grow, process, and deliver food at scale. All three of these revolutions depended upon entrepreneurs who discovered new technologies and opportunities to improve our food system. Now, with the Internet of Things and the digital revolution promising as yet undiscovered applications, there’s a food revolution in the making. We’re not the only ones anxious to see how technology — in the hands of smart entrepreneurs — will change our food system.

Food incubators and startup competitions are sprouting everywhere. Thought for Food offers US$10,000 in prizes for student and young professional startup teams; 33 Entrepreneurs from Bordeaux, France is actively supporting food entrepreneurs with a competition for a US$100,000 prize; Bon Appetech hosts an event that awards prizes to 10 food startups; and in Italy, Barilla’s YES BCFN has an annual competition for food startups that rewards winners with €10,000.

We suggest a fresh and bold perspective, one that’s out of the box — the big box grocery store, boxed food storage, and the boundaries implied by the structure of any box. Our food system is organizing a market-driven revolt from an older-technology-driven food system to one that is the Internet of Food. The production, storage, transport, processing, preparation, design, and consumption of food is a network that begs for a systemic solution.

Our annual Food+City Challenge Prize encourages entrepreneurs throughout the system and we’re pleased that the 2016 submissions reflected this call to action. The potential for systems integration is huge. And the requirement for ideas that scale is even more critical.

Everyone is moving to cities. We focus on cities as the place for innovation. Cities are dense, highly populated landscapes where improvements in our food system can have their greatest impacts. Cities are an agglomeration of interests that require mutual adaptation and cooperation. And standards. The home-to-work proximity begs for solutions that integrate life in the workplace and with personal space.

As we prepare for our Challenge Prize Showcase Day this Saturday in Austin, Texas, we expect more than 400 people from near and far to attend and see a snapshot of what the future of our food system may bring. It’s clear that innovations and improvements all along the global food system are of interest not only to investors, farmers, engineers, techies, and distributors, but to a growing number of everyday folks who care about the food they eat and the sustainability of that food — and water — for generations to come.

Join us at our Showcase Day this Saturday, February 6th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or check Facebook and Twitter for live tweets and updates. We promise an exciting day, intrepid entrepreneurs battling for US$50,000, and, of course, good food!

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