Blog from the Boss at EAT Food Forum

Austral boss, David Carter has spent the last few days at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, an initiative that promotes healthy and sustainable food.  Here are his take home messages:

A frenzied few days are now over and I am trying to gather my scattered thoughts.

There have been some seriously big brains on stage over the past few days. The event has been beautifully organised with every speaker worth listening to, no one allowed to talk for more than 15 minutes and some super impressive audio visuals (put on by Warner Bros). The catering reflected the ethos of the organisers and their higher purpose with lots of fresh foods, no cakes, a bit of fish, and no red meat obvious.

The stats are mind blowing, 7.5 billion humans on the planet, 800 million are calorie deficient and another 800 million are overweight. Non communicable disease (like diabetes, heart disease etc) is prematurely killing more and more of us and millions of children are suffering life long debilitating effects of not being properly nourished in the first 1000 days of life. If that is not enough then food production accounts for nearly 40% of total green house gas emissions, and contributes to much of our loss of biodiversity. Around one third of all food produced is wasted and whilst the last 50 years of ‘development’ has changed the climate that has been stable for the past 10,000 years, it will be what we do in the next 50 yrs that will determine the fate of the planet for coming 10,000 years. It is therefore a massive undertaking to try to make sense of all that but the organisers are of the view that, whatever is the problem, #foodcanfixit.

Johan Rockstrom (a hero of mine) suggested that humanity is testing the planetary limits for many of the biophysical measures that we have, but for the specifics of climate we need to reduce total net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 (just 33 years away) if we are to meet the targets set in Paris and keep global warming to less than 2 degrees by the end of the century. It is pretty clear that transformational change is required to attitudes and the entire economic system if this is to happen. Basically, emissions have to halve every 10 years from now.

With the bad news out of the way, Rockstrom reports signs of an emerging ‘planetary consciousness’ that is accelerating the rate of change and some really disruptive influences. Stuff like lower costs for renewables, corporations taking a greater role and actions at all levels of society getting on with the job.

We heard from the Crown Princess of Norway about the Keystone agreement that the world’s 8 largest fishing companies signed, including our own parent company, Maruha-Nichiro. Work is being done to re-introduce lost plant varieties back into the supply chain, some revolutionary local suburban gardens being done around the world championed by cities and individuals. Investment capital is more and more directed at ‘impact’ investing and encouraging entrepreneurs back into the food space and ensuring that healthy food should also have a strong focus on delicious – that is, no one will buy the veggie burger if it tastes like crap regardless of how small the carbon foot print is. Another initiative that blew me away is the work of a company called Memphis Meats that select the best muscle cells from beef and chicken and duck species for growing out in an incubator or fermenter to produce beef (or other) that has the same taste and texture of steak without the waste, animal welfare and CO2 issues associated with growing cows. That is a game changer. Also really interesting is Cargills, the worlds largest supplier of animal feeds who has GM canola that will produce DHA and EPA. Another game changer for aquaculture feed.

Bob Geldorf reminds us that change is possible, providing the goals are REALLY clear and contain three key elements. 1. A point of shock to get peoples attention, 2. A phase of amplification where there is lots of reinforcement but it requires that one person is the face of the campaign, that person needs to someone that the mob identifies with, and finally 3. The message that to keep moving as people quickly loose interest which requires that results are delivered is a short space of time. Geldorf had a message for the EAT Forum crew by hinting that they did not have the ingredients for creating a movement and I tend to agree. These folks are super smart and super committed and are making a difference but it could well be that the campaigning will need to happen elsewhere.

As for the Austral message, I feel that this week has confirmed for me that we do indeed have a great and compelling story that is unlike anything else that is around at the moment. We are, however, no overnight success, we have been on the sustainable fisheries journey for over 30 years because back then, as it is now, it just made good sense to get strong property rights in place, to invest in the best science and to watch out for those external threats be they illegal fishing or over exploitation or Government policy or indeed climate change.

At the end of the day it was an extraordinarily busy couple of days. Finally, Geldorf rolled out this quote from the German poet, Johan Wolfgang Goethe who said:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

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