Our report of the last stage of the Food Innovation Global Mission: Bangkok & Mumbai

On July 3rd, the delegation traveled to Thailand. In Bangkok, FFI experienced a moment of great importance: the signing of a three-year agreement between the Future Food Institute and Foodinnopolis, a local hub for research, development, and innovation in the food industry and the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office. The central themes of the agreement are the construction of an innovation bridge between Europe and Thailand, the enhancement of the exchanges between the stakeholders of the related supply chains, as well as the establishment of a program of actions aimed at business matching between economic operators, including startups, and the academic and applied research; the pact also aims to consolidate the institutional relations between Italy and Thailand.

Regarding this agreement, Dr. Kitipong Wong, secretary of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, spoke about the importance of the partnership for the development of research and innovation of local food industries, declaring: “The purpose (of the agreement, ed) is giving, through the collaboration with the world leader of food innovation, the opportunity for Thai entrepreneurs in the food sector to compete in the global arena and to make more targeted food products. At the same time, it will be possible to meet the needs of the world market and make the staff involved in the Thai food industries far more capable than now”.

Thanks to organizations like FoodInnopolis, Thailand is at the forefront of food innovation along the entire food chain. With regard to sustainable production, Sampran Organic Farm is one celebrated model, thanks to the collaboration between local agricultural communities. The Sampran Riverside Hotel was the first to move towards a perspective of solidarity with local farmers, aimed at producing a value chain from organic products. The hotel provides its guests with organic products coming directly from its land and from the local farmers with whom it collaborates.

In addition to the organic farm, students were able to get to know different Thai food companies: from the Little Tree Garden Cafè (a greenhouse offering exotic food and surrounded by mangroves) to the Or Tor Kor Market (which sells fresh and savory products that are seasonal), and Doi Kham (a place that serves dishes inspired by authentic Thai cuisine and which is also based on trade in quality agricultural products at fair prices). In terms of very interesting food art, dinner at Gaggan Indian Cuisine (progressive cuisine which bases its menus on seasonality and the freshness of the ingredients).

In the space of Foodinnopolis, the delegates of the Global Mission have had the opportunity to know also different realities related to the research and development of the food sector, including the MITR PHOL Group (the largest Asian sugarcane producer that is focusing on the sustainable production of ethanol from biomass and waste from the processing of plants) and the Betagro Science Center Lab (which offers monitoring services on animal health and performs tests on the quality of food and raw materials).

In the days following the agreement, the collaboration with Foodinnopolis was very prolific: the Master students participated in the Global Showcase of Foodinnopolis, held by the Bangkok food hub and TMA (Thailand Management Association) at the Glowfish Offices. Here they continued to reflect on the four cornerstones of the Global Mission (especially on the development of microbial proteins), discussing with the showcase delegates and listening to the intervention of the Thai Union Group (a leading company in the seafood market that carries out environmental sustainability projects related to fish), by LightBlue Consulting (which offers business consulting services in terms of environmental and social impact) and the Central Food Hall (a gourmet supermarket where fruit and vegetables are harvested at 6am and placed on the shelves a few hours later). At the end of the training day, the researchers then met with the restaurant Midnight Moon (inspired by Asian art and crafts decorating their kitchen with vintage elements and vivid floral decorations).

Finally, the members of the delegation discovered three other realities in the food: sector MK Kitchen (a catering chain that prepares its dishes in one place and then distributes and heats them in the various outlets), Hyatt (the hotel chain with which researchers discussed the future of food & beverage services) and Amphawa (a floating restaurant 50 km from the city center offering fish or shellfish brought directly to the boats and stalls of local street food).

In Mumbai, the 16 researchers got to know Aditya Raghavan and Anandita Kamani, the founders of the Danda Food Project, organizers of experiential and educational dinners, proposing alternative dishes, often without meat, that try to bring to light dishes of tradition sometimes forgotten. They mix seasonal ingredients and modern preparation techniques. During their dinner, the students received a lesson about paneer (the best known Indian cheese, made with milk and buffalo yogurt) and tasted the products of Vrindavan Farms, Bombay Duck Brewing, Fresh and Local, Slow Food India, Taru Naturals, followed by a conversation about the evolution of agriculture and catering in India.

While exploring this Indian city, another interesting meeting for the delegation was with Earthoholics, a social enterprise founded in 2011 with the aim of raising the awareness of the population of Mumbai to the issues of urban farming and environmental sustainability. They collaborate in the realization of urban organic gardens within the residential complexes of Arkade Earth (self-sustained nature-themed homes that take you away celebrated the ecological over the technical).

The Grand Hyatt Mumbai F & B team hosted our delegates for a farm to table & breakfast. It was an opportunity to meet local suppliers, farmers who provide free-range eggs and organic chickens, innovators who produce salads and aromatic herbs with hydroponic systems in metropolitan areas and social entrepreneurs who educate the public about the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations with their products. Inside the hotel, a bioreactor has recently been installed for composting organic waste and a program of water and energy efficiency has recently launched.

Additionally, the Future Food Institute presented Food is a Conversation, this time in collaboration with The Bombay Canteen (Indian restaurant) and Edible Issues (a webzine that deals with the food problems of the subcontinent Indian directed by the Global Mission researchers Anusha Murthy and Elizabeth Yorke). The meeting was held with the participation of Varun Deshpande (manager of the Indian chapter of The Good Food Institute) and Sara Roversi (founder of Future Food Institute) and numerous issues were dealt with, including the role of tradition in systems of food innovation, the tasks of chefs in solving food problems, the role of institutions in quality, sustainable food and the future of the Indian agro-food system.

Finally, on July 9th, an important networking event was held for the delegation of the Future Food Institute, organized by the Consul General of Italy in India, Professor Stefania Costanza, at her residence, in the presence of the Indian business community, the press, the Universities and Research Centers and the representatives of the Climate Reality Project branch India, the international network founded by Al Gore (Nobel Peace Prize and former Vice President of the United States) composed of over 1400 climate leaders from more than 140 countries. On this last point, it should be emphasized that the entire Global Mission was supported by the Climate Reality Project Europe. During the 2 months, the delegation met over 50 Climate Leaders and interacted during the social campaign “Future Food for Climate Change” –#FF4CC with hundreds of online climate leaders, part of the international organization Youth Climate Leaders Network. The first stage, in Holland, was opened by a climate presentation of the Dutch leader and in India as well, as this cycle came to end, a seed of the future of the Global Mission was planted.

These were intense days, full of moments of inspiration that carried the team to the end of this wonderful experience. But the Food Innovation Global Mission does not end here. The researchers will now focus on the most important task: analyzing the data collected and return their findings to the community. After having organized this great work with the Future Food Institute knowledge partners, starting with the DISBA CNR, the Department of Bio-Agri-Food Sciences of the National Research Council andINAF, the Canadian National Institute of Functional Nutrition, there is work to be done.

A busy schedule preparing for presentations of the results is in fact already on the way and will be presented in the coming weeks, starting at the Maker Faire in Rome from October 12 to 14 2018.

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