Our report of the second stage of the Food Innovation Global Mission in Spain and Germany

Our Food Innovation Global Mission (FIGM), the mission officially sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has led the 16 researchers of the third edition of FIP to split into the second stage, between Spain and Berlin, to continue the mission in search of the most important food hubs in the world. The tour once again touches some of the most important centers of food innovation in Europe, central to its role on this journey on the key issues under study by the delegation.

A selection of the researchers landed on 19th May in Valencia. Among the most important events, on 21st May was the meeting held with the institutions of the City and the VIT Emprende, a network of innovative entrepreneurs that the Municipality has launched through Valencia Activa. On the same day, there was the opportunity to attend a workshop on the future of proteins at one of the prestigious partners of the mission, the Martinez Group, a leading company in the meat sector in Spain. The Martinez Group has decided with three other major brands (Embutidos Martínez, Platos Tradicionales and Cinco Tenedores) to invest in the future of alternative proteins and support startups that are moving in this direction. A really important step for a company of this size.

There was also a visit to the AINIA, one of the largest agro-food technology parks in Spain and a center specializing in innovation and technology development aimed at improving the productivity of industrial processes. After some gastronomic experiences in the city, the researchers are prepared for a new destination in Spanish territory: Madrid.

During this year’s mission, the visit to Madrid represented a fundamental milestone. The researchers had the opportunity to discover the Spanish culinary culture in depth in the capital: starting from the concept of restaurant as a place for dialogue, aggregation and sharing. In this regard, dinner at the Sala de Despiece with the founder and owner Javier Bonet was a great culinary experience, paying tribute to the traditional ways of serving food in the Chamberí neighborhood and an extension of the concept of “open-kitchen”. “Products first and last” is the philosophy of the restaurant’s co-owner and creator of the concept, Javier Bonet, obsessed with product quality, creating the ideal atmosphere to serve and celebrating the human value of teamwork. Team members wear uniforms made of butcher’s aprons and bow ties to honor the products they work with. Equipped with iPads, they place order and help, serve customers, fully explaining all the steps they need to know to interact and engage with the dishes.

Raw materials are fundamental for the Sala de Despiece, a space in which interior design seeks to improve the essence of these products and transform them into key players. It is a space inspired by the butcher blocks of butcher shops or fish markets with few decorative details designed to pay homage to the butcher’s profession. A ten meter white polyethylene counter takes on different functions within the space: it is a product display and a work table for the restaurant’s team, as well as the focal point of the tasting room. Porexpan boxes, normally used for the transport of fresh food products cover walls and ceilings and again, the recurring theme of resurfacing immerges. At the Sala de Despiece: the products are the number one priority.

In Madrid, the catering industry is exploding and many groups of young people have decided to invest in the sector, through the opening of restaurants and new food concepts, an increasingly conscious choice in a country that has 8 Michelin-starred restaurants.

The most important event in Madrid took place on 23rd May, when the new headquarters of the official Future Food Lab opened at the IED (European Institute of Design, Fashion and Visual Arts). Today, Europe is a center of strategic innovation full of design, creativity, technology and human collaboration for a brighter future. The opening of Future Food Lab was also a source of inspiration thanks to the presence of the Italian Ambassador in Spain, Stefano Sannino.

“We want to have a positive impact on people, industries and institutions, we want them to be part of the future”, commented Matteo Vignoli, director of the Food Innovation Program, and one of the main inspirers of this new collaboration between the Future Food Institute and European Institute of Design, Fashion and Visual Arts.

“The kitchen is the best laboratory ever” said Sara Roversi during the opening ceremony for the structure, a real educational playground for projects and laboratories related to smart cities, urban farming, big data analysis, the use of vr, augmented reality and more generally the new trends related to food impacted by designers and innovators from all over the world.

On 24th May, the adventure in Spain drew to a close with another intense day of events in which there was the opportunity to take part in this journey of innovation with some of the Mission’s most important partners: ECOALF, clothing and accessories brand made with materials obtained from the plastics collected from the oceans; 24Bottles, the bottle made in Italy that condenses utility, environmental sustainability, attention to design and very high quality standards; and Arte Facta  which creates special accessories with a refined design and vintage mood.

The second half of the researchers went to Berlin. Based out of Hotel Michelberger, the group explored activities within the Food Revolution including sustainable economy, agricultural and technological innovations.

The need to nurture the cities of tomorrow was the theme of this stage, a link that unites restaurants such as The Bowl and Veganz, focused on vegan cuisine, Data Kitchen, a slow food concept for breakfast and lunch completely digitized with apps and an online interface. The also visited Berlin icon Burgermeister with the Carnival of Cultures, which celebrates diversity in all its aspects, including food. Additional the visited Berlin-based Atlantic Food Labs, where new food companies are created with sustainability at their core, and Original Unverpackt, a supermarket completely free from plastics and packaging, while maintaining a high quality service both online and offline.

“We are farmers and the city is our farm”, commented Erez Galonska, during his visit to Infarm, an innovative on-demand service aimed at helping cities become self-sufficient in food production. Their vertical farming project was analyzed by the delegation to Good Bank, a restaurant that is committed to offering the freshest and tastiest products possible in the city center, reducing the carbon “food print” through a local and seasonal selection of fruit, vegetables and meat.

Berlin’s organic urban garden Prinzessinnengarten has established itself as one of the most notable green spaces in Europe, available to the urban community surrounding it. The provocative exhibition Food Revolution 5.0 left us breathless. Thirty designers have worked to present their vision on the food of the future looking at the farm, market, kitchen and table.

In the Berlin, the FFI researchers were followed and accompanied by great local Food Heroes and Food Makers.  Arlene Stein, executive director and founder of the annual Terroir Hospitality Symposium, shared her experience combining high-level chefs, restaurateurs, wine & beverage professionals to work, think and develop new models for food sustainability. Nadja Flohr-Spence and Denise Loga of Sustainable Food Academy dedicated a visit to their studio to show the delegation the most interesting concepts around the Berlin food revolution of recent years, including an initiative by the city to celebrate five new startups a week. Uli Weinberg and Stephanie Gerken welcomed the delegation to the Hasso Plattern Institute in Potsdam, a pioneering school of Design Thinking that analyzes and develops numerous food projects. The designer Ines Lauber took the opportunity to dissect the concept of holistic gastronomy: “Food is like a mirror, reflecting on everything that surrounds it and in the same way culinary culture is a reflection of our society and the spirit of time”. Some really important discussions took place for the whole mission team.

A wonderful opportunity in which the delegation was the protagonist at the Innovation Talk ACT NOW! in collaboration with ECOALF, the aforementioned brand that uses high quality recycled material to create a new generation of sustainable products, in a fight against the exploitation of natural resources and the wasteful tendency of industrialized countries. The key topic of the meeting held on 23 May in the heart of Berlin was the Food Innovation Global Mission and the need to act quickly to protect the planet.

To close the Berlin stage the meeting at the Italian embassy in Berlin was Ambassador Pietro Benassi and the First Councilor Francesco Leone as well as the Future Food Institute, and Eva Fakete-Keretic, Climate Leader of the Al Gore international project operating in Germany. The Al Gore Climate Reality Project is a structured collaboration, which oversees the branches of Europe, India and Canada. The Project is actively involved in the Global Mission, as well as more than 50 Climate Leaders, the Youth Climate Leaders Network, the Walk for Water foundation (founded by an Indian Climate Leader) and the global project “We Do not Have Time” founded by a Swedish leader.

This collaboration is structured within the framework of the “Future Food for Climate Change” project coordinated by Claudia Laricchia, head of the institutional relations of the Future Food Institute and Climate Leader for Italy. She is also creating a digital campaign with more than 15 Digital Meetups scheduled during the 60 days of the Global Mission, 2 of which (in Rome on May 25 and Paris on May 29) have already been successful.

These days were intense and full of inspirations that prepared the delegation to the next stage: Toronto, New York and the heart of world innovation, the Silicon Valley. The mission concludes in Asia with a rich calendar of institutional meetings and workshops for the whole delegation.

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