Guest post by Robyn O’Brien, author, analyst, advisor and mother on building a smarter food operating system. This post is part of our Internet of Food Series, which asks: “How might we use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone?” The views expressed are are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Food+Tech Connect.
We have to design new business models to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone. There is no “might” but “mighty” that is required.
Right now, our food system is broken. Less than 1 percent of U.S. farmland is organic, we’ve designed an operating system heavily dependent on chemical inputs, and you need look no further than the health of a preschool classroom where 1 in 3 kids has either allergies, asthma, ADHD or autism. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 3 Caucasian kids born in the year 2000 and 1 in 2 minority kids born that year are expected to be insulin dependent by the time they reach adulthood. That’s this year’s 10th graders. The President’s Cancer Panel says 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 women are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes. And we waste 40 percent of all of the food we produce.
We have to do better. We need a smarter food system. When asking “how might we use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone?,” we need to turn the “might” into mighty.
So how can we leverage the best that we have to offer, innovation, entrepreneurship, design, intellect and passion to create a better food system? No act is too small. Whether you start locally or globally, you have to start. Leverage technology, social media and online contacts to start a conversation. Host an event at your school, at your church and in your community, and invite a pediatrician, allergist or a doctor to participate. Do not be intimidated to simply do one thing. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. And as we each begin to build out these conversations and our networks, we connect, we interconnect and we begin to create extraordinary change, leveraging human capital and investor capital, leveraging innovation and intellect.
Create apps and technologies to capture data on Americans with food allergies, diabetes and cancer, including what they eat and what they are looking for. Meet that demand in stores, restaurants, gardens and at home. This demand for free-from foods is not a fad or a trend. Cancer isn’t a fad, food allergies are not a trend.
Plant something on your deck, in your yard, in a pot in your kitchen. Do not be afraid to start small. Then teach someone else how to do it. Take a video, write a post. Restore food literacy in our country, starting on your block.
We have to build a smarter operating system. One that relies more on intellect than it does on chemicals. One that is dependent on innovation not artificial ingredients.
Our collective expertise is extraordinary. Capturing data from systems analysts, building platforms that allow those with dietary needs to input and build communities and best practices. Leveraging scientists and farmers to build a food system that works as well for the soil as it does for their sons, that’s as safe for the dirt as it is for their daughters.
We can do this. Our country was founded on this pioneering spirit of creating and designing a better way, whenever we realized there was a need.
There is a need for a new operating system when it comes to our food, recognizing that our most valuable inputs are human capital.
Given the growing number of health conditions we are seeing in our loved ones, there is little room for error, but we are mighty. Let’s rise up to the challenge – a smarter operating system is ours to create.
Internet of Food is an editorial series exploring how we might use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone. Join the conversation between March 23 and April 29. Share your ideas in the comments, on Twitter using #internetoffood, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, and follow the conversation by subscribing to our newsletter.
Robyn O’Brien has been called “Food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times. She received her MBA on a full scholarship, graduating as the top woman in her class, and then went on to work as an equity analyst on a team that managed $20 billion in assets and launched the company’s first hedge fund. As an analyst she covered the food and tech industries, but her life took an abrupt turn when her youngest child had a life threatening allergic reaction. She turned her analytical skills towards what is happening to our food, the health of our families and what we can do to exercise precaution. She has helped lead a food movement and regularly appears in the press. Robyn’s work has been recognized by political leaders around the country, by General Mills, Chipotle, Coca Cola, Target, Chili’s Restaurants and others in the food industry. She is a recognized thought leader, named by Forbes Women as a woman to follow on Twitter, named by SHAPE Magazine as a woman to shape the world, and the author of the bestseller The Unhealthy Truth, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation and advisor to a number of food companies. She is a married, mother of four and a sought after speaker whose work has been recognized by Ted Turner, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, Prince Charles, in the media and at financial conferences, health conferences and food industry and corporate events. More can be found at www.robynobrien.com