Food And Technology Come Together At BiteSV

Josh Tetrick

BiteSV was a 3-day conference held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Food was center stage at the conference, and more imporantaly our relationship with food and the challenge to feed billions of people in a healthy way. Chefs, technologists, and others from the food industry came together to talk about  feeding 9 billion people, which is what the population is expected to be by 2050.

The first day consisted of panel discussions and the opening remarks were made by Chef Jose Andres. What are the challeges of feeding healthy food to billions of people? How do you decrease food loss? How do you manage food waste? How can technology help create healthy food? A couple of key takeawys stuck in my head. The first was the sharp focus on how to get people to move from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one. The second takeaway was a sharp focus to find ways to feed healthy meals to seniors and people in inner cities, instead of fast food. The third takesaway was the use of technology. How farmers are using technolgy to find answers to their questions, increase crop yield and find new way to sell their produce.

Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank addressed the issue of food loss and waste, supporting family farming, esp women farmers and educating people about eating. She highlighted how technology and mobile apps are helping farmers around the world to increase their yield and get their farming questions answered in real time.

It was an eye-opener to find out about Google’s holistic approach to food. The company feeds healthy food 75k people around the world said Michiel Bakker, Director of  Global Food Services at Google. He underscored that one of the key quesitons they are focused is how can they move their workforce to a balanced, plant-centric diet. The company operates teaching kitchens to help people learn to cook. If you have ever been to Googleplex you must have been the amazing range of food that is available in thier cafeteria. Now, you know what kind of thought and planning goes into feedng Googlers.

What can we do if we start all over again was the question Josh Tetrick asked himself when he started his company Hampton Creek. This food technolgy company’s goal is to help people eat better. The company is focussed on using plants in food products. For instance, their Just Mayo product is created out of plant-based proteins and not eggs. The San Francisco startup  has raised over $100 million in multiple rounds of fundings.

Chef Roy Choi of Kogi truck fame spoke about a new project he is working with Chef Dan Patterson. Their goal is to put the best chefs in inner cities and create healthy fast food consisting of fresh vegetables, grains and meat. Loco’l is the name of their project and they plan to open their first restaurant in Watts, Los Angeles.

The final panel was an interesting and renewed debate about GMO food. Dr. Robert Fraley, CTO of Monsanto was part of the panel, who fielded questions from his co-panelist Chef and Vintner Michael Chiarello and the udience. As expected there were quite a few questions about GMO food and its safety. It was interesting to hear Dr. Fraley say that they should have gone to consumers first, instead of the farmers with reference to GMO seeds. Reaching out to the consumers first might have helped dispel some of the criticism levelled against them he said. Dr.Farley clearly came  preapred to address questions about Monsanto’s GMO food. His team handed out a USB stick filled with information about Monsanto.

The second and third day was a combination of tasting and demos. This colorful collage of pictures will give you a taste of what we got to experience at BiteSV.