A Taste from FOOD IT: Solution Harvest

FOOD IT: Solution Harvest; challenges, solutions, design thinking and innovation from all around.

On July 12th, 2016 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, representatives spanning the food, agriculture and technology sectors from at least 20 countries and 20 US states came together for the Mixing Bowl’s FOOD IT: Solution Summit.  The event kicked off with an intriguing group startups applying IT in innovative ways in the food and agriculture sectors in the Golden Blender competition.  Eight early stage companies pitched their ideas to the audience and a panel of four experienced venture capitalists from Band of Angels/Aurora EquityBlueRun VenturesEcosystem Integrity, and Cultivian Sandbox.

Athena, a food-centric platform and supply chain risk management application utilizing natural resource, processing, and production practice data.
Avolved, providing a smart plant growing system that measures air temperature, humidity, lighting variables, CO2, soil moisture, and nutrient levels.
Byte, feeding the millions of office workers stranded in food deserts using RFID-enabled refrigerators to sell fresh food 24/7.
Edenworks, powering year round production of fresh, local produce through indoor aquaponic agriculture at enterprise scale.
FreshSurety, tackling the problem of produce shelf-life by enabling accurate tracking and measurement of freshness throughout the supply chain.
Maiaki, led by the former Minister of Agriculture from Georgia, is an online platform for international food trade allowing farmers to easily reach new global markets.
Monj, a mobile app, provided through corporate wellness programs, inspires healthier eating habits through social gaming centered on cooking and skill building in the kitchen.
SnapDNA, enables complex DNA tests in minutes from a fully automated low-cost handheld device allowing food producers and farmers to test for pathogens at the source.

And the winner of the competition was…SnapDNA, receiving the Golden Blender and a scholarship for innovation courses at the Food Business School.

Setting the Table Discussion

Next up a distinguished and diverse panel from Bain & Company, Mars, Forbes, UC Davis and Civil Eats addressed the big picture trends and challenges occurring in food and agriculture. This wide-ranging discussion covered issues of food security, global regionalism and the importance of Africa’s rising food demand; food production innovation; clean water access; food waste; the human microbiome, and gene-editing like CRISPR Cas-9!


Technology Levers Discussion

Closing out the morning session, veteran executives from Silicon Valley discussed current and emerging technologies, “technology levers”, that might be applied to solve or address food and agriculture challenges.  Panelists from Abundant Robotics, SAP, Silicon Valley Bank and Uber engaged with each other and the audience on potential game changers like IoT, Big Data, Blockchain, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Bioimaging, Drones and Data Connectivity.  Audience participation from BT, IBM, Trimble, KLA-Tencor, John Deere, Orange Silicon Valley, as well as smaller tech companies from New Zealand and Australia and others added to the discussion.


Collaborative Design Exercise: Learning through Challenges & Levers

The collaborative design exercise provided an opportunity for all attendees– the rancher to the venture capitalist and app developer to the food manufacturer– to work together in small teams to seek solutions to pressing challenges in the food and agriculture sectors.  The following companies participated in providing context and background to the challenge environment:   Land O’Lakes, NaturipeAirbnbIBMValsigna FarmsEpicurean GroupThe Center for EcoliteracySAPKitchenTownUC DavisNoble FoundationPoint Blue ConservationOrange Silicon ValleyCommunity Alliance with Family Farms, and Kitchen Table Advisors.  Teams were then asked to how they might use some of the technology levers discussed earlier to address the following challenges:

#1  How might IT help farming meet changing societal demands?
#2  How might we use IT to make food literacy more pervasive in food service?
#3  How might we use IT to create a smart cattle ranch of the future?
#4  How might we create an “internet of food?”
#5  How might IT be used to support the business success of smaller food producers?



While the raucous experience of co-collaboration with newly met team members was a success unto itself, the teams’ efforts did throw off some new solutions, including:

  • A procurement platform for small farmers
  • Instant nutritional data from food photographs
  • Pokemon for food to promote healthier eating: Veg-Go
  • Fitbit for cows, measuring biometrics to establish baseline data in order to assess unhealthy deviations
  • School gardens with digital links to scientific and nutritional information
  • IT/digital tracking for HACCP
  • Photo detection to identify produce with pertinent supply chain and nutritional information

Innovation Marketplace

Whether it was nutraceuticals from New Zealand or a hand-held gluten detector company based in San Francisco, the Market place provided attendees with the opportunity to experience innovative products and services from across the entire agriculture and food value chain from these companies:
Ahi Kā Tonics   Alkemilife   Athena   Avolved   Byte   Callaghan Innovation   Cerplus   Dine Market   Doughbies   Edenworks   eHarvestHub   El Pájaro CDC   FarmHub  Farmstead   Food Business School   FreshSurety   Heavy Connect   Honeylab  Iunu  Kitchentown   Kitchen Witch Bone Broth   Love with Food   Maiaki   Monj   Mavrx  My Mom’s Mole   Nima   SnapDNA



See more photos here.